Schenley Park's Tufa Bridges nominated to be City Historic Landmarks

With the sultry days of summer upon us, the best place to be in the city is in the parks.  Greenspace is so abundant in the regional parks (Frick, Schenley, Highland, Riverview) that it's hard to remember much of what we see today was designed long ago.  At Preservation Pittsburgh we strive to call attention to the importance the built world plays in our parks just as we do the role it plays downtown and in our neighborhoods.  For this reason we recently nominated Schenley Park's two tufa bridges to be City Historic Landmarks.

Constructed in 1908, the bridges were the product of Parks Superintendent George Burke.  Burke was an avid horticulturalist, noted for his flower shows and his stewardship of the Phipps Conservatory (the current Palm Court and Fern Room we're part of his 1906 renovations). While exceptional for their plantings, these rooms are particularly notable for the integration of tufa.  So too do the bridges.

While today they're known as the "tufa bridges", they were originally constructed as improvements to a recreational horseback ridding path.  An article from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette contains the best description of how both bridges were made:

The main body of the bridge is composed of concrete, reinforced with steel rods. Before the concrete was poured, a frame was erected and the tufa was built up, not being visible from the outside, as it was covered with the broad frame. The tufa supported by the frame formed one side of a mold into which to pour between the two. Another frame was put up, and the concrete was poured between the two attaching itself firmly to the back of the tufa. After the concrete had hardened the boards were taken down and the tufa facing left exposed.  It is believed to be the only bridge of this kind in the world.

And they are.  Their closest counterparts are the Point de Milieu made of hewn tufa stone in the Fribourg, Switzerland and the Bowling Green Bridge in North Yorkshire, England.  Both were constructed of hewn tufa stone in the 18th century and are recognized as an official historic landmarks in their respective countries.

If Pittsburgh's City Council moves to do the same, our tufa bridges will be in good company - only 3 of Pittsburgh's 446 bridges are City Historic Landmarks and two of them (Panther Hollow and Schenley) are also in Schenley Park.

To learn more about the tufa bridges, you can access our nomination here.

If you would like to lend your support for the designation, please email the City's Historic Preservation Planner, Sarah Quinn at sarah.quinn@pittsburghpa.gov or come to the Historic Review Commission's first hearing on Wednesday, August 2nd at 1pm, 200 Ross Street.

If you'd like to help our landmarking efforts, please consider donating to our Landmarking Fund.

Meet our Newest Director, Brittany Reilly

Brittany Reilly

Having gathered experience in Chicago, New York, and through much travel, Brittany returned to her hometown of the one and only Pittsburgh in 2017, eager to continue supporting art, design, and architecture organizations and studios through her work as a project manager and creative producer.  In facilitating ideas, Brittany's aim is to build awareness and engage diverse networks around cultural heritage and the contemporary practices that perpetuate it.  Her local work includes development and special projects for the Frank House, a residence in Shadyside designed by Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer in 1939-40, being preserved for future public access.  She curates Design Nation, a project exploring modern forms of art, craftsmanship, and applied arts of the 20th century and their intersection with our built environment.

Brittany resides in Highland Park, deeply grateful for a view of our city's remarkably eclectic neighborhoods, which Preservation Pittsburgh is dedicated to protecting and celebrating.  She joined the Board of Directors in June 2017 with particular interest in highlighting Modern architecture and design of Pittsburgh and the region.

Brittany received her M.A. in Visual Arts Administration from NYU Steinhardt in 2013 and B.A. in Visual and Critical Studies from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2005, combining study of non-profit management with cultural theory and art, architecture, and design history.

We are thrilled to have Brittany with us and if you'd like to know more about joining the Board and being more involved with Preservation Pittsburgh, please contact us at: info@preservationpgh.org.

It's High Time we Celebrated Overbrook.

Last week Preservation Pittsburgh nominated the former Overbrook Municipal Building (now Accamando Center) to be a City Historic Landmark.  This came out of months of researching the history of the building, the events leading to Overbrook joining the city, and working in close partnership with the Carrick-Overbrook Historical Society.

The building was constructed between 1927-28 and officially opened in 1929, the same year the Saw Mill Run Boulevard (on which the building sits) opened.  It served as the seat of government for the independent borough of Overbrook for less than a year before its residents voted for annexation into the City of Pittsburgh in 1930.

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The former Borough Building was constructed in the Colonial Revival Style, a somewhat unusual pick for Western Pennsylvania, by noted Pittsburgh architect Louis Stevens.  Stevens' work was primarily residential and can best be seen in many of the homes of Schenley Farms' Historic District.

The building housed not only the Overbrook Borough Council and offices but the municipal police force and the fire department.  After Overbrook joined the City of Pittsburgh in 1930, the building was renovated to become Engine Company No.59 and served the neighborhood until it was decommissioned in 1999.  The building today is still owned and maintained by the City and serves as the Accamando Center and is home to the Carrick-Overbrook Historical Society.  Read more about the building's history in the nomination here.

Should the City Council move to designate the building (and we hope they do!), it will be Overbrook's first historic landmark, the City's most southern, and the neighborhood's rich history will finally be formally recognized.

If you would like to lend your support for the designation, please email the City's Historic Preservation Planner, Sarah Quinn at sarah.quinn@pittsburghpa.gov or come to the Historic Review Commission's first hearing on Wednesday, June 7th at 1pm, 200 Ross Street.

If you'd like to help our landmarking efforts, please consider donating to our Landmarking Fund.

Landmarks Springs Eternal!

Howe Springs

Howe Springs

Voegtly Spring

Voegtly Spring

We are absolutely thrilled to announce that Pittsburgh's City Council voted unanimously to designate Howe Spring (Shady Side), Voegtly Spring (Spring Hill), and Catahecassa Spring (Schenley Park) as City Historic Landmarks.  The move caps our efforts to have the springs designated and recognizes the importance of each spring as well as the dozens of springs that once dotted the landscape through each of Pittsburgh's neighborhoods.

While many springs, like Poland Springs and Deer Park, are nationally designated these exist in an entirely rural setting.  With this designation, Pittsburgh becomes the only major metropolitan city in the country with historically designated springs.  This is a product of our unique geography, hydrology, and history of philanthropy.

So what's next?  There's more work to do!

Oakwood Spring

Oakwood Spring

Over the next year we'll be working to nominate more springs, most notably in Oakwood and in Lawrenceville.  And we also have progress to make on restoration because of the three nominated, water only flows through Voegtly Spring.  Alterations to Howe Springs and Catahecassa Spring have been made over the years to specifically stop the flow of water so we will continue to work with our partners to ensure they're restored to their former glory.

More on that shortly but for now, let's all take a moment in this unusual spring-like weather to revel in Pittsburgh's latest landmarks!

Catahacassa Spring

Catahacassa Spring

Many thanks to Pittsburgh CitiParks, Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, the Spring Hill Civic League, Chatham University Archives, the University of Pittsburgh Archive Service Center and all of our other partners who made this nomination possible.

A special thanks to Councilman Gilman, Councilwoman Harris, and Councilman O'Connor for being so supportive of their constituents and the unique history of their Districts.

And let's not forget, the first day of Spring (March 20th) is just around the corner...

Oliver Bath House Nominated to Become a City Historic Landmark

Oliver Bath House

Earlier this month Preservation Pittsburgh nominated the Oliver Bath House to become a City Historic Landmark. This effort, supported by many individuals and community partners in the South Side, is the culmination of a months-long research effort, which uncovered the original blue prints for the building.

The Bath House had its beginnings on March 9, 1903 when a letter from Henry W. Oliver was presented to the Select Council of the City of Pittsburgh calling for the creation of a bath house (to which he would provide a gift of $80,000 and deeded land).  To achieve this Henry W. Oliver requested "... the only stipulation being that the bath shall be free for the use of the people forever."

When construction began on the bath house in 1914 the Oliver Iron & Steel Company sat across 10th Street and the bath would serve its workers and other workers of the South Side.  Upon its completion, the bath house joined four other prominent public baths in the City, the People's Bath House (Strip District), the Public Wash House and Baths (Lawrenceville), the Soho Bath House (South Oakland), and the Phipps Baths and Gymnasium (Allegheny City).  Of these, three remain today as well as Oliver Bath House although none are currently recognized as Pittsburgh Historic Landmarks.

Should the Oliver Bath House be granted landmark status it would be the City's first, and to date only, historic bath house.

For more information on the Oliver Bath House or to view the submitted nomination, please see our Resources Section.  A special thanks to Dr. Matthew Conboy for his assistance and research in completing this nomination.

If you would like to lend your support for the designation, please email the City's Historic Preservation Planner, Sarah Quinn at sarah.quinn@pittsburghpa.gov or come to the Historic Review Commission's first hearing on Wednesday, March 1st at 1pm, 200 Ross Street.

If you'd like to help our landmarking efforts, please consider donating to our Landmarking Fund.

Roslyn Place Nominated for Historic Landmark Status

Roslyn Place.

Roslyn Place.

In early October Preservation Pittsburgh submitted an historic nomination for Roslyn Place to become the City's latest historic landmark.

Constructed in 1914, the street and surrounding community were designed by Thomas Rodd, a prominent Pittsburgher who served as Chief Engineer for the Pennsylvania Railroad for all lines west of the City.  In addition to designing Roslyn Place, Rodd had a hand in designing the Westinghouse Air Break Company Warehouses, the General Office Building in Wilmerding, and their offices downtown.  He was also known for his philanthropy and contributed significantly to the construction of the Church of the Ascension on Ellsworth Ave.

As well as being of remarkable design, Roslyn Place is exceptional today because it is America's last remaining street entirely paved with wooden blocks.  This technique, called "Nicolson Pavement" dates to the 1850s and was widely adopted around the country because it was cheaper than paving with Belgian block and cobblestones.  It was also more humane on horses, offered them more traction, and helped to quiet the noise of horseshoes throughout the neighborhood.

Restoration of Roslyn Place, 1985.

Restoration of Roslyn Place, 1985.

Roslyn Place remains a wooden street today because of decades of dedication, advocacy, and care from neighbors, the City of Pittsburgh's Department of Public Works, and preservationists.  Designating the street as a City landmark will recognize one of the most exceptional, and unique, features of Pittsburgh and help ensure its continued future for generations to come.

Should the street be granted landmark status it would be the City's first, and to date only, historic street.

For more information on Roslyn Place or to view the submitted nomination, please see our Resources section located here.

The City's Historic Review Commission has accepted the nomination, found there to be sufficient historic merit to be considered, and scheduled a public hearing on Wednesday, December 7th at 12:30pm in 200 Ross St., Pittsburgh, Pa. 15219.  If you would like to lend your support for the designation, please email the City's Historic Preservation Planner, Sarah Quinn at sarah.quinn@pittsburghpa.gov or come testify in person!

Thomas Rodd's Original 1913 Schematic for Roslyn Place.

Thomas Rodd's Original 1913 Schematic for Roslyn Place.

Announcing the Wilkinsburg Religious Structures Photo Contest!

At Preservation Pittsburgh, we love the built environment and we want to call attention to the beautiful ecclesiastical architecture in Wilkinsburg.  In order to highlight this architecture, we're launching a photo competition.

How do I participate?

It’s easy!  Look up at the buttresses, bell towers, and more on churches and other religious spaces in Wilkinsburg.  Take four(4) pictures, illustrating the exterior of your favorite and submit to: sbrandt@preservationpgh.org.

The contest runs October 1st-24th.  Winners will be awarded a prize of $100 and a special prize for those 12 & under.  Join us on November 5th, at 10:00am, for breakfast at St. Stephens Church, 600 Pitt Street in Wilkinsburg when the winners will be announced!

Please note that this contest is limited to Wilkinsburg congregations and people who live or work in Wilkinsburg.  We do anticipate having similar competitions in other communities in the future, so please stay tuned!  If you're interested in having your community featured next, please contact jspeakman@preservationpgh.org for additional information.

 

Preservation Success! Albright is Pittsburgh's Newest Historic Landmark.

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Former Albright United Methodist Church Overview:

  • Constructed: 1905-06
  • Architect: Chancey W. Hodgdon
  • Patronage: Congregants of the Zion Evangelical Church
  • Location: 486 S Graham St, Pittsburgh, PA 15232
  • Notable Aside: Houses the city's largest collection of S.S. Marshall Studio stained glass.

This past weekend, the former Albright United Methodist Church became Pittsburgh's newest city historic landmark.  Early in 2015 Preservation Pittsburgh partnered with members of the community to research the history of the building and congregation as well as to write a historic nomination.  Through this research we were able to directly attribute all of Albright's stained glass to the studios of S.S. Marshall Studio, one of Pittsburgh's (then Allegheny City's) oldest and most prominent glaziers.  We were also able to directly connect the design of the building to one of Pittsburgh's most prolific architects, Chancey W. Hodgdon.

Through the nomination process Albright received a recommendation from Pittsburgh Historic Review Commission and Planning Commission and enjoyed the wide support from neighbors and the community.  Albright was threatened with demolition for the creation of a strip mall with a possible drive-thru coffee shop but the historic designation the landmark now enjoys will help protect it for the future.

This designation would not have been possible without strong involvement from the community and a dedicated group of passionate individuals and we at Preservation Pittsburgh would like to thank everyone who supported Albright's nomination!  And remember, we're here to help everyone that needs assistance in preserving our City's unique heritage.

Historic Pittsburgh Springs Nominated for Landmark Status

This past Friday Preservation Pittsburgh nominated Howe Spring, Catahecassa Spring, and Voegtly Spring to the City’s Historic Review Commission to be considered for landmark status.  This was the culmination of a months-long effort researching their history and coordinating with different community partners.  Individually, each of these springs has a unique story to tell that directly relates to the neighborhood in which they sit.  Collectively, they embody the best remaining examples of a complex, if not unplanned, drinking water system that has been with us since before Pittsburgh’s founding.

Howe Springs, circa 1914.

Howe Springs, circa 1914.

Howe Springs:

  • Constructed: 1896; Replaced, 1912
  • Architect: Alden & Harlow (1896); W.H. Van Tine (1912)
  • Patronage: Michael Benedum
  • Location: 5th Ave. in Shadyside
  • Notable Aside: Would be the City’s first bicycling landmark

Catahecassa (Snyder) Spring:

  • Constructed: 1907
  • Sculptor: Unknown
  • Patronage: Director James W. Clark of the Department of Public Works
  • Location: Schenley Park, below the Neill Log Cabin on E. Circuit Dr.
  • Notable Aside: Would be the first City landmark recognizing the role a Native American had in shaping Pittsburgh’s history

The Spring on Spring Hill (Voegtly Spring):

  • Constructed: 1912
  • Patronage: Land easement granted by the Voegtly family
  • Construction completed by City
  • Location: Damas St. near Homer St. in Spring Hill
  • Notable Aside: Would be the only constructed, natural spring landmark in Pittsburgh (Howe and Snyder Spring have both been plumbed by the City).

The springs relate to a particularly difficult moment in Pittsburgh’s history where clean, safe drinking water was out of reach for many Pittsburghers.  At the turn of the 20th century diseases like typhoid and cholera, ran rampant and much of our hilly City lacked water lines and sewers and the springs both helped and hurt the cause.  They would also play an important role in our leisure time, attracting Pittsburgh’s fledgling bicycling and driving communities.  You can learn more about the springs through reading the nominations here.

The City's Historic Review Commission, Planning Commission, and City Council will consider their status in a process that will begin on Wednesday, August 3rd with an evidentiary hearing before the HRC.  

As always, we will need your help seeing their nomination through the process.  Please consider lending your support by contacting the Historic Review Commission at: sarah.quinn@pittsburghpa.gov.

We would also like to extend a special thanks to our partners, the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, Chatham University Archives, Pittsburgh CitiParks, the Spring Hill Civic League, and East Liberty Valley Historical Society and all of the individuals who made this possible.  And a big thank you to all of you who help preserve and tell our City's story.