New Landmarking Fund - Request for Donations

Dear Friend of Pittsburgh’s Architecture & Heritage,

At Preservation Pittsburgh, we love our City Historic Landmarks.  So much so that we’re focusing on growing Pittsburgh’s list to landmark the places that capture the story of who we are.  And never has there been a greater need to follow the example set by other cities to help ensure the places that matter to us most will be protected for the future.

Cleveland has 356 individual City Historic Landmarks; Baltimore has 388; Chicago, 369; Washington, D.C. has over 650; and New York has a formidable 1,355.

Today, Pittsburgh has 89.

In 2016 we partnered with neighbors and community groups to grow our City’s Landmark list.  The former Albright Church, former St. George Church, Howe Spring, Voegtly Spring, Snyder/Catahecassa Spring, and Roslyn Place will elevate the list to 94.  In 2017 we plan to nominate more than a dozen places to finally bring Pittsburgh’s landmark list to over 100.

To continue to expand the program, we need your help.  On behalf of Preservation Pittsburgh, I write asking you to consider making a contribution to our new Landmarking Fund.  With your contribution we can continue to hire researchers to conduct original research on buildings and sites and to use that research to nominate landmarks important to us all.

To make a tax-deductible donation online, go to: http://www.preservationpgh.org/donate/

or send a check made payable to “Preservation Pittsburgh” to Preservation Pittsburgh, 1501 Reedsdale St., Suite 5003, Pittsburgh, Pa.15233 (please note “Landmarking Fund” on the check).  

With your donation of $100 or more, membership in Preservation Pittsburgh will be included.  If you are already a member, we appreciate your donation to the fund in addition to your annual membership.  Should you have any questions or would like more information, please do not hesitate to contact me directly.  Thank you for your support of our efforts and for your consideration of this request to help us landmark Pittsburgh’s historic buildings, sites, & structures!

Best Wishes for the New Year,

Matthew W.C. Falcone

President of the Board

A Street by Any Other Name.

Pittsburgh's North Side, 1910.

Pittsburgh's North Side, 1910.

Several weeks ago the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that plans are in the works to change the traffic pattern around the former Allegheny Center.  Gone will be the unneeded four lane highways in the middle of the City's oldest neighborhoods and in return we'll have more sensible, livable streets with two-way traffic, a bike lane, and something a bit more hospitable for pedestrians.

But we shouldn't stop there.  John Redick's 1788 street plan may be irrevocably altered but the current four-lane highways slated for a road diet occupy the same space as four streets of Allegheny City's original grid.  These streets (and the street names they replaced) are:

  • N Commons = Erie St.
  • S Commons = Stockton Ave.
  • E Commons = Sandusky St.
  • W Commons = Arch St.

When Allegheny Center was created out of the razed buildings of Allegheny City in the 1960s, the focus was on creating a new center of gravity, independent from the historic neighborhoods across the park.  And this meant that old street names had to go, replaced by new ones that emphasized the surrounding park and severed the connection to the surrounding communities.  But it is in those communities that fragments of the original street plan, and the historic street names, remain. 

Part of Stockton Ave. exists in the southern lead up to Deutschtown.  Sandusky St. leads to the 7th St. Bridge.  Arch St. runs the length of the Mexican War Streets.

The proposed changes to make the current streets friendlier and more livable is wonderful and long overdue.  And as we did with the former Penn Circle, let's use this opportunity to bring back the historic street names and take a small step to knitting the North Side back together.

Springs, Springs, all Types of Springs...

Fountain of Youth, Archeological Park.

Fountain of Youth, Archeological Park.

Last week the City's Historic Review Commission found that Howe, Snyder, and Voegtly Springs meet several historic criteria, qualifying them to become City Landmarks.  If landmarked they would join an interesting, if not incredibly diverse, list of natural springs that are recognized for their historic importance around the country. 

Poland Spring, Spring House

Poland Spring, Spring House

The company of Poland Spring was founded in 1845 in the town of Alfred, Me. and quickly became a popular tourist destination.  The construction of a luxury inn (lost to a fire in the mid 20th century), helped fuel the spring water's popularity as people traveled from all over the nation to "take in the waters".  It was during the 1880s that an ornate spring house (featured at right) was constructed over the "source" of Poland Spring and other amenities were added to the resort.  The successor of this resort is still active on the site today, although the spring water that is bottled comes from a number of different sites across Maine.  Rich with history and architecture, the Poland Spring Preservation Society maintains stewardship over several notable structures.

Deer Park Inn

Deer Park Inn

Much closer to home, Deer Park Spring Water has a very similar origin as Poland Springs.  In 1873 the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad (B&O) founded a resort in the Appalachian Mountains of Western Maryland to attract visitors from the East Coast.  As its popularity grew, so too did the attraction of the nearby natural spring water from "boiling spring".  The historic inn was razed in 1942 but the site on which it stood is recognized as an historic site by the State of Maryland.

Though Poland Spring and Deer Park have a similar history and continue to be part of our everyday lives, it is the Fountain of Youth in St. Augustine, Fl. that is, perhaps, America's most unique historic spring.  Recognized as a landmark by the State of Florida, the park was founded in 1904 by Luella Day McConnell as a tourist attraction to draw visitors to northern Florida.  While there were several different iterations of the Fountain of Youth, the one constructed at the park was paid for by a gift from Spain and does originate from a natural spring.  A remarkable story, it's the history of this site as the location of the first Spanish mission in mainland North America, though, which lends itself to its designation by the state.  As far as St. Augustine is from Pittsburgh though, it's nice to know that we have our own Fountain of Youth nearby in Allison Park.

With all of these historic springs though, Pittsburgh's stand apart because of their history, location, and their prospective designations.  None of the springs above are located in a large metropolitan center as Howe, Snyder, and Voegtly are and none are designated - or protected - as local historic landmarks.  Should Pittsburgh's HRC, Planning Commission, and City Council choose to designate Pittsburgh's springs, they will be the first locally designated springs in the country and we will be the first City to recognize the historic importance that springs had in its development.

So what should we take away from all of this?  Among other things, its a point of city pride.  America may be filled with notable natural springs but only Pittsburgh can truly claim to be the 'City of Springs'.

For Pittsburgh's Artwork of Historic Importance, Designation is the Answer

The recent sale of George Rickey's sculpture, "L's -- One Up One Down Excentric" outside the National Steel Center on Stanwix Street downtown caused a great deal of concern about the fate of remaining pieces of privately-owned artwork on public display throughout Pittsburgh.  Rightfully so as time and time again across the country, art in public places are sold and moved to private locations far away from the originally intended site.  The concern about the future of public art in Pittsburgh is so great that according to Next City Mayor Peduto is investigating how to safeguard public art by creating an inventory and reaching out to the owners for more permanent assurances that everything will remain in place.

This is a fantastic step towards protecting the cultural expression so integrated into our urban fabric and closely parallels how our City's preservation ordinance works.  When a building (or more aptly in this case, an object) is designated it enjoys a degree of protection in that proposed changes would need to be first considered by the Historic Review Commission through a public forum.  This includes reviewing potential moves.

And this process can - and has - been applied to pieces of publicly-accessible art.  Moretti's Horse Tammer Sculptures and Welcome Sculptures both enjoy protection as designated historic objects.  Earlier this year a nomination was also submitted for the stained glass windows in former St. George Church as they are in danger of being removed from the former church and shipped outside of Pittsburgh.  Other pieces of art like the USS Maine Memorial, Civil War Memorial, and Hamilton Battery Memorial also enjoy protection through Allegheny Commons' designation as a City Historic Site.

With a system already in place to safeguard public-facing art, it makes sense to expand upon it and protect pieces of art that are privately owned but publicly visible and have historical significance.  The example that comes immediately to mind is the (former) Kaufmann's clock (featured above).  Originally designed to rest atop a pole, it was later incorporated into the facade of Kaufmanns' in 1913 and remains one of the most recognized pieces of private art on public display in the City.  The Clock has always been privately owned (from Kaufmann to Macy's to, now, Core Development) but was always intended for public display and to shape the street corner below.  It is an iconic piece of history that helps define what makes Pittsburgh, "Pittsburgh".  Similarly, Max Kohler's Lions (1871) that adorn the Dollar Savings Bank at Fourth & Smithfield have played such an important role in identifying that space they were recently replaced with near-identical replicas.  Both have remained part of our city scape through the good hospices of the owners but a historic designation would ensure they will remain so for generations to come.

Later this summer Preservation Pittsburgh hopes to add to the list of historically-designated pieces of art in the City by nominating the Catahecassa Monument in Schenley Park as part of our initiative to recognize the systems of springs around Pittsburgh.  We hope that Mayor Peduto will give serious consideration to help expand the number of historically-designated art objects in the City through his safeguarding efforts over the next few months.

The Sandwich Summit & Preservation Happenstance in Spring Garden

The much covered meeting of Mayor Peduto and Councilwoman Harris at the recent "Sandwich Summit" on the North Side had perhaps one of the best preservation outcomes we can think of - an historic building headed for a date with the wrecking ball is on its way to being saved.

Earlier this year the featured three-story brick Victorian in Spring Garden on Voskamp Street was condemned by the Department of Permits, Licenses, and Inspections.  Condemnation doesn't necessarily mean the building will be demolished, but rather it identifies what work must be completed by the owner in order to bring it up to code.  However, this rare gem in Spring Garden though, was placed on the city's demolition list. 

Fortunately a concerned neighbor noticed and contacted Councilwoman Harris and as Diana Nelson-Jones mentions, quickly became a topic of conversation between the Mayor and the Councilwoman.  After the Sandwich Summit, it was reported that the Mayor and Councilwoman did visit the house and discussed how to ensure that it has another chance.  We're informed that this endangered house on Voskamp now has an interested buyer and - perhaps - another chance to be part of Pittsburgh's urban fabric for another century.

So what's to make of all of this?  It seems that this unlikely preservation story would not have been possibly just a few short years ago.  That two pillars of Pittsburgh politics, who don't always see eye-to-eye, can come together and collaboratively take action to try to save an endangered part of Pittsburgh is wonderful news and, we're hoping, part of a new dawn for preservation in Pittsburgh. 

Time will tell but in the meantime, thank you to Mayor Peduto, Councilwoman Harris, and the concerned neighbor that raised the issue, Pittsburgh's history Spring Garden's uniqueness is better off today than yesterday because of you.