Preserve America Community:
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, (population 316,718) will celebrate its 250th anniversary in 2008. Pittsburgh began as an important trading post located at the confluence of the Monongahela, Allegheny, and Ohio Rivers. Its strategic importance led to territorial disputes between the French and the English, including the French and Indian War, and to the construction of Fort Duquesne and later Fort Pitt, located on The Point where the rivers meet. Notable local events include the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794, the launch of the Lewis & Clark expedition, and the Homestead Strike of 1892, a milestone in labor union history.
Most well known for manufacturing, especially for its role as the nation’s leading steel manufacturer during and after World War II, Pittsburgh today is a major medical and technology center. The Monongahela Wharf is home to many of the city’s old commercial buildings from the Industrial Era. Both the Armstrong Cork Factory in the Strip District and parts of the Heinz complex have been converted to housing. More than 1 million people each year visit the city’s downtown Cultural District, and more than 3 million visit Station Square. Both areas are successfully combining the adaptive reuse of historic landmarks with new construction to create popular destinations. The city is full of historically significant areas as well as many culturally rich neighborhoods. Pittsburgh is also rich in historic theaters, museums, university buildings, commercial buildings, and churches, some of which are currently being restored.
The restoration of the former Union Baptist Church for use as a community center has been an outstanding example of partnership and community-based economic development. More than 600 volunteers have contributed 10,000 hours toward the renovation, and millions of dollars have been raised. The many stained glass windows were restored by means of offering classes in historic stained glass restoration. Several neighborhood organizations now use the church for offices and programs.
The Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania, in existence since 1879, operates the Heinz History Center and the Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Museum of Rural Life. The Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation hosts regular tours of the Old Allegheny Jail and other historic buildings, and partners with the public schools on a program through which students discover the architectural and social heritage of their neighborhoods and the city.
The Historic Review Commission has created walking tours with maps featuring many of Pittsburgh's historic treasures, including tours of the historic districts of Manchester, Allegheny West, and the Mexican War Streets. Pittsburgh has been an active participant in the national Rails-to-Trails program, with more than 100 trails in the area providing access to historic structures like rail stations and bridges. “Wheeling Through History” bike tours and more than a dozen neighborhood house tours take place annually during historic Preservation Month.
Pittsburgh is part of the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area, and is home to three local Main Street programs. The city hosted the first conference for young preservationists in 2005 and the 2006 National Trust National Preservation Conference. The Young Preservationists Association of Pittsburgh publishes an annual list called the “Top Ten Best Preservation Opportunities in the Pittsburgh Area” highlighting endangered historic properties that have a good chance for survival and reuse. Over the last five years, 12 listed sites have been preserved, 17 are in progress, and only one has been lost.
For more information
Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation: www.phlf.org
Historic neighborhoods of Pittsburgh: www.pittsburghneighborhoodtours.com
Preservation Pittsburgh success stories: www.preservationpittsburgh.org/success
Young Preservationists Association of Pittsburgh: www.youngpreservationists.org
Updated August 7, 2009