We at CLP are really excited about new places lately–our West End location just celebrated its re-opening on May 17th, after a winter of renovation, and our Hazelwood location is getting ready for its big move to the newly restored building at 5000 Second Avenue in June. But in honor of National Historic Preservation Month we–or at least I–are/am spending May being really excited about some old places too. Pittsburgh is a city with a lot of history to be proud of, and we’ve worked over the years with the U.S. National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places to make sure that some of these significant places remain for future generations to enjoy.
You don’t have to look far to find some great historic places in Pittsburgh–just check out some of the Carnegie Library’s branches! Our beautiful Main location in Oakland was added to the National Register in 1979. The building has been updated over the years, but it still retains the historic charm it possessed as the Carnegie Institute and Library. Up on the North Side, the Carnegie Free Library of Allegheny Building once housed one of the first Carnegie libraries and music halls in the United States; today it is the home of the New Hazlett Theater. If you’re looking for information on the history of these and other Carnegie Library branches in Pittsburgh, both old and recent, Main Library’s Pennsylvania Department is a great place to look, both in person and via their portion of the website. The Bridging the Urban Landscape collection, which contains hundreds of historic photographs and descriptions, is especially worth a look.
True confession that might require me to turn in my Pittsburgher Who Loves Old Places card: every December I bemoan my busy holiday season because I’ve never once managed to make it to the Allegheny West House Tour (although I swear this is going to be the year!). But if you’re like me, fear not: CLP carries several fun DVD documentaries that will help you travel in spirit to places like Allegheny West, the Cathedral of Learning (where I like to study and pretend I’m a student at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry), and the Fourth Avenue Financial District. If you’re in a book mood, check out Bob Regan’s The Bridges of Pittsburgh for information on the historic spans that help us get there from here, Melanie Linn Gutkowski’s Pittsburgh’s Mansions for some architectural eye candy, and Walter C. Kidney’s Life’s Riches: Excerpts on the Pittsburgh Region and Historic Preservation for an overview of historic resources around the area.
Pittsburgh’s history is a long, wild story of conflict and togetherness, of industrial smoke and ecological preservation, and of old and new. The city continues to evolve and change every day, and its ongoing story is written on the buildings, bridges, and homes that we preserve for future generations–and on the people who inhabit them, too. This is a month to get excited about places both old and new, and to get even more excited about what these places tell us about ourselves.