Pittsburgh Begins Hunt

Pittsburgh Begins Hunt

Pittsburgh Begins Hunt for Properties with Historic Potential

With 16 planning sectors, the city is looking at a five- to seven-year process, but when the inventory is complete, it will be the first such count the city has undertaken to identify and describe all properties, with a focus on those of architectural and historic merit.

The inventory grew out of the city’s first comprehensive plan, which is still in process, marching through a dozen categories from parks to education, transportation to preservation. The preservation piece recommended such an accounting.

The inventory is not meant to target properties for historic preservation but to show where there is potential for such — individual properties and districts that have enough integrity. The report does make recommendations, including consideration of Troy Hill as a historic district, but they are not the city’s recommendations, planning director Ray Gastil said. Those would come with further study and community input, he said.

“We are creating a tool for communities to use,” said Sarah Quinn, the city’s historic planner.

Architectural historians from Michael Baker Jr. Inc. and Clio Consulting, with support from geographical information and map development staff of Cosmos Technologies, spent 128 hours in the field, mostly in Troy Hill. Sector one also includes Spring Garden, Spring Hill, Northview Heights and Summer Hill.

Troy Hill provided the mother lode of historic quality, from Italianate mansions to tiny worker cottages. The project team reported “a fairly even distribution of [ properties ] with medium-to-high integrity.”

They determined age and architectural styles, rated integrity based on compromises to the original design, identified materials, reconciled addresses with lot and block numbers, corrected inaccuracies in geographical information systems and updated information about 110 properties among 163 that had been surveyed in the early 1980s by the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation. Fifty-three had since been razed.

Angelique Bamberg, the principal at Clio Consulting and a former preservation planner for the city, researched and wrote the history of Troy Hill’s growth as a German-speaking enclave for the report.

“Standing in front of each building, determining the time period of its materials and its relationship to the neighborhood over time, I found myself feeling a nostalgia for a time and a place I had never experienced,” she said.

The city has received a second grant from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission to continue the inventory. With an almost match of city money, this round will cost $26,000 and complete sector one. The first four planning sectors are all on the North Side.

“With lessons learned on this portion, we hope for more efficiency” as the project progresses, Mr. Gastil said.

In 1966-67, the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation performed in Allegheny County what was the first countywide architectural survey, said Al Tammler, the foundation’s historical collections director.

The foundation revisited its survey in 1979 to account for demolitions and alterations that the 1970s wrought on the city. Its teams spent the next five years updating the Allegheny County Historic Sites Survey with help from the state’s Historical and Museum Commission, he said.

Ms. Quinn said about 13,000 properties were identified as historic in the landmarks foundation 1984 report. The city’s inventory will update those that remain and their conditions.

Mr. Tammler said historic standards kick in on properties that are at least 50 years old and identify those with a high quality of architecture or engineering and significant historical use.

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