Main Street Revitalization Programs

For over thirty years, PHLF has worked with neighborhoods and towns to preserve historic commercial buildings, retain businesses and recruit new ones, and assist in making our region’s central business distrcits great places to live, work, and play. For PHLF, this work started in the 1960s with a comprehensive plan to revitalize the business district along E. Carson Street on Pittsburgh’s South Side. Read on for more information about our current programs and available services.

PHLF is known for restoring signature historical buildings. That work is critical, but it’s only part of what we do. We take pride in our ability to achieve a sustained revitalization in communities that face difficult challenges. We are passionate about this work. And we have a strong team with broad experience and expertise in identifying and implementing effective business district revitalization strategies. We have lead successful downtown revitalization programs in Allegheny, Butler, Westmoreland, and Armstrong counties. Our services include:


  • Revitalization Planning Assistance
  • Market Research, Drive-Time Analyses, Retail Opportunity Gap Analyses, Demographic and Trade Area information
  • Design Guidelines
  • Traffic & Parking Analyses
  • Historic Building Inventories
  • Business Recruitment & Retention
  • Restoration and Construction Management Services


For more information, please contact:

David Farkas
Director, Main Street Programs

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Commercial Preservation Easements

Easements: A Preservation Tool for the Present and Future

To explore the structure, process, and benefits of preservation easements for historic commercial buildings, Landmarks, in association with real estate development company CB Richard Ellis/Pittsburgh, sponsored a breakfast meeting on January 15, 2004, for owners of historic properties, realtors, developers, bankers, architects, city planners, and community leaders. Speakers included Landmarks President Arthur Ziegler; Jack Norris, CEO and chairman of CB Richard Ellis/Pittsburgh; Michael Ehrmann, principal, Jefferson & Lee Appraisers; and Martha Jordan, Duquesne University Law School professor and a member of Landmarks’ Easement Committee.

A preservation “easement”—the meaning of the word requires some explanation—is a voluntary legal agreement between a building owner and Landmarks that will protect architecturally significant or historic property in perpetuity.

Preservation easements may be used to protect residential buildings, commercial property, and farmland. To be eligible, the property must be on the National Register of Historic Places, individually or as a contributing structure within a National Register district.

A building owner may establish an easement in conjunction with Landmarks to protect the façade of a building; this is known as a “façade easement.”

Commercial building owners may also wish to protect the building by establishing a “development rights easement” (that may include “air rights”), while owners of historic farmland may apply for an “open space easement.” For a fee to cover monitoring expenses, Landmarks, in turn, will assume responsibility to see that the terms of the easement are met and enforced. All easements must be approved by Landmarks’ Easement Committee, chaired by trustee George Yeckel.

Easements have become an important and effective preservation tool because they can provide financial gains through the tax code, making preservation of a historic structure economically beneficial to a building owner or developer.

Heinz Lofts Demonstrate the Value of Easements

When five of the historic H. J. Heinz Company buildings became available for conversion into loft housing, developer John Ferchill and Landmarks undertook to explore how easements could protect the buildings and benefit the developer.

Prohibiting façade changes and forestalling potential development rights of a property is viewed as an economic hardship, but one that is compensated for by tax relief. A professional appraisal determined that the property value of the Heinz buildings diminished modestly if a façade easement was taken; moreover, the property value declined substantially if the development easement––which included air rights––was taken. By accepting these two easements, Landmarks gave the developer a significant charitable contribution that closed a major gap in financing the project. Without the easement, Mr. Ferchill would not have been able to complete his adaptive-use project and the Heinz buildings might have been lost.

Since easements benefit different properties in different ways and at different values, it is important that interested owners get the information appropriate to their situation.

Five of the historic H. J. Heinz Company buildings on Pittsburgh’s North Side will now be protected through Landmarks’ easement program.

Our experience in historic preservation over the past 40 years has taught me that there are only two sure ways to save a building: you either have to own it or protect it through an easement.

––Arthur P. Ziegler, Jr.
Commercial Preservation Easements
Residential Preservation Easements
Farm Preservation Easements
(.pdf format)
Sample Facade Easement Agreement
(.pdf format)

For more information, contact:

Anne E. Nelson

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Historic Campus Heritage

PHLF has conducted architectural survey and feasibility studies to save and reuse buildings in historic colleges and Universities as in Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s Sutton Hall, or “Old Main”, and initiated plans to restore Point Park University’s Lawrence Hall with the college. For the latter, work included restoration of the Gothic fenestration, cleaning the limestone cladding on the first and second stories, and a realignment of the main entrance with the grand central staircase. Point Park University created new interior spaces including a university bookstore that enlivens the downtown street corner of the building.

From early 2005 through 2009, PHLF has received funding from The Getty Fund’s Campus Heritage Grants program for eight Western Pennsylvania colleges through which we review the history of campus planning; identify historic structures and landscapes; identify and highlight those that should be retained; develop restoration and stewardship plans as needed; work with central campus planning; and assist with the identification of public/private sources of funding for restoration and conservation.

From early 2005 through 2007, Allegheny College, Geneva College, Grove City College and Slippery Rock University collaborated with Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation in the development of Preservation Plans that are being used as road maps for the conservation of campus heritage, historic structures, and landscape.

In late 2007 through 2009, Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation completed a second group of schools: Seton Hill University, Washington & Jefferson College, California State University of Pennsylvania, and Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

Allegheny College Preservation Plan
Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania Preservation Plan
Grove City College Preservation Plan
Geneva College Preservation Plan
Washington & Jefferson College Preservation Plan
Seton Hill University Preservation Plan
Indiana University of Pennsylvania Preservation Plan
California University Preservation Plan

These Preservation Plans have become part of each school’s recorded history, suggesting how, from the mid-19th century to the mid- 20th century, architects and landscape designers envisioned the ideal physical environment to educate and to promote the enduring values that persist to this day.

The resulting Preservation Plans have been successfully used for campus planning, fund-raising, and for bringing awareness to the college community about the distinguished architectural and landscape features of these colleges and universities. Further, the communities where these educational institutions are located have also benefitted and several of them have initiated projects that include historic preservation components.

The Campus Heritage Grants Program has a strong collaborative character, and this is reflected in the process followed as well as in the end product. For instance, students from Seton Hill University and Indiana University of Pennsylvania wrote articles about the project, and the whole team was interviewed at the student-run radio station at Washington & Jefferson College. California University of Pennsylvania published an article on the project and PHLF’s President and the Project Manager were guests of California University of Pennsylvania’s President. Our field team worked side by side with faculty and staff members in all institutions.

Our efforts also had a positive influence in some of the communities where the colleges are located. Because of our work there PHLF and Seton Hill University have created a Westmoreland County Historic Preservation Fund. Each institution has pledged $51,000 a year for 3 years and the two are now soliciting additional funds.

In Washington PA, and next to W & J College, we engaged in a project to determine if a historic train station could be adapted to a farmers market.  In Greensburg PA, Seton Hill University is building a performing arts center and a number of other projects.

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Local Historic Designations

PHLF Historic Landmark Plaque | Local Historic Designations | PA State Historical Markers | National Register of Historic Places | National Historic Designations

City of Pittsburgh Historic Designation

A City Historic Designation may be given to districts or individual buildings within the Pittsburgh city limits that are significant for architectural or historical reasons. Civic groups or individuals can prepare a nomination for submission to the Historic Review Commission (HRC). The HRC and the City Planning Commission review the nomination and pass on their recommendations to City Council. Public hearings by both the HRC and City Council are part of the process of reviewing historic nominations. City Council makes the final decision about all historic nominations.

City Historic Designation establishes a regulatory process for the review of the exterior appearance of all buildings that are designated (either individually or as part of a district). If a City Historic Designation is awarded by City Council, the HRC (directly or through its staff) must review all visible exterior alterations, including demolition, new construction, and additions. The HRC’s jurisdiction does not include parts of buildings that can not be seen from a public street or way, not does it include building interiors, or the use of properties. The HRC will review only those changes that an owner proposes to make to a building.

At present (2010), there are 13 City Historic Districts: Allegheny West, Alpha Terrace, Deutschtown, East Carson Street, Manchester, Market Square, Mexican War Streets, Murray Hill Avenue, Oakland Civic Center, Oakland Square, Penn-Liberty District, and Schenley Farms.  There are also 86 individually-designated structures in the city.

For more information, please contact:

Historic Preservation
Department of City Planning
200 Ross Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15219
(412) 255-2243

There are also Borough Historic Preservation Ordinances in Homestead, Sewickley, Sewickley Heights.

Historic Review Commission Of Pittsburgh
66 City Designated Landmarks
Designated by the Pittsburgh City Council as City Designated Historic Structures as of May 2002

Aberlie House
122-124 East North Avenue
Designated on February 13, 2001

Allegheny Arsenal
Penn Avenue at 40th Street
Designated on February 22, 1977

Allegheny County Courthouse
436 Grant Street
Designated on December 26, 1972

Allegheny County Jail
400 block Ross Street
Designated on December 26, 1972

Allegheny Library
Allegheny Center
Designated on March 15, 1974

Allegheny Middle School (formerly Allegheny High School)
810 Arch Street
Designated on November 30, 1999

1318 Arch Street (formerly George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr. House)
Designated on June 28, 2001

Arsenal Middle School (formerly Arsenal Junior High School)
3901 Butler Street
Designated on November 30, 1999

Beltzhoover Elementary School
320 Cedarhurst Street
Designated on November 30, 1999

Benedum Center for the Performing Arts (formerly the Stanley Theater)
207 Seventh Street
[Included in Penn-Liberty City Designated Historic District]
Designated on November 20, 1984

Byers-Lyons House (currently Byers Hall of the Community College of Allegheny County)
808 Ridge Avenue
[Included in Allegheny West City Designated Historic District]
Designated on March 15, 1974

Calvary United Methodist Church
Allegheny Avenue at Beech Avenue
[Included in Allegheny West City Designated Historic District]
Designated on February 22, 1977

Cathedral of Learning – University of Pittsburgh
4200 Fifth Avenue
[Included in Oakland Civic Center City Designated Historic District]
Designated on February 22, 1977

2621 Centre Avenue – The YMCA Building
Designated on August 8, 1995

Pittsburgh Children’s Museum (formerly the Allegheny Post Office)
10 Children’s Way, Allegheny Center
Designated on December 26, 1972

Colfax Elementary School
2332 Beechwood Boulevard
Designated on November 30, 1999

Concord Elementary School
2340 Brownsville Road
Designated on November 30, 1999

David P. Oliver High School
2323 Brighton Road
Designated on November 30, 1999

Dilworth Traditional Academy (formerly Dilworth Elementary School)
6200 Stanton Avenue
Designated on November 30, 1999

Dower’s Tavern (formerly Beck’s Run School)
1000 Beck’s Run Road
Designated on September 28, 1987

Emmanuel Episcopal Church
957 West North Avenue
[Included in Allegheny West City Designated Historic District]
Designated on February 22, 1977

Engine Company No. 1 and No. 30
344 Boulevard of the Allies
Designated on March 17, 1993

Engine Company No. 3
1416 Arch Street
Designated on April 12, 1995

Ferris House (Former George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr. House)
1318 Arch Street
Designated on June 28, 2001

Former Fifth Avenue High School
1800 Fifth Avenue
Designated on November 30, 1999

Friendship Elementary School (formerly Liberty School Number 4)
5501 Friendship Avenue
Designated on November 30, 1999

Stephen Foster Community Center (currently the Catholic Youth Association)
286 Main Street
Designated on July 8, 1982

Former Garrison Foundry-Mackintosh Hemphill Company Offices
901-11 Bingham Street
[Included in East Carson Street City Designated Historic District]
Designated on October 18, 1991

Greenfield Elementary School
1 Alger Street
Designated on November 30, 1999

Guckenheimer Warehouse
125 First Avenue
Designated on May 9, 1995

Howe-Childs Gate House
5918 Fifth Avenue
Designated on April 16, 1986

John Wesley A.M.E. Zion Church
594 Herron Avenue
Designated on October 11, 1993

B. F. Jones House (currently Jones Hall of the Community College of Allegheny County)
808 Ridge Avenue
[Included in the Allegheny West City Designated Historic District]
Designated on March 15, 1974

King Estate, or “Baywood”
1251 North Negley Avenue
Designated on November 12, 1992

Langley High School
2940 Sheridan Boulevard
Designated on November 30, 1999

Lemington Elementary School
7060 Lemington Avenue
Designated on November 30, 1999

Lincoln Elementary School
328 Lincoln Avenue
Designated on November 30, 1999

Lord & Taylor Department Store (formerly the Mellon National Bank Building)
514 Smithfield Street
Designated in July, 1999

Lowen-Shaffer House
311 Lowenhill Street
Designated on February 10, 1992

Madison Elementary School (formerly Minersville Public School)
3401 Milwaukee Street
Designated on November 30, 1999

Mamaux Building
121-23 First Avenue
Designated on July 27, 1995

141 Mayflower Street
Designated in June, 1999

Former Saint Michael’s Roman Catholic Church & Rectory
21 Pius Street
Designated on February 23, 2001

Mifflin Elementary School
1290 Mifflin Road
Designated on November 30, 1999

Monongahela Incline
Between West Carson Street, near Smithfield Street, and Grandview Avenue
Designated on March 15, 1974

Moreland-Hoffstot House
5057 Fifth Avenue
Designated on February 22, 1977

Neill Log House
Serpentine Drive in Schenley Park
Designated on February 22, 1977

Old Heidelberg Apartments
401-423 South Braddock Avenue
Designated on March 15, 1974

Perry Traditional Academy (formerly Perry High School)
3875 Perrysville Avenue
Designated on November 30, 1999

Phipps Conservatory
Schenley Park
Designated on December 26, 1972

Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad Station
(Currently the Landmarks Building, One Station Square)
Smithfield Street near West Carson Street
Designated on March 15, 1974

Saint Nicholas Croatian Catholic Church
1326 East Ohio Street
Designated on July 13, 2001Schiller Classical Academy (formerly Schiller School)

1018 Peralta Street
Designated on November 30, 1999

Sellers-Carnahan House
400 Shady Avenue
Designated on December 31, 1995

Shrine of St. Anthony of Padua
1700 Harpster Street

Designated on February 22, 1977

Smithfield Street Bridge
Smithfield Street over the Monongahela River
Designated on February 22, 1977

W. P. Snyder House (currently Babb Insurance Company)
854 Ridge Avenue
[Included in Allegheny West City Designated Historic District]
Designated on March 15, 1974

Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall Museum
4141 Fifth Avenue
[Included in Oakland Civic Center City Designated Historic District]
Designated on February 11, 1991

South Side Market House
South 12th and Bingham Streets at Bedford Square
[Included in East Carson Street City Designated Historic District]
Designated on February 22, 1977

Sterrett Classical Academy (formerly Sterrett School)
7100 Reynolds Street
Designated on November 30, 1999

Stevens Elementary School (formerly Thaddeus Stevens School)
824 Crucible Street
Designated on November 30, 1999

Sunnyledge (former McClelland House)
5136 Fifth Avenue
Designated on April 12, 1995

Victoria Hall (formerly the Ursuline Academy {former Lynch House})
201 South Winebiddle Street
Designated on August 20, 1982

Westinghouse High School
1101 North Murtland Street
Designated on November 30, 1999

Woods House
4604 Monongahela Street
Designated on February 22, 1977

Woolslair Elementary Gifted Center (formerly Woolslair Elementary School)
40th Street & Liberty Avenue
Designated on November 30, 1999

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Historic Plaque Program

PHLF Historic Landmark Plaque | Local Historic Designations | PA State Historical Markers | National Register of Historic Places | National Historic Designations

An Explanation of Historic Designation Categories

Buildings and other places in the Pittsburgh region may be eligible for three designations if their architectural and/or historic character is outstanding. Each designation is made by a separate organization with its own criteria, but in each case the intention is to distinguish and help preserve the places chosen.

PHLF Historic Landmark Plaques

In 1968, the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation began an Historic Landmark Plaque program to identify architecturally significant structures and designed landscapes throughout Allegheny County.

Beginning in 2010, PHLF expanded its Historic Landmark Plaque program to include counties surrounding Allegheny, especially if the applicant site has some connection to the Greater Pittsburgh region, e.g., property owned by a leading Pittsburgher or the work of a distinguished Pittsburgh architect.

Since 1968, Landmarks has awarded 562 Historic Landmark Plaques. An Historic Landmark plaque identifies the site as a significant part of our local heritage; it will not protect a building from alteration or demolition. Buildings, structures, districts, and landscapes may be approved for an Historic Landmark plaque if all of the following conditions are met:

  • they are remarkable pieces of architecture, engineering, construction, landscape design, or planning, or impart a rich sense of history;
  • alterations, additions, or deterioration have not substantially lessened their value in the above respects;
  • they are at least 50 years old and are located within Allegheny County or surrounding counties (see above).
  • they are not located in historic districts bearing a plaque (unless of exceptional individual significance).

The Historic Plaque Designation Committee, comprised of several trustees, architectural historians, and knowledgeable citizens, usually meets once a year to review all nominations and approve awards. If awarded, the plaque will be ordered by the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation. A PHLF Trustee has funded this program so the cost of cast aluminum plaques is partially underwritten by PHLF; however, the cost of a bronze plaque is the responsibility of the owner.

You may obtain more information, an application, and instructions by contacting Frank Stroker or by calling him at 412-471-5808 ext. 525.

Click Here for a searchable database of our plaque properties, with maps.

You may also download a copy of the application and directions here: plaque_Application.pdf

Click here for a pdf booklet listing all PHLF Plaque Properties (1968–2009)

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Contact Us

We welcome your comments and suggestions on our programs and services. Landmarks regrets that it cannot respond to e-mail requests for research to be conducted by staff without prior arrangement.

The staff of Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation is available to do minimal research on historic buildings in Allegheny County by scheduled appointment. Members of Landmarks are entitled to an hour of staff research at no charge; additional time will be charged at $30 per hour. Nonmembers of Landmarks will be charged $40 per hour for any research work.

Should you wish to schedule staff research time, please contact Albert Tannler at 412-471-5808. Access to Landmark’s library and archives is available to members at no charge, but any library research must be scheduled through our Historical Collections Director, Albert Tannler, during normal business hours of Monday through Friday , 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Please write us either via e-mail at:

or at our postal address:

Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation
100 West Station Square Drive, STE 450
Pittsburgh, PA 15219
Phone: 412-471-5808
Fax: 412-471-1633
Hours: Monday through Friday, 9:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. excluding holidays.

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Volunteer Opportunities

If you are a college student or adult who enjoys working with people, exploring the city, and learning about local history and architecture, then we welcome you as a volunteer. The more involved you become, the more rewarding your experience will be.

Our staff trains volunteers to lead tours for school students (grades 2-college) and adults, and to present slide shows and PowerPoint presentations to various community and senior-citizen groups throughout the Pittsburgh region.

Tours and presentations are most often conducted Mondays through Fridays during school hours; therefore tour guides (docents) must be available to volunteer during the week. However, weekend tours and presentations are offered occasionally, so if you are only available then, you still can be involved.

Docents must become thoroughly familiar with tour/presentation scripts and teaching techniques before leading a tour or presenting a program. They are required to attend monthly meetings and shadow various tours/presentations.

Meetings for Volunteer Docents:

  • The First Monday of Every Month
  • 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
  • PHLF Offices, Fourth Floor, The Landmarks Building, Station Square

Docents are encouraged to read Pittsburgh’s Landmark Architecture by Walter C. Kidney, and other PHLF publications.

There is no charge to prospective docents for training; however, each docent is required to pay about $100 (half the cost of the microphone that he/she will use on tours). PHLF pays the other half and each docent keeps and maintains his/her own microphone. Each docent volunteers to lead tours or to present programs according to his/her own schedule. Some docents lead tours every so often—other docents lead tours every week.

Even the IRS rewards volunteers! All who do volunteer for PHLF can deduct 14 cents per mile (as of 2011; check the IRS  for periodic updates) for any driving that they do to our office or to any site in which they are performing a service. Keep a record of dates, reasons for trips, and miles driven, and take your qualified deduction on your Federal tax return.

Contact Mary Lu Denny either by e-mail at: or by phone at 412-471-5808, ext. 527 to register for training.

Bob Loos (left) and Kay Pickard (right) are two of 25 volunteer tour guides specially trained by the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation staff. Thanks to the knowledge, energy, and commitment of its volunteer tour guides, PHLF is able to involve more than 10,000 people each year in its educational programs. College students and all ages of adults volunteer as tour guides.


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Privacy Policy

Protecting your privacy is important to Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation. We hope the following policy will help you understand how Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation collects, uses, and safeguards the personal information you provide on our web site.

Information Collection

If you browse Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation’s web site, you do so anonymously. We do not collect personal information including your e-mail address. We may log your IP address (the Internet address of your computer) to give us an idea of which parts of our web site you visit and how long you spend there. But we do not link your IP address to anything personally identifiable. The only other information automatically provided to us is the type of computer and operating system you are using. Your browser supplies us with this information.

PHLF does not use information collected from visitors to our site to market commercial products or for resale to third parties. We do use the information supplied by you or your browser to track the popularity of this site and the usefulness of the particular links or features. We store this information in aggregate form, and we do not use it to target individuals for marketing or membership solicitation.

We encourage visitors to our site to give us feedback on our web site or social media sites, and to comment on featured items. If you do choose to post comments on our site or social media site, you are granting us the right to use, transmit or publish your comments and your name via any method worldwide.

At times we may request that you voluntarily supply us with personal information, such as your e-mail address and postal address, for purposes such as corresponding with us, registering at a site, making a purchase, or participating in an online survey.

We do not share your profile with anyone else outside of Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation without your consent, and no one else can access your information.

What information do we collect? How do we use it?

When you order books, tours, or memberships, we need to know your name, e-mail address, mailing address, credit card number, and expiration date. This allows us to process and fulfill your order and to notify you of your order status.

When you submit a customer review, we also ask for your e-mail address.

We may also use the information we collect to occasionally notify you about important changes to the Web site, new Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation services, and special offers we think you’ll find valuable.  At any time, you may request to discontinue receiving these offers from us by simply replying to the e-mail and informing us of your preferences. All e-mail offers that you receive from Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation will tell you how to decline further e-mail offers.

When you e-mail or, we enter your e-mail address into our database.

How does Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation protect member information?

We offer the use of a secure server. The secure server software (SSL) encrypts all information you input before it is sent to us. Furthermore, all of the customer data we collect is protected against unauthorized access.

Will Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation disclose the information it collects to outside parties?

Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation does not sell, or rent your personal information to others. Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation may release account information when we believe, in good faith, that such release is reasonably necessary to (i) comply with law, (ii) enforce or apply the terms of any of our user agreements or (iii) protect the rights, property or safety of Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation, our users, or others.

We reserve the right to change this policy at any time without advance notice. If we do change our policy, the new policy will not go into effect until it is posted here. We also reserve the right to add features designed to elicit consumer information. If we do decide to add any such features, we will clearly mark these features and explain the nature and potential use of the data collected.

Tell us what you think
Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation welcomes your questions and comments about privacy. Please send e-mail to

Effective Date: January 1, 2013

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Legal Information

Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation is pleased to provide the information on this Web site as a service to our members and the general public. We hope that you will find the information informative and useful, and we would be happy to speak with you to answer any questions.

We have also attempted to provide information that is current and topical. Because preservation matters are changing rapidly in Pittsburgh, in Pennsylvania and nationally, we cannot guarantee that this information will always be up-to-date, complete or correct. Many matters such as historic tax credits, local historic designation and historic ordinances require individual attention due to particular circumstances; therefore, it is important that you not act on legal information contained in this site without first consulting counsel.

We also have attempted to provide links to other Web sites that we hope you will find useful. We DO NOT control the material presented in other sites however, and we DO NOT vouch for or assume responsibility for the accuracy of such material.

Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation’s name and logo identify our products and services. Use of our name or logo in advertising and/or promotional materials by third parties is strictly prohibited. Similarly, reproduction of any portion of our web site, or use of our trademarks or copyrighted materials for commercial purposes is prohibited. All use of such material requires our prior permission. Please make such requests by calling or sending e-mail to us. We will evaluate your request as soon as possible.

Please read our Privacy Policy concerning information collected from visitors to our site.

Any rights not expressly granted herein are reserved.

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Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation
100 West Station Square Drive, Suite 450
Pittsburgh, PA 15219-1134

The offices of PHLF and its subsidiaries are located on the 4th floor of The Landmarks Building (P&LERR and Grand Concourse Signs) at Station Square. Enter the building from the ground level at the Grand Concourse Restaurant. Once in the restaurant lobby, walk to the guard’s desk. Sign in and the guard will unlock the double door. Take the elevator to the 4th floor. If the guard is not there, use the intercom on the wall. Scroll down to “PHLF”, press “Call”, and our receptionist will ring you in.

Parking:  Some spaces are reserved for PHLF visitors in the East Lot at Station Square, although you do have to pay for parking.   After you take a ticket and enter the East Lot, make a hard left turn and look for the blue-and-white signs “PHLF Visitor Parking Only.”  If a space is available, park there.

View Larger Map

Mission & Brief History | Location | Board of Trustees | Staff

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North Side gets behind Commons cause

Pittsburgh Tribune ReviewBy Bonnie Pfister
Friday, September 14, 2007

The North Side’s Allegheny Commons — designated as public grazing lands a year before George Washington became the nation’s first president — today celebrates a small but significant first step in a proposed $16 million revitalization guided by a master plan.

A four-acre parcel at the southwest corner of East Ohio Street and Cedar Avenue has undergone $400,000 of upgrades, part of a pilot project demonstrating improvements that could come for the 80-acre West Park.

“This is a way for us to take a section of the park and do a whole lot of improvements and see how it looks,” said Christina Schmidlapp, part-time development director of the project since 2004, working from the offices of the Northside Leadership Conference.

“It will be a living advertisement of what we want to do, and for us to see if it makes sense for us to make a park like they did in the 19th century.”

Located a quarter-mile from the Allegheny River across from Downtown, the green space was designated as public grazing lands, or commons, surrounding the borough of Allegheny in 1788, according to the Allegheny Commons Steering Committee. It was beautified as a park for Allegheny City in 1868, annexed to Pittsburgh 40 years later and incorporated into the city’s park system. Allegheny Commons is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places and is a city historic district.

Community groups in 1999 convened a public meeting to discuss upgrading the park, and by 2002 other stakeholders — including Allegheny General Hospital, the Aviary and the Children’s Museum — helped develop a master plan. Local businesses, including insurance company Babb Inc., the Steelers and Citizens Bank, helped to fund the salary of Schmidlapp, who will move into a money-raising mode. Alida Baker will become project director.

Money for the improvement has come from the Richard King Mellon Foundation and The Buhl Foundation, and the city Public Works Department, which provided $200,000 and labor to rebuild walking paths and upgrade lighting. The planting of 70 trees and other landscape care in the park was paid for by the Laurel Foundation, the Allegheny Foundation and the Garden Club of Allegheny County.

Walking through the park on a brilliant September afternoon, Tonia Davis said Thursday she has noticed the improvement in the five years since she moved to East Allegheny Commons. The park is better maintained and has become a gathering spot for children’s parties.

“It’s a beautiful place,” said Davis, a home health worker and part-time Wendy’s restaurant staffer. “When I moved here, it was nothing but drugs, drugs, drugs, drugs. I didn’t want to come out of my house. I’m proud to live here now.”

A ceremony is scheduled in the park at 4 p.m. today. The master plan can be found at

Bonnie Pfister can be reached at or 412-320-7886.

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New apartments will be geared to middle income

Pittsburgh Tribune ReviewBy Jeremy Boren
Thursday, September 13, 2007

The first newly built Downtown apartments with rents geared toward middle-income people will be in the heart of Pittsburgh’s Cultural District, where city planners hope to attract artists and others living on a budget.

Trek Development will put 60 apartments in the Century Building on Seventh Street with prices for studio, and one- and two-bedroom apartments from $450 to $1,250 a month, said Trek CEO William Gatti, who joined Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato to announce plans Wednesday for the 100-year-old building.

“They’ll be the most affordable new units that are coming available Downtown,” said Patricia Burk, vice president of housing and economic development for the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership.

New housing below market price is uncommon Downtown, which counts most of its lower rents in aging high-rise mammoths such as the Mid-Town Towers and The Roosevelt.

Ravenstahl said residential development Downtown has focused on building pricey lofts and condos, but people with middle incomes should be able to live in the city’s center, as well.

“Sure, we want individuals who can purchase the million-dollar condos, but we need to have that mix,” Ravenstahl said. “We need to have that diversity of young and old, rich and middle-income people.”

High-end housing Downtown has demonstrated some success. For example, the owners of Piatt Place in the former Lazarus/Macy’s Building, have sold 35 percent of the building’s 65 condos at prices ranging from $350,000 to $1 million.

Onorato said as more people move in, more businesses and amenities will come to Downtown.

“This is the place in the next decade or two where activity is going to be going,” Onorato said. “This truly is the center of southwest Pennsylvania.”

Gatti said the $16 million in planned renovations would not have been possible without $515,155 in affordable housing tax credits that the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency approved Tuesday. The rents aren’t high enough to justify the debt Trek would accrue.

Gatti said the building will target “the style-conscious urban dweller on a budget.”

Trek will receive $3.2 million from the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, $2.3 million from the Urban Redevelopment Authority, $2.3 million in historic tax credits, $2.3 million from the private Strategic Investment Fund and $750,000 from Allegheny County Economic Development.

That makes about $11.4 million in public and private assistance.

“Affordable housing options for artists and workers in the Cultural District and Downtown in general play an important role in the ongoing growth of the district as a residential neighborhood,” said Pittsburgh Cultural Trust President Kevin McMahon.

The building will have nine studios, 12 two-bedroom apartments and 39 one-bedroom apartments. Construction is expected to begin in spring.

Tenants will be able to move in by early 2009, Gatti said.

Jeremy Boren can be reached at or 412-765-2312.

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Tax credits lower costs of living Downtown

Pittsburgh Post GazetteThursday, September 13, 2007
By Mark Belko,
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

People who want to live Downtown but can’t afford the expensive condominiums or steep rents that now dominate the market finally may have an option.

It’s a 100-year-old building on Seventh Street in the heart of Pittsburgh’s Cultural District.

A plan to convert the 12-story Century Building into affordable apartments cleared a key hurdle this week when the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency awarded $515,155 in federal tax credits for the project.

The approval, announced at a news conference yesterday, will enable Trek Development Group to press ahead with the construction of 60 upper-floor apartments, including single-room studios and one- and two-bedroom lofts.

Rents will range from $550 to $1,150 a month, depending on income level, in a Downtown market where studio rents currently are $868 to $909 a month and two bedrooms go for $1,035 to $2,002 a month, based on whether there’s one or two bathrooms.

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said the $16 million Century Building project has been a priority for him since he got into office a year ago because of its potential to attract a broader mix of people into the Downtown residential scene.

“Downtown Pittsburgh is on its way back. It’s revitalizing, and it’s because of projects like this that we’re going to be able to look at a significantly different Downtown, in my opinion, in the years to come,” he said.

Until now the residential surge Downtown has been fueled in large part by luxury condominiums with price tags starting at roughly $230,000. Many units are selling for $300,000 or more, with a few topping $1 million.

Apartment rents at the Encore on 7th high-rise a few doors down from the Century Building are $1,400 to $3,275 a month.

While housing has helped to boost the fortunes of the Downtown district, it has been out of the reach of many people because of the price.

At the same time, Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership research has found a “tremendous demand” for a middle range that includes young professional housing and work-force housing, said Patty Burk, vice president of housing and economic development.

“Delivering this building will be the first step in meeting that demand and helping Downtown be for everyone,” she said.

Part of the problem in providing more affordable housing in downtowns, here and elsewhere, is the high cost of construction, which leads developers to focus on the high end to turn a profit. Lower pricing typically requires some form of subsidy.

For example, Washington County-based Millcraft Industries, another developer seeking to bring more affordable housing Downtown, sought federal historic tax credits to help make the numbers work. It is converting part of the old G.C. Murphy store into 46 loft apartments, with rents to range from about $775 for a 620-square-foot studio to $1,875 for a 1,500-square-foot penthouse.

William J. Gatti Jr., president of Trek Development Group, said the $515,155 in affordable tax credits was “vital” to the conversion of the upper floors of the Century Building into housing. He said the project could not have gone forward without them.

“The price point that we’re attempting to make units available for would not be enough to amortize the debt necessary to develop the building and to carry the cost. So we absolutely need the tax credits to make it work,” he said.

Trek plans to target young professionals, artists and middle-income renters. It plans to offer 12 single-room studios, 12 two-bedroom units and 36 one-bedroom units.

“It is fitting that exactly 100 years after its original construction we are announcing the rebirth of the Century Building as Downtown Pittsburgh’s first truly affordable residential loft community,” Mr. Gatti said.

Trek intends to pursue an environmentally friendly LEED certification for the building, which also will include a green roof and geothermal heating and cooling. There also will be a roof deck with city and Allegheny River views, an equipped exercise room, a community club room and a business center.

Apartment amenities include garbage disposals, dishwashers, and washer and dryer hook-ups.

Besides the PHFA tax credits, project funding includes nearly $3.2 million from the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, $2.3 million in loans from the city’s Urban Redevelopment Authority, $2.3 million in historic tax credits, $2.3 million in loans from the Strategic Investment Fund and $750,000 in loans from the county’s economic development department.

Trek already has been doing preliminary demolition work within the building. Construction should be in full bloom next year, with apartments ready for occupancy in early 2009.

The Century Building conversion is considered another key addition to the thriving Cultural District. It’s expected to complement the Cultural Trust’s half-billion-dollar RiverParc project, the first phase of which involves the construction of some 700 units of housing on the Allegheny River at Eighth Street, at a cost of $90 million.

Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato said Downtown will be “the place for the next decade or two where activity” will be growing. He said the county is committed to making sure the Golden Triangle, as the hub of the region, continues to move forward.

“We’re on a roll. You can easily fall off that roll if you don’t pay attention to what we have here and the assets that we have. So Downtown Pittsburgh’s going to remain a focus for the next several years for all of us involved here,” he said.

First published on September 13, 2007 at 12:00 am
Mark Belko can be reached at or 412-263-1262.

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Allegheny County Designates PHLF to Spearhead Main Street’s Program

Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato announced at a press conference in Swissvale yesterday the initiation of a large-scale Allegheny County Main Streets program. Four pilot communities will be involved: Swissvale, Elizabeth, Tarentum, and Stowe. Landmarks has been designated to operate the program in conjunction with the Allegheny County Department of Economic Development.

Landmarks has selected Town Center Associates of Beaver County to serve as sub-consultant with responsibility for communications with local officials and property and business owners, development of a website and a newsletter, and conduct demographic research.

Landmarks will analyze the historic buildings, prepare recommendations for restoration, develop a real estate strategy for improving retail offerings, conduct market research, assist the County with major facade grant and low-interest loan programs, all designed to help revitalize these Main Street communities.

Funding is coming from Allegheny County and private foundations in Pittsburgh.

Landmarks will field a team of staff members with a variety of experience that will be useful for a comprehensive program, including market research, real estate financial analyses, design, graphics, planned giving, construction and real estate development.

Work begins immediately.

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Turtle Creek High School Listed on the National Register of Historic Places

On September 7th, The Director of the National Park Service announced that the Turtle Creek High School was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on August 30th, 2007.

Although this federal designation does not place any restrictions on the private property owners, it does however, provide a level of protection to the building if a redevelopment project is proposed involving federal funds. The designation also gives property owners access to special grants and tax credits for the “certified rehabilitation” of income-producing properties.

This prestigious listing is the culmination of over 2 years of work by, The Committee to Save Turtle Creek High School, Turtle Creek Council and Mayors office, the citizens and alumni of Turtle Creek High and the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation.

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A historic moment for Highland Park

Pittsburgh Tribune ReviewBy Bill Zlatos
Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Highland Park, the East End neighborhood known for its stained glass and woodwork crafted by immigrant artisans, has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
“It’s a way to market the neighborhood, to attract people interested in historic buildings and to encourage people to maintain those buildings,” said Mike Eversmeyer, a Highland Park resident and architect.

Eversmeyer on Tuesday confirmed the neighborhood’s listing as the Highland Park Residential Historic District. The Highland Park Community Development Corp. hired him to submit the nomination to the State Historic Preservation Board and the National Register of Historic Places.

The neighborhood joins 18 other districts in the city and sites in Aspinwall, Harrison, Homestead, Munhall, Plum, Ross, Thornburg and West Mifflin on the National Register.

“The neighborhood has long been respected by Pittsburgh residents and has a feeling as a special place when you walk those streets lined with houses of turn-of-the-century style,” said Arthur Ziegler, president of the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation.
He said residents of Highland Park are not the only ones who should applaud its status.

The designation helps businesses obtain federal money and prevents federal money from being used to tear down buildings without an extensive review.

Eversmeyer said the listing should spur investment, especially in the Bryant Street commercial district and in its southwest corner, an area plagued by apartment buildings owned by absentee landlords.

He said homeowners could benefit, too, if the state Legislature provides tax incentives for people in residential historic districts.

“If you’re trying to sell investors on coming into a neighborhood, then having a tax credit as a carrot makes a lot of sense,” he said.

The neighborhood is a blend of Victorian, Tudor and Arts and Crafts homes with some modern-style houses. It is home to the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium, one of the city’s larger parks and two reservoirs.

Kelly Meade, a Highland Park resident for 30 years, has worked as a real estate agent for Howard Hanna, specializing in that neighborhood for 25 years. She said the historic designation should give the neighborhood’s housing market a boost.

“For those who have a special interest in a historic home, it certainly will give more credence to the neighborhood,” she said.

Bill Zlatos can be reached at or 412-320-7828.

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Highland Park granted federal historic status

Pittsburgh Post GazetteWednesday, September 12, 2007
By Diana Nelson Jones, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The National Register of Historic Places has granted Highland Park federal historic status, a designation with few protections but much prestige among preservationists.

Mike Eversmeyer, an architect and former head of the city’s Historic Review Commission, completed the nomination from research begun almost a decade ago by the neighborhood’s community development corporation, or CDC.

The work included surveying and documenting the histories of more than 1,300 structures.

“We based our nomination on the significance of the architecture, a coherent concentration of buildings from the late 19th to early 20th century,” Mr. Eversmeyer said. “It was a model street car suburb.”

The parameters of the historic district run roughly from Stanton Avenue on the south to the park on the east and north, with Chislett Street serving as the western boundary. It cuts slightly into East Liberty at one point because the buildings between Stanton and Hays and Negley Avenue and Chislett were of the same signature as Highland Park’s, said Mr. Eversmeyer.

“I think it’s something for Pittsburgh to be very proud of,” said Arthur Ziegler, president of the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation. “It gives national status to the neighborhood, and it will protect it from federally funded programs that could harm historic buildings.” Any such programs would be reviewed by state preservation officials, he said.

He said Highland Park’s housing collage ranges from late Victorian to early Modern, covering Edwardian, Tudor Revival and Arts and Crafts.

“The neighborhood has a feeling of architectural continuity,” he said.

Amy Enrico, owner of Tazza d’Oro coffeehouse on Highland Avenue, said, “I’m grateful for all the time they have put in. This is an incentive for all of us to preserve the architecture and stories of all the neighbors who came before us.”

The national designation does not prohibit individual owners from altering properties or require them to restore them, but it does make the district eligible for preservation funding and tax credits. City-designated historic districts are more restricted, with oversight from the planning department and Historic Review Commission on any proposed change to properties.

Several areas of Pittsburgh have federal and city historic status. One does not preclude the other, and the two do not always follow the same boundaries, said Mr. Ziegler.

“No one has spoken about interest in going for city historic designation” for Highland Park, Mr. Eversmeyer said.

David Hance, president of the Highland Park CDC. credited then-city councilman, now state Sen. Jim Ferlo for funding the research. The designation, he said, “tells us that what we see everyday where we live is notable, and it’s one more tool we have” to encourage quality development.

First published on September 12, 2007 at 2:52 am

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PHLF members and friends to Go to our Homewood Tour

Homewood’s Historic Landmarks: Bus and Walking Tour, on Saturday, September 15, 2007, 1:30 to 4:30 p.m.

Meeting and ending location: Station Square, outside The Shops at Station Square (across from the parking garage entrance)

Neighborhood leader Sarah Campbell and Diane Smith of the Community Technical Assistance Center will lead this membership tour. They offered a similar tour during the National Preservation Conference 2006––to rave reviews––so we asked them to offer it to our members this year. Louise Sturgess from the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation will be on board to welcome members and share a few passages from John Edgar Wideman’s book, Brothers and Keepers, about growing up in Homewood.

Sites we’ll see include:

• The Queen Anne Harris House of 1894, in the heart of Homewood at 7107 Apple Street, was the first home of the National Negro Opera Company, organized in 1941 by Mary Cardwell Dawson (1894-1962), who rehearsed on the third floor.

• Westinghouse High School, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was designed by Ingham & Boyd in 1921 and was completed in 1931. Like Schenley and Allderdice High Schools, Westinghouse has Classical detailing.

• Monticello and Idelwild Streets: Mrs. Campbell has lived on Idelwild for 60years.

• The Homewood Coliseum, formerly the Consolidated Traction Company Trolley Barn.

• The English Gothic Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh Homewood Branch was completed in 1910 to designs by Alden & Harlow as the last of Pittsburgh’s eight original Carnegie library branches. Handsomely renovated in 2003 by Erik Hokansen, architect, with Pfaffmann + Associates, the library is where the Homewood community gathers. We’ll enjoy light refreshments here and tour the landmark building containing a fully updated 300-person auditorium.

Sold Out

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Help Landmarks Obtain Famous Railroad Photograph

Your Gift Will Be Matched and Help Landmarks Obtain this Famous Railroad Photograph

Recently, Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation learned that The Fairbanks-Horix Foundation will match, dollar-for-dollar, up to $5,000 of every gift we receive toward the purchase of O. Winston Link’s famous photograph: “The Birmingham Special gets the Highball at Rural Retreat” for our Frank B. Fairbanks Rail Transportation Archive. The photo is valued at $10,000 and only gifts received by December 31st will be matched.

To make your tax-deductible gift to help us acquire this one-of-a-kind, Link-signed photograph that was published in Steam Steel & Stars, make your check payable to: PHLF with a notation “Fairbanks Challenge” and return it to: PHLF, 100 West Station Square Drive, Suite 450, Pittsburgh, PA 15219.

Gifts can also be made by credit card on our web site at:

Anyone making a gift of $100 or more by November 30th will also receive a free Landmarks membership.

Questions regarding the collection can be directed to Fairbanks Archive Librarian, Judith Harvey, at or 412-471-5808, ext. 515.

Note: Many of the collection’s local train images may be viewed at the Pittsburgh Digital Resource Library at

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Preservation group moves beyond county lines

Pittsburgh Tribune ReviewBy Ron DaParma
Sunday, September 9, 2007

The Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation is best known for its preservation efforts of historic properties throughout Allegheny County.

However, the South Side-based agency has been extending its reach beyond its home county in recent years, including with its latest project in Beaver County — an effort to bring “residential reinvestment” to areas near business districts in nine communities.

The foundation is the lead consultant on the project focusing on Aliquippa, Ambridge, Beaver, Bridgewater, Freedom, Midland, Monaca, New Brighton and Rochester.

“The idea is to work with the local officials and independent local organizations to identify new projects for each of the communities that in general terms fall into the guidelines of the state’s Elm Street program,” said Eugene Matta, the foundation’s director of real estate and special development programs.

Elm Street is a program established by Gov. Ed Rendell’s administration that this year is making available $7 million statewide to improve residential streets near Main Street business districts.

It provides seed money to be matched by funds raised from other sources to make the improvements a reality.

Though not an official Elm Street program, the foundation describes it as an “Elm Street-like” program.

While it will not necessarily be securing funds under that program, it will be seeking support from state and private sources.

The foundation is working under a consultant contract it signed several weeks ago with the Community Development Program of Beaver County, paid for with $50,000 from the state Department of Community and Economic Development.

Also on board is Town Center Associates, an organization serving as “sub-consultant.”

“TCA is headquartered in Beaver County and knows that county well,” said Arthur P. Ziegler Jr., PH&LF president.

“It’s president, Mark Peluso, already has done quite a bit of work in the community,” said Matta.

Examples of the projects funded under the Elm Street program include improvements to building exteriors, streets, new street lighting and trees, sidewalks or other “pedestrian-oriented features,” Matta said.

Other activities include improvements of mixed-use buildings in residential areas, acquisition of properties, demolition and reclamation projects, code violation repairs, emergency housing repairs, addition of home security items, parks and playgrounds and water and sewer connections.

The consultants have held one meeting with community leaders to discuss how to proceed with the program, and a second meeting is scheduled Tuesday.

“We suggested to community representatives that sometime in October we would like to have at least four projects they feel are worth considering,” Matta said. “Then somewhere between October and November, we should be able to start work on applications for funding.”

Over the past year, the foundation has secured five grants totaling nearly $800,00 under the DCED funding process.

Its efforts include helping to attract $2 million in investments in Wikinsburg to rehabilitate four properties in the historic Hamnett Place neighborhood.

It is working as manager of the Main Street program in Vandergrift, Armstrong County, and it received a $7,500 grant from National City Corp. to help form a Main Street project for Freeport, Leechburg, Apollo.

Preservation of historic farms also has been a focus. The organization is involved in a survey of farm properties in Green and Washington counties, Matta said.

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Private-public partnership resurrects old Bedford getaway

Pittsburgh Tribune ReviewBy Jack Markowitz
Sunday, September 9, 2007

They’re using the word “miracle” around Bedford these days.
It’s a nod to the revival — after 22 years of near-death experience — of the Bedford Springs Resort, the venerable vacation spot with gleaming front porches that seem to go forever and a history that stretches back 203 years.

Presidents slept there. But a glorious past can carry a hotel only so far if everything else is falling apart. The “Springs’ ” new owners, a half-dozen sophisticated investors from out of state, have bet $120 million that this piece of the past has a future.

They see a very modern aggravation — airport delays and hassles — nudging upscale Easterners to do their vacations and conferences, weddings and weekends, closer to home. Within two or three hours’ easy driving from Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Washington and Philadelphia, in fact.

In that market area of millions, Bedford Springs means to compete with the best. Namely, the Greenbrier in West Virginia, the Homestead in Virginia and other high-prestige — and high priced — watering places for the well-heeled and the politically and corporately influential.

So look for weekday room rates of $249 a night and up ($350 on weekends), golf rounds at $105 for hotel guests, $115 for drive-ins ($70 after 3 p.m.), and sumptuous but pricey breakfast, lunch and dinner menus. Not to mention concierges, valet parking, masseuses and white-gloved bellmen.

None of which would have been possible without the help of taxpayers.

Some $40 million in state and federal help has lifted the grand dame of Keystone State travel destinations to its legs again. “The hotel is probably better than it has ever been,” said Arthur P. Ziegler Jr., president of Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation, which helped in the rescue.

“She sat there empty and forlorn for 22 years,” says Bedford historian-architect Bill Defibaugh. “I expected every day to get a call, ‘They’re tearing her down.’ ”

It all goes to show what money can do. Plus vision, patience, taste and, well, tax dollars.

Here’s one item. To give a new generation of guests an unspoiled view — and no noise, fumes or trucks, across elegant lawns and gardens — a half-mile of U.S. Route 220 was relocated behind the hotel. The traffic is now in a deep, $11 million highway cut that never would have happened without friends in Harrisburg and Washington.

Still, someone had to bring money. His own.

Meet Mark Langdale, 53, of Dallas. He’s the U.S. ambassador to Costa Rica, a friend and appointee of President Bush, and a real estate investor. From afar, he spotted a then-dying, dust-gathering hotel a decade ago. And never let up gathering partners, political allies and financial tools.

Pittsburgh History and Landmarks (which saved Station Square in its home city decades ago) threw a big life ring. It acquired the hotel’s outside. Right — just the outside.

That’s the historic facade of tall columns, old glass and white porches — the building’s skin. History and Landmarks legally owns all that by way of an “easement,” a legal contract by which the historic look of a National Historic Landmark should never be lost.

By giving up the easement, Langdale and his group, Bedford Resort Partners, acquired a $23 million federal income-tax credit aimed at historic preservation. Then they sold that as a market investment to Chevron, the California oil giant, to put into the reconstruction. As many as 400 skilled tradespeople have reworked the property for almost two years.

Result: The hotel, some of it dating from 1804, is practically new inside — in a stronger outside. The four-story architectural wedding cake lies four miles south of the Pennsylvania Turnpike’s Bedford interchange, just outside the 3,500-population county seat.

“Basically, we took the hotel back to the structure,” says Keith Evans, managing partner of Bedford Resort Partners, who oversaw the big fix. An associate jokes: “Keith said, ‘Take it upside down and everything that falls is gone. So we have new walls, new floors, ceilings, heating, plumbing and air-conditioning.”

Evans said it’s fair to say the place was “gutted.” To make larger guest rooms, now 216 of them (vs. 721 at the giant Greenbrier and 486 at the Homestead), walls were knocked down and about 60 old rooms sacrificed. Deteriorated timber was replaced by steel beams. Great white outdoor columns were sent to Altoona and Scranton for $75,000 rebuilds. But century-old, wavy window glass was kept; 19th century brides etched initials in it with their wedding diamonds.

“This ceiling was just hanging down,” said Cheryl Funk, marketing director, of the top-floor ballroom (capacity 300) three floors up from a soaring lobby of angled stairs and footbridges. Five restaurants, a huge kitchen (and several satellite kitchens), an antique-rich library, porches with painted rocking chairs — What would a grand old hotel be without them? — and long vistas of furniture and decor keep visitors walking and gawking.

More than a half-dozen presidents have visited the place, including Pennsylvania’s own James Buchanan, who used it as a summer White House before the Civil War. Others on the register included Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan (while California governor).

The first post-revival wedding was in late August with 225 guests. Extra help was sent in by Texas-based Benchmark Hospitality International, contract operator of this resort and more than 30 others. The first new guests in a generation arrived July 12 without any “grand opening.” It seemed more important to get 275 resort employees up to speed for a “world-class destination luxury resort.” That’s the goal, not an easy one.

The Greenbrier, in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., and the Homestead, in Hot Springs, Va., plus Nemacolin Woodlands in Fayette County and the Hotel Hershey near Harrisburg are viewed as the elite competition for individuals, corporate meetings, special events and, hopefully, congressional and other government retreats.

“The luxury segment is one part of our industry that’s continued to grow,” said Todd Gillespie, Bedford Springs’ vice president of marketing and sales. He said four groups already are signed for 2008 — and one as far out as 2011.

No numbers are being released, but “we’re very optimistic about the early results,” Evans says. “Bookings have been very good.”

Word-of-mouth from the hard-to-please can be elusive. An early guest from Rochester, N.Y., told a reporter the new staff isn’t four-star yet. “It’s beautiful around here, but they’ve got to get the kinks out,” she said.

But Helen Ferry, Dorothy Ritchey and Marcia Davis, all from small Bedford area towns, thought the restoration exciting and the food “delicious.” They bused in on a senior citizens weekday tour with buffet lunch (fare: $26.50). “Before they started working on it,” Ferry says, “you’d come up here and think somebody dropped a bomb.”

A new “spa” wing has been built for body-pamperers, with guest rooms topping $300 a night. The outdoor-pool complex overlooks a first-rate view: the restored 18-hole golf course that occupies a valley between hills veined with hiking trails. Bringing the 6,785-yard golf course back to the 1924 Donald Ross design was an $8.5 million labor. Look for serpentine bunkers, tufted hillocks, wetlands, wildflowers and meandering Shober’s Run.

Restoration work in the hotel aims for the high-ceilinged look of the resort’s pre-World War I heyday around 1905. But underpinning the charm are amenities geared to at least a half-decade in the future, Gillespie said: elegantly tiled bathrooms, iPod docking stations and high-definition flat-screen TVs behind the doors of antique-looking chests.

And, of course, year-round occupancy. The old hotel closed in winters.

Historian Defibaugh, whose antique photos decorate the long corridors, said Bedford folks never quite lost hope after the hotel’s depressing 1986 shutdown. “Developers came in with high hopes but very little money,” he said.

Wonderful what a major investment will do, though. Along Pitt Street, downtown Bedford’s main stem, merchants see signs of contagious rebirth. “I know three businesses that say they would not have opened had it not been for the Springs,” says Kim Foreman, owner of the Green Harvest Co., a cafe and bakery.

“I’m planning a third fitting room, the weekends have become so busy,” says Elaine Housel, owner of Elaine’s Wearable Art, a clothing and jewelry retailer. “Women on vacation can only sit around for so long. They’re coming to town to shop.”

There are reports of higher home prices around Bedford, but Todd May, at Johnson Real Estate, cites a “certain amount of speculation on business properties in town,” retirement-home buying by Baltimoreans, who like the lower housing costs across the Pennsylvania border, and some new industries opening.

Sharyn Maust, managing editor of the Bedford Gazette, says of the hotel’s revival: “Obviously it’s great, but I like old buildings.” Some of her readers have written angry letters, disapproving of public funds going to entertain wealthy out-of-towners. “In effect they’re saying ‘I’ll never see any benefit from this,’ ” Maust says.

At this point, the resort is no bonanza for local and school tax collectors. It’s cocooned in its own state-delineated “Keystone Opportunity Zone.”

That’s a sweetener for investors. It was laid out when the idled hotel was desperately seeking a savior in 2001. Thanks to the Opportunity Zone, no real estate or personal property tax has to be paid for 10 years, through 2010. The hit wouldn’t be heavy in any case. Annual real estate tax only would be about $32,000. That’s on a laughably low assessed value of $394,000 and “fair market value” of $2.3 million. Considering all that’s been invested, a future shock seems inevitable.

The resort’s new owners number six partners: Langdale, Evans and John Ferchill, head of the Ferchill Group, of Cleveland, and three of his associates. Ferchill is a veteran developer of historic properties, like 99 percent-occupied Heinz Lofts on Pittsburgh’s North Side.

Here’s how $120 million was put together, according to Timm Judson, chief investment officer of Felcher. Owners’ equity of $10 million; historic tax credit of $23 million, the History and Landmarks easement; $28 million in state grants under the Pennsylvania Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program; another $11 million in PennDOT funds for highway relocation; a $40 million senior mortgage held by Marshall Investment Group, of Minneapolis; and a $9 million second mortgage by Hudson Realty Capital, of New York.

Using public funds to subsidize private enterprises is a perennial issue for debate. State and federal laws favor it for historic property. But well-placed friends help.

Two lawmakers have long backed efforts to keep Bedford Springs alive: U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Everett (and his father, former Rep. Bud Shuster, a kingpin among public works promoters in Congress), and former state Sen. Robert Jubelirer, R-Altoona, who lost a re-election bid after helping to engineer an the since-rescinded legislative pay increase in 2005.

The Ferchill Group’s Judson says there’s no way the resort’s revival could have happened without the state’s $40 million-odd input (in grants and PennDOT funds), a third of the total cost.

Says Evans: “Many people tried for a long time to get it done and they couldn’t. The state had a great treasure that had not been open for 20 years, and it now has a viable new employer bringing in tourist dollars that did not exist before.”

Pittsburgh Landmarks’ Ziegler agrees — when it comes to the architecturally irreplaceable: “It’s so hard to do these buildings on a market basis,” he said. “As for subsidizing, it just couldn’t be done without it. And keep in mind, these owners have their own money in. They have a mortgage. I think it’s little short of a miracle.”

The competition

The Greenbrier, White Sulphur Springs, W. Va.

250 miles south of Pittsburgh and southwest of Washington, D.C.

• Acreage: 6,500.

• Opened: 1778.

• Rooms: 721, including suites, guest houses.

• Rates: Per night : traditional room, $379 to $489. Higher level rooms, suites: $529 to $900.

• Golf courses: Three, per player round: $195, after Oct. 21, $130.

• Fact bites: 26 presidents have visited. A $50 million renovation completed last April. 112,000-square-foot underground bunker can be toured. Built “top secret” for Congress in case of Cold War blowup, it was never used.

• Details: 1-800-624-6070,

The Homestead, Hot Springs, Va.

250 miles south of Pittsburgh, 210 miles west of Washington, D.C.

• Acreage: 3,000.

• Opened: 1766.

• Rooms: 483, including suites

• Rates: Per night, $225 to $450; with meal packages, $310-535; golf packages, $620 to $1,120.

• Golf courses: Three, rounds per player depending on course, $120 to $245.

• Fact bites: 23 presidents have visited. Golfer Sam Snead had early experience as a pro here. Spa massages at $150, $220 for 50-minute and 80-minute rubs respectively.

• Details: 1-800-838-1766,

Bedford Springs Resort, Bedford, Pa.

100 miles east of Pittsburgh, 135 miles northwest of Washington, D.C.

• Acreage: 2,200.

• Opened: 1804 (on spring property purchased 1796).

• Rooms: 216.

• Rates: Introductory rates per night: $249 up.

• Golf courses: One, 18-hole round per player, $115, $70 twilight (after 3 p.m.)

• Fact bites: Seven presidents (some say nine) have visited. A 36-star flag behind registration desk flew at Civil War’s end. Indoor pool in a classic 1905 Grecian “temple” is spring-fed, heated.

• Details: 1-866-623-8176,


A partial list of Pennsylvania “midwives” to the rebirth of Bedford Springs:

Reynolds Construction Inc., Harrisburg, general contractor; Miller Electric Construction Inc., Allison Park, electrical systems; G.N. McCrossin Co., Bellefonte, heating, ventilating, air-conditioning, and foundation of the spa wing; Rob-Bern Associates Inc., West Mifflin, carpentry; W.G. Tomko & Sons Inc., Finleyville, plumbing; L.R. Constanzo Co., Scranton, windows and columns; Hemlock Hills Landscaping Co., Altoona, interior landscaping (flower boxes, potted trees etc.).

Jack Markowitz can be reached at

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City Receives Nomination of 12 West North Avenue (Garden Theatre) to be a City Historic Structure

From the City of Pittsburgh Historic Preservation Planner

This is to officially inform you of the receipt (on August 10, 2007) by the Pittsburgh Historic Review Commission of a nomination of the above-named property to be a City Designated Historic Structure.

The Historic Review Commission acts to maintain the distinctive historic and architectural character of nominated and designated buildings, sites, objects, and districts in the City of Pittsburgh. According to the Pittsburgh Code of Ordinances, Title 11, Historic Preservation, Chapter 1, Section 1.3, once a property has been nominated and until City Council makes a final decision on the historic designation (or until eight months have passed, whichever comes first), all proposed exterior work on the property must be reviewed and approved by the Historic Review Commission before the work may proceed. No property owner is forced to do any work to his or her building because of a nomination; a review is required only if the owner decides to make exterior changes. Please note that the Commission does not review interior work or use.

The Commission made a preliminary review of this nomination at its last regular meeting on Wednesday, September 5, 2007. At that meeting, the members of the Commission determined that there is reasonable cause to believe that the nomination will meet the definition of “Historic Structure” as set forth in the City’s Historic Preservation Ordinance.

As a result of the preliminary finding that the nominated structure is eligible for designation, the Commission’s regulation of any exterior renovations that are visible from a public way will continue during the designation process (for a maximum of eight months).

The Historic Review Commission will hold a Public Hearing at its regular monthly meeting on Wednesday, October 3, 2007 to take testimony from the public concerning the appropriateness of the proposed designation. This hearing will be held after 1:00 PM in the Commission Hearing Room on the first floor of the John P. Robin Civic Building at 200 Ross Street, Downtown. All members of the public are invited to attend. A copy of the agenda will be posted on the Department of Planning website at:


The Historic Review Commission may make its recommendation to City Council concerning the designation of the nomination at its November 7, 2007 meeting. This recommendation, together with the recommendation of the City Planning Commission in November or December 2007, will be transmitted to Council for its review and for Council’s final decision.

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Mayor tours Market Square, cites improvements

Pittsburgh Post GazetteThursday, September 06, 2007
By Mark Belko,
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Like countless politicians before him, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl ventured into the Original Oyster House in Market Square yesterday, but not for the fish sandwich or the political glad-handing usually served with it.

Instead, the stop was part of a lunchtime walking tour during which Mr. Ravenstahl talked to merchants, shook hands with diners and pedestrians, and assessed progress in making the city’s oldest public square more visitor friendly.

The mayor said he was pleased with what he saw, from the square’s cleaner look to more people using it.

He attributed the improvement in part to a concerted effort by the city to beef up police presence and to crack down on illicit activity, including drug dealing, in the square.

“It was neglected for a period of time. The criminal element and the negative element felt comfortable here. We’re trying to move that out and trying to make this a priority,” he said.

The Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership also has spearheaded improvements, purchasing 75 tables and 200 chairs to help restaurants expand their outdoor dining. Some of those dining areas have been extended into the street to provide more room.

In addition, the partnership also has added a farmers market and concerts on Thursdays to generate more activity. Trees have been pruned to open up the square and create more light. This fall, propane heating lamps will be added to allow for continued outdoor dining.

The mayor said he sees “good progress” in efforts to transform the square into a destination for visitors and residents alike.

“We’re really trying to bring the ‘market’ back to Market Square and I think our short-term success is evident and what we need to do is to continue that in order to have long-term achievement,” he said.

Mr. Ravenstahl said the city wants to build off the momentum created by the construction of the Three PNC Plaza skyscraper on Fifth Avenue and the redevelopment of the G.C. Murphy Building that abuts the square to create a more dynamic area.

He also said an experiment to remove buses from Market Square this summer has been successful for the most part and likely would become permanent.

The Port Authority has said that it is anticipating that buses would be removed permanently next spring or summer.

Several merchants told Mr. Ravenstahl that the improvements represented a good start after years of neglect.

“I think it’s a step in the right direction,” said Rick Faust, the Oyster House general manager. “It’s not going to happen overnight, but the people have felt more safe in Market Square than they have in years past.”

He said the added police presence, the Thursday events and the rerouting of the buses from the square have helped business.

“The police presence down here has been more than adequate. There’s always room for more,” he said.

Mr. Faust added he would like to see the square promoted more as a destination and to become more a focal point for events.

Another merchant, Ron Gargani, half-owner of the Buon Giorno Cafe, said he is planning $450,000 to $550,000 in improvements to his property, including restoring the building facade to its original 1918 look, in anticipation of the redevelopment Downtown.

“I feel it’s going to happen. The future is now,” he said.

He said the move of the Arts Festival from Point State Park and the Thursday events in the square increased his business by 40 percent this summer.

Washington County developer Millcraft Industries is expected to start construction on the G.C. Murphy redevelopment before the end of the year. The building will house the new home for the Downtown YMCA, 30,000 square feet of retail space, and 46 apartments.

First published on September 6, 2007 at 12:00 am
Mark Belko can be reached at or 412-263-1262.

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Larimer bakery tax plan advances

Pittsburgh Post GazetteThursday, September 06, 2007
By Ann Belser,
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Allegheny County Council’s economic development committee has advanced the proposed tax breaks for redeveloping the old Nabisco site on Penn Avenue in Larimer, but without giving the plan its blessing.

Council has been asked by the Pittsburgh Urban Redevelopment Authority to approve $10 million in tax increment financing for Walnut Capital Development Inc.’s Bakery Square project.

That money, which uses future tax proceeds to pay off development bonds, includes $5 million toward making roads around Penn Circle two-way and installing new traffic signals, and $5 million for development of an 849-space parking garage.

Robert Rubinstein, URA director of economic development, said the bonds will be backed with tax revenue from the site on which Walnut Capital Development plans to build office and retail space in addition to the garage and another 350 parking spaces. The tax increment financing does not apply to a 120-room hotel planned for a site next to the former bakery.

The committee, while sending the plan to council for a vote, did so without recommending that the council pass it. Councilman Bill Robinson, D-Hill District, said he was concerned about statements by the developers that he believes have not been documented.

Mr. Robinson wanted details of a $50,000 promise that Walnut Capital made to the community. Mr. Rubinstein said $35,000 would be used for job training and $15,000 will be used to spruce up part of Larimer Avenue.

Mr. Robinson said he wanted to know which community groups the developer had agreements with and what those agreements were.

Maurice Strul, a business development specialist from the Allegheny County Department of Economic Development, said he had not had time to get answers since Mr. Robinson first raised the issue last week.

“If he represents the district and he has concerns, he has a right to those concerns,” Councilwoman Jan Rea, R-McCandless, said.

Mr. Rubinstein said after the meeting that the money going to the community for job training and neighborhood improvements was being paid by the developers and not from public money.

The overall project is estimated to cost $105 million to $125 million and is planned for property where the Nabisco bakery stood for 80 years before it closed in 1998. It was taken over by Atlantic Baking Group in 1999 and cookies were again baked there, but in 2004 the company that had become Bake-Line filed for bankruptcy and closed the bakery for good.

The tax increment financing plan has been placed on council’s agenda for Tuesday.

First published on September 6, 2007 at 12:00 am
Ann Belser can be reached at or 412-263-1699.

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Historic Brentwood restaurant to be razed

Pittsburgh Tribune ReviewBy Genea Webb
Thursday, September 6, 2007

The borough of Brentwood will be losing a vital piece of its history this fall.
The Point View Restaurant, formerly the Point View Hotel, on Brownsville Road, will be razed to make way for a three-story medical building to be occupied by Brentwood Medical Group.

According to former Brentwood Councilman Ed Haney, the building, which originally was an inn built in 1832, served as a stop for former Presidents Andrew Jackson, Zachary Taylor and James Buchanan. The Point View was a stop on the Underground Railroad for slaves escaping to Canada.

“The floor of the basement was dirt. There was a tunnel that led under Brownsville Road,” said Lions Club Secretary, Mary Cavataio.

Dr. Dushan Majkic, one of the partners of Brentwood Medical Group, said the newly built facility would help the group of doctors serve the community better.
“It’ll be a positive thing for Brentwood. We have lots of positive things to offer to the community and we’re very excited to offer full medical services to the community,” Majkic said.

Council Vice President Jay Lieb agreed.

“I think any new construction is good for the community and the location for the medical building is ideal,” Lieb said.

Majkic and his partners plan to sale the existing medical building at 3028 Brownsville Road.

A plaque signifying the importance of the Point View will be erected somewhere on the site of the new medical building. Demolition of the Point View will occur some time this fall. Construction of the medical building is expected to take six to eight months.

The group held its meetings in the Point View until it closed last year.

“We were very happy there and everyone felt comfortable there,” said Cavataio, whose group held its meetings at the Point View until it closed last year. “We used to have our annual Mother’s Day breakfast there.”

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Neighbors pressing for historic designation for former North Side porn theater

Pittsburgh Post GazetteThursday, September 06, 2007
By Diana Nelson Jones,
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The city’s Historic Review Commission yesterday heard a Central North Side preservationist’s case for designating the Garden Theatre a city landmark, ahead of any action a developer might take to alter it.

The theater, which had shown porn movies for more than 30 years, closed in February. It is now in the hands of the Urban Redevelopment Authority, which is considering proposals from developers for the Garden and a score of blighted buildings along the intersecting corridors of North Avenue and Federal Street.

“It’s the last of the nickelodeon-style movie theaters left in the city” with its interior intact, said David McMunn, president of the Mexican War Streets Society. The Mexican War Streets is a historic district that stops shy of including the Garden and the rest of Federal-North.

Mr. McMunn handed commission Chairman Michael Stern a stack of letters in support of his proposal and said, “All the neighborhoods would agree that it’s something we want to save for the next generations.”

After the meeting, he said, “Our neighborhood understands it’s a precious piece, but there are people who think, ‘Adult movie theater, take it away.’ That would be like tearing down Ford’s Theater because Lincoln was shot there.”

The public will have the opportunity to weigh in on the merits of the building’s historic status at a 1 p.m. Oct. 3 hearing in the Robin Building on Ross Street, Downtown. The commission voted to give the Garden preliminary determination status to protect it until a final decision is made. City Council has the final word.

Arthur Ziegler, president of the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation, said he backs the proposal.

“Oh yes,” he said, “it’s the anchor of that corridor, and it will become a major ingredient in the North Side’s collection of nationally significant cultural institutions.”

Built in 1915, the Garden is a mix of styles, with a classical exterior of terra cotta detailing, a 1930s-era vertical neon sign and a 1950s-era marquee and canopy. The original canopy was copper. Inside, wall sconces and chandeliers remain intact, and the rewind room, the splicing room and the 1950s-era projectors are all in place, Mr. McMunn said. “It’s like a time capsule.”

The building suffered extensive water damage from a leaky roof, but the Quantum Theater started the cleanup, preparing the theater for its June production of “The Collected Works of Billy the Kid.”

The Garden shares a block with an even older Masonic Hall, one of the first built, and an apartment building designed by Frederick Osterling, the illustrious late-1800s/early-1900s architect who also designed the Armstrong Cork factory in the Strip, the Arrott Building on Wood Street and the Union Trust Building on Grant Street, among many.

The Garden was fought over for years in court by the URA and the New Garden Realty Corp. Appeals stopped short of the U.S. Supreme Court in February when the URA negotiated a deal for $1.1 million.

The state Supreme Court had affirmed a lower court’s ruling in December that the URA did not violate the theater’s state or federal free-speech rights in its effort to seize it by eminent domain.

The URA had amassed all the buildings it wanted for redevelopment around it.

Mr. McMunn said the Central Northside Neighborhood Council, a partner in the URA’s redevelopment plans, favors the theater remaining a theater or other entertainment venue.

First published on September 6, 2007 at 12:00 am
Diana Nelson Jones can be reached at or 412-263-1626.

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Neville Plantation cooks Colonial

Pittsburgh Post GazetteThursday, September 06, 2007
By Gretchen McKay,
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Plenty of today’s cooks plant gardens in their back yards so they can enjoy fresh vegetables and herbs. Yet back in Colonial times, only the well-to-do could have afforded the so-called kitchen garden.

Eighteenth-century houses lacked both running water and hoses, of course, so homeowners would have had to rely on slave or servant labor to fetch and carry those heavy buckets of water from a nearby stream or catch drain. Ditto with keeping the garden beds free from weeds.

Adding to the cost were the plants themselves. As Rob Windhorst, president of Neville Historical Associates, points out, most seeds used by Colonists had to be shipped from Europe and were extremely expensive. The fact, then, that Woodville Plantation — the Virginia plantation-style home that Revolutionary War hero John Neville built in Collier in the late 1700s — boasted a kitchen garden with four large beds speaks volumes about his wealth.

Not that his servants planted anything fancy, of course. Strictly utilitarian, the gardens — planted in a continuous rotation so that something was always ready to harvest — contained the basic building blocks of Colonial cooking: root vegetables, melons and beans along with herbs such as lemon balm and lovage, a close cousin to celery.

Two hundred years later, the gardens are once again bearing fruit, having been sown since 1997 with a variety of veggies and herbs gleaned from heirloom seed projects. Many, in fact, are strains of the original plants that Mr. Neville and his family would have enjoyed on their dinner table so long ago.

On Sunday, the public gets a chance to see how these foods would have been harvested and cooked when the plantation opens its doors for its first Harvest Day.

This late in the season, many of the garden’s offerings are long gone. But it’s still full of early Jersey Wakefield cabbage, a compact, tear-shaped cabbage that fit easily in market baskets, and long Chantenay carrots, a French variety that was good for winter storage. There’s also plenty of horehound, a licorice-like medicinal herb, along with lemon balm, mint and chamomile.

Among the more unusual 18th-century dishes that will be demonstrated using traditional methods (i.e., cooked over an open fire in cast-iron pots and pans) is a meatloaf-like “forced” cabbage adapted from Hannah Glasse’s 1745 cookbook, “The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy.” Docents also will prepare fried carrot puffs, a sweet, doughnut-like side dish.

Woodville Plantation’s Harvest Day Celebration takes place Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m. at 1375 Washington Pike, Collier. Admission is $5 for adults and $10 for families. For more information, visit or call 412-221-0348.

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Book recounts 100 years of Westmoreland county courthouse

Pittsburgh Tribune ReviewBy Jennifer Reeger
Monday, September 3, 2007

If history had repeated itself, the Westmoreland County Courthouse wouldn’t be ready to celebrate its centennial.
Instead, the majestic domed structure on Main Street in Greensburg would look more like something that came out of the 1970s.

The previous three courthouses built on the same site had been deemed too small and were torn down.

But in the 1960s, when the powers that be were discussing whether to tear down the current courthouse or just build an expansion onto it, preservation prevailed. The courthouse annex was dedicated in 1979.

“Thank God we do have this beautiful building,” said Mike Cary, professor of history and political science at Seton Hill University and an editor of a book on the courthouse’s history. “People remember Greensburg — they remember that dome when they see it from a distance, and it’s somehow inspirational for people.”

The courthouse, completed in 1907 and dedicated in 1908, will be celebrated in upcoming events and a book, “This American Courthouse: One Hundred Years of Service to the People of Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania,” scheduled to be released Sept. 14.

The centennial celebration entered its planning stages in 2002, when Judge Daniel Ackerman put a committee of academics, government officials and historians together.

“I thought this was an event that should not be missed,” Ackerman said. “… I can’t think of any (courthouses) that overall are more beautiful than this building. I always have said, ‘It’s like going to work in an art museum.’”

At the heart of the celebration is the book, edited by Cary and Tim Kelly, chairman of the history department at St. Vincent College.

During the past four years, they gathered historic photos of the courthouse and asked local people to contribute chapters to the book.

“It’s really been very much a community effort, probably more so than most books are,” Kelly said.

Of course, one chapter delves into the history of the current courthouse and the four others in Westmoreland County’s history.

The first, in Hanna’s Town, served from 1773 until the town burned in an Indian raid in 1782. For a few years, court was held wherever there was space, until a board-and-log-structure was built in what is now Greensburg in 1786.

By 1794, the courthouse was torn down for a larger replacement that wouldn’t be finished until 1801. Court was held in local taverns in the meantime.

The two-story brick building, which cost $5,000, would be replaced in the 1850s by a larger, Greek revival building with a small dome and columns.

That building, too, proved too small, and in 1901 it was torn down in favor of the current courthouse, which was completed in 1907.

The building, designed by architect William Kauffman in the Beaux-Arts style and constructed of light-gray granite from Maine, cost $1.5 million.

The book delves into that history as well as the history of the jail, which used to be attached to the courthouse.

It also discusses the building’s architect and architecture — which was controversial because some considered it too ostentatious, Cary said.

There are broader chapters on the changing role of judges and the history of the Westmoreland Bar Association. One chapter focuses on the social context of what was happening in the area at the time of the construction.

Another looks into the multiple uses of the courthouse.

Kelly said the book not only delves into the specific history of the building but gives “a broader read of social climate and the lives and the activities of people who came to the courthouse.”

He said the book is complemented by historical photos and modern pictures taken by attorney and amateur photographer Mark Sorice.

“It’s the sort of thing you could thumb through and never read a word and be happy,” Kelly said.

The book will be unveiled at a black-tie optional gala event on Sept. 14 at the courthouse.

Susan Mitchell Sommers, professor of history at St. Vincent College who chaired the courthouse centennial committee, said members of the Bar will offer tours of the courthouse, while judges and row officers will talk about their roles.

The tours will include, if the weather cooperates, the first public access to the courthouse dome in about 25 years.

Guests will be able to stroll through the courthouse and view the opening of the Southwestern Pennsylvania Council for the Arts juried exhibition, “History Through Art.”

The show will run through January, which marks 100 years since the courthouse dedication.

The culmination of the centennial celebration will be a free open courthouse event on Jan. 26.

“We’re hoping to get as many people into the courthouse as we can because I talk to neighbors and other people who you would have thought would have been here at one time or another and they haven’t,” Ackerman said. “It’s sort of a shame that so many people haven’t.”

Jennifer Reeger can be reached at or 724-836-6155.

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The Granite Building To House Luxury Condominiums

Built in 1889–90 as the German National Bank and now a contributing structure in the Pittsburgh Central Downtown National Register Historic District, The Granite Building provided German immigrants to the Pittsburgh area with a place where they could transact their banking in their native language.

Designed by Bickel & Brennan, the “Richardsonian Romanesque” granite building imitates the style of the Allegheny County Courthouse and Jail, designed by H. H. Richardson in 1884, just a few blocks away. Charles Bickel was a prominent Pittsburgh architect who designed several notable buildings downtown, among them Kaufmann’s department store.

After more than a century as an office building, Landmarks board member Holly Brubach is renovating The Granite Building as luxury condominiums and making the building available for a September 26th Heritage Society tour and reception.

Among the many downtown candidates for residential conversion, The Granite Building is considered ideal for its spaciousness and ample light. With only one 2,750-squarefoot unit per floor, The Granite Building provides the comfort and privacy of a single-family home in the heart of the city and represents another example of how historic buildings can stimulate economic development.

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Anne Nelson Joins our Team

Anne Nelson has joined the staff of the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation as Program Associate where her responsibilities include assisting with general preservation programs as well as providing assistance on projects where a legal background is required, such as planned giving.

For the past two years, Anne interned at Landmarks and in 2006 was one of only three persons nationally to receive a summer legal internship at the National Trust for Historic Preservation in Washington DC.

Anne recently completed her juris doctorate at Duquesne University School of Law, where she was a member of the Public Interest Law Association and the recipient of the University’s Pro Bono Award. In 2004, she earned a B.A. in history at Boston College, where she was also a four-year member of the varsity rowing team and captain in her senior year.

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North Side Woman Remembers Landmarks

by Jack Miller
Director of Gift Planning
September 1, 2007

When Ethel Belcher learned about Landmarks in 1977 she immediately became a member. While she didn’t attend any events or volunteer her services, she appreciated Landmarks’ efforts to preserve western Pennsylvania, especially her beloved North Side.

Ethel lived most of her life in a working-class North Side neighborhood in a house that she inherited from her parents. The fact that the long-time dedicated secretary for the White Westinghouse Corporation never married gave her time to pursue personal interests. “She was far ahead of her time,” said neighbor and close friend Jan Wachter. “She was one of the first women to graduate from Robert Morris College. Ethel developed a keen interest in the environment and historic preservation before it was fashionable to do so.”

Mr. Wachter was so influenced by Ethel’s interest in preservation that he went on to earn his doctorate in environmental health science and is currently a professor in that field at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. “Ethel saw it as a community responsibility to preserve our significant buildings and environment,” said Mr. Wachter. “Ethel always led by example and now I just practice what she preached.”

Over the years, Ethel methodically invested part of her meager salary in the stock market. In addition to her savings, she set aside another part of her income for travel, annually visiting one or two different countries. “I believe that’s how she developed a greater appreciation for western Pennsylvania,” said Mr. Wachter. “She’d often comment on how Pittsburgh’s architecture was reminiscent of something she saw in Europe or some other far-off place.”

On March 12, 2006, Ethel passed away and was laid to rest less than a mile from her home. In July, Landmarks was notified that it was one of nine charitable beneficiaries Ethel remembered in her will. Her generosity will result in a bequest of more than $15,000.

Landmarks will use her bequest to establish the Ethel M. Belcher Preservation Fund, the income from which will be used to support important projects with a focus on the North Side. “Ethel’s life was a testimony to her belief that people should embrace and care about the things around them,” said Mr. Wachter. “Her bequest is proof that she trusted Landmarks as an organization that would carry on that work.”

For more information on how to establish a similar fund through your will or living trust, please contact Jack Miller at or 412- 471-5808, ext. 538.

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Special Events to Recognize Landmark Donors

by Jack Miller
Director of Gift Planning
September 1, 2007

Landmarks Heritage Society members will be acknowledged for their significant financial support in 2006/07 at two special events on September 26th at two historic downtown buildings.

All who made planned gift commitments or gifts of $1,000 or more during that period have been invited to a reception and tour of The Granite Building, formerly the German National Bank Building. Landmarks President Arthur Ziegler will not only be on hand to thank donors for their support, but will give his annual preservation report where he will focus on how Landmarks has used preservation to promote economic development in the region.

Following The Granite Building tour & reception, Heritage Society members who have made irrevocable planned gift commitments to Landmarks will attend a dinner and program at The Duquesne Club, adjacent to The Granite Building. These donors will receive a personalized pen made from salvaged wood from a local historic building.

Both events are being underwritten by Alan Greenberg and Matt Thompson of The North Shore Group, Citi Smith Barney in New York. The Granite Building owner Holly Brubach has generously made her building available for an exclusive “under construction” tour. “In Landmarks board member Holly Brubach, we have a Pittsburgher who toured the world, then returned home to develop a downtown landmark for residential housing and retail use,” says Landmarks President Arthur Ziegler. “In Alan Greenberg and Matt Thompson, we have two out-of-state investment specialists who recognize the value of the Pittsburgh region and are actively

involved here. “It’s that type of external enthusiasm coupled with preservation easements and historic tax credits that’s driving useful development in the Pittsburgh market.” Heritage Society members who have not responded to their invitation are encouraged to do so as soon as possible. For more information, please contact Jack Miller at or 412- 471-5808, ext. 538.

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Cathedral of Learning bricks mistakenly cleaned

Pittsburgh Tribune ReviewBy Andrew Conte
Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Cathedral of Learning’s dirt nearly had its finest moment.
After clinging to the 42-story University of Pittsburgh building for 70 years, the black soot almost received its own plaque to recognize evidence of the city’s industrial past.

“Somebody has to honor those people who made the city,” said E. Maxine Bruhns, director of the cathedral’s Nationality Rooms, who came up with the idea. “These grimy stones were a perfect tribute.”

University officials agreed to keep a few blocks dirty near the Fifth Avenue entrance when they spent $4.8 million this summer to wash the Indiana limestone exterior, fix mortar joints and replace rusty fasteners. The Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation planned a marker.

“The new generation of students attending Pitt have no idea this city was the workshop to the world,” said Louise Sturgess, the foundation’s executive director. “The dirt visually lets people know what the air was like, and the air was filled with the gritty soot from all of the industry.”

Bruhns hand-picked the blocks for their markings and high-profile location. Workers built a cover so the area wouldn’t be cleaned, and the school newspaper reported in June that a crew member was assigned to protect it.

But after most of the building had been cleaned and the cover removed, another worker noticed the blemish. Without asking, he washed away the grime — so the blocks look as fresh and bright as the rest.

Overall, the cleaning project turned out better than anyone expected, said Park Rankin, the university architect. It was just an oversight that Bruhns’ blocks were washed, he said.

Still, the damage has been done — or undone.

Standing near the spot Wednesday, Paul Sawyer, 24, a junior from Whitehall, said he forgot all about the formerly dirty facade when he returned to campus this month.

“I didn’t even notice,” he said.

Andrew Conte can be reached at or 412-320-7835.

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Bottle Brigade raises money to restore Braddock library

Pittsburgh Tribune ReviewBy Kacie Axsom
Thursday, August 30, 2007

John Hempel doesn’t drink soda. But the University of Pittsburgh biologist has helped to collect about 6,500, 20-ounce soda bottles to help the environment and raise money for restoring the Braddock Carnegie Library.
Hempel sends the bottles to New Jersey-based TerraCycle as part of its Bottle Brigade program. TerraCycle makes and distributes lawn and garden fertilizer — essentially worm poop, as company publicist Paul D’Eramo puts it.

The company gathers the waste matter and puts it in tanks with hot water and extracts nutrients from it, D’Eramo said. They package it in those reused bottles from about 3,800 groups such as Hempel’s.

TerraCycle sends empty boxes that can hold as many as 70 bottles to Bottle Brigade participants, which includes schools and nonprofits. Groups fill their boxes, and twice each year, TerraCycle sends a check for 5 cents per bottle to the school or charity of their choice, and 6 cents per bottle if they have been washed and de-labeled. That means every filled box is worth $3.50 to $4.20 for a charity.

Hempel’s chosen cause is the Braddock Carnegie Library, because he is the vice president of Braddock’s Field Historical Society, which owns it. He and his colleagues at Pitt have placed barrels around their department and have earned about $370 to go toward restoration projects.
That $370 could buy fewer than two seats in the library’s music hall, Hempel said. It’s also about $30 shy of the $400 needed to replace one of the 39 window sashes.

“Relative to the amount of money the music hall restoration needs, it disappears in the decimal dust,” Hempel said. “It’s at least a way of bringing in a trickle of money, and it’s satisfying.”

Hempel maintains a personal compost pile and recycles newspapers, bottles, cans and Styrofoam, he said. He also sprays the TerraCycle product on his orchids.

“In many ways, (recycling is) easier than lugging a bag of smelly stuff down to the curb,” he said.

Laurel Roberts is a lecturer at Pitt and has been collecting bottles with Hempel for about eight months. She estimates she’s collected 300 to 400 in that time.

She told her students about the project and where they can find a collection bin, and when she’s out walking her dogs in her Highland Park neighborhood and sees a bottle, she picks it up.

“It’s easy, and it’s actually fun,” Roberts said. “When you find one, it’s almost like a scavenger hunt.”

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Many twists and turns for East plans in last three years

Pittsburgh Tribune ReviewBy Peggy Conrad,
Staff Writer
Woodland Progress
Wednesday, August 22, 2007

By the end of this month or early in September, East Junior High School in Turtle Creek could be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

“It’s an excellent designation, an excellent honor,” says Ron Yochum, chief information officer of Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation.

He hired a specialist in the field, Laura Ricketts, to research and document the history of the building and submit the proposal, which is “a very, very complicated process,” according to Yochum.

In March, the commission voted unanimously to nominate the structure to the National Register. The National Park Service requested some additional details, which Ricketts submitted with the nomination on July 16.

“We’re hopeful the National Park Service will agree with us, as well as with the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission,” Yochum says.
A decision could be made in the next couple of weeks, as the approval process takes about 45 days to complete. The designation would provide protection for the structure if any federally funded project were threatening the building.

The school board voted to begin the process of closing East earlier this year and is scheduled to make a final decision in October. Generations of area residents have attended the school, and many are anxious to see what will become of it.

The first cornerstone for the building was laid in 1917. The school opened in 1918 and the first class graduated in 1919.

In 1939, an addition to house the gym and additional classrooms was built by the Works Progress Administration, a New Deal agency that provided jobs during the Great Depression. A plaque stating the details of the addition is housed, but not currently mounted, at the school.

Originally Union High, the institution was the first joint high school in Pennsylvania, combining Turtle Creek, Wilmerding and East Pittsburgh high schools, according to Bob Mock, head of Committee to Save Turtle Creek High School.

The building became Turtle Creek High, then East Junior High after the merger that formed Woodland Hills School District.

“To remove such a wonderful landmark in the community would be tragic,” says Yochum. “I think it’s an asset for the community that should be preserved.”

If it achieves historic status and a project threatens the building, the case would go into an automatic review process, he says. If the district were to renovate the building, it would not be a problem, unless the renovation would affect the facade.

“I’m sure the community would not be happy with that.” Yochum, whose agency has been offering assistance to Committee to Save Turtle Creek High School, could not be more correct in that assessment.

About two and a half years ago, the group of Turtle Creek residents came together to protest the district’s plans to demolish the building and construct a new junior high school on the same spot.

“Had they done that, knowing what we know now, what a big mistake they would have made,” says Mock, who rallied his neighbors to join the cause.

A national preservationist who attended a town meeting in Turtle Creek in 2005 in support of preserving the school said the structure was a “slam dunk” for the National Register.

“It sailed right through at the state level,” says Mock, a 1968 alumnus of the high school. “This is a positive for our community and a positive for the school district.”

The past few years have been a roller-coaster ride for anyone invested in the future of East. A brief outline follows:

  • August 2004 — HHSDR Architects presented preliminary plans for renovation and for new construction. The architects did three to four variations on plans for a new building in the months that followed.
  • January 2005 — Hundreds of residents turned out for a town meeting held by the board to voice their opinions on proposed renovation plans for several district buildings. Options for East included the possibility of relocating the school.
  • April 2005 — Survey companies were authorized to begin surveying the property at East in preparation for renovation or reconstruction.
  • November 2005 — The school board voted in favor of borrowing approximately $30 million to fund the proposed building of a new East Junior High and renovations of the Wolvarena and high school soccer stadium. The district scheduled groundbreaking for the new school building in the summer of 2006.
  • November 2005 — A town meeting organized by Commit-tee to Save Turtle Creek High School overflowed with outraged residents who wanted the building to be preserved.
  • December 2005 — The board directed HHSDR to de-velop further renovation plans following objections by residents to the planned demolition and rebuilding of the school. Construction costs increased to estimates of $20,641,170 for renovation and $20,329,874 for new construction.
  • Initial plans called for putting an addition on the front of the building, but the committee requested the facade not be altered. The administration said keeping the exact shell of a renovated building would increase the cost.
  • February 2006 — The board decided to not vote on whether to rebuild or renovate the school until it received more public input on the issue. The district sought residents from all its communities to serve on an ad hoc committee to study the proposed renovation / construction plans.
  • May 2006 — After meeting for two months, the committee recommended the district create detailed and comparable design plans, one each for a renovated and new structure, and that the board commit to the least expensive option. Be-cause of a lack of support among members, the board voted to not follow the recommendation and to no longer pursue constructing a new building, but to have renovation plans developed in more detail.
  • June 2006 — HHSDR presented an update on work needed immediately at East and asked for direction. Cost of the urgent “A-list” items was $500,000 to $750,000.
  • A “B-list” of needed but not urgent items would have cost about $5 million. Following discussion, it was clear the board would not reach a consensus, so the architects were asked to return at a meeting on June 28.
  • There was no discussion regarding renovation at that meeting because the board had not had adequate time to meet with the architects and make a decision.
  • October 2006 — The superintendent announced the district would consider closing East and two other schools due to declining enrollment.
  • Superintendent Roslynne Wilson recommended, as part of the Next Quarter Century Plan, closing Rankin Intermediate, Shaffer Primary and East, as they had the biggest enrollment declines. The proposal was based, in part, on state Act 1, which limits how much districts can hike taxes. The closing of East would save more than $800,000 a year.
  • December 2006 — Parents voiced concerns at a public hearing on the plan to consolidate schools. Several board members were concerned that the proposal would have a negative impact.
  • January 2007 — All who spoke at a second public hearing were opposed to the consolidation plan. At its next meeting, the board listened to residents and voted down the superintendent’s plan as well as a counterproposal to close East in 2008.
  • March 2007 — The board voted to begin the process of closing East and consolidating all seventh- and eighth-graders at West Junior High in 2008-09.
  • The Swissvale school, to be renamed Woodland Hills Mid-dle School, would have to be renovated at a cost about $5 million and would have about 740 students in the first year.
  • July 2007 — The board held a public hearing on the possible closing of East. Res-idents were opposed to closing the building without a definite plan in place on its future use.

Several options were discussed, including moving ad-ministration offices to the school, turning the building into a creative and performing arts high school for the district and turning it into a charter high school.

Wilson said the process to close the school will include formation of an ad hoc committee that will be asked to report to the board on Oct. 3. The board expects to vote to close the school on Oct. 10.

“It’s been a long saga with a lot of twists and turns,” says Mock, who believes East deserves historic designation for many reasons. The white brick structure was built in the neo-classical style as part of a “City Beautiful” campaign designed to uplift communities in the early 1900s, he says.

“There’s a lot of history here.”

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