Statement before Glenn A. Walsh

City Planning Commission: P.O. Box 1041

Nomination of Five Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15230-1041 U.S.A.

Libraries for City Telephone: 412-561-7876

Designated Historic Electronic Mail: < gawalsh@andrewcarnegie.cc >

Structure Status Internet Web Site: < http://www.andrewcarnegie.cc >

2004 March 23

 

Good afternoon. I am Glenn A. Walsh of 633 Royce Avenue, Mt. Lebanon. Today, I am representing no formal organization.

 

First, I want to commend the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation for nominating the Hazelwood, Homewood, Lawrenceville, Mt. Washington, and West End Branches, of The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, to the status of City Designated Historic Structure. With the successful completion of this designation process, all original, Andrew Carnegie-built library buildings, which have been used as libraries in Pittsburgh this month, will be protected by the Pittsburgh Historic Review Law.

 

This is important, because it is the system of neighborhood library branches throughout the City, originally envisioned by Andrew Carnegie, which is of major historical significance. Andrew Carnegie, through his very generous library funding, popularized the neighborhood branch library system, not just for Pittsburgh, but for the world. And, it all began right here in Pittsburgh!

 

In his letter to the Mayor and City Councils on February 6, 1890, Andrew Carnegie offered these library buildings to the City and said, All of these should be thoroughly fireproof, monumental in character and creditable to the city. Andrew Carnegie provided these wonderful buildings to be monuments of literacy and learning for each of these neighborhoods, each to be recognized by the people as a special place where a person can improve their lot in life.

 

Indeed, the branches in Hazelwood, Homewood, and Lawrenceville were constructed with large auditoriums. And, the Hazelwood Branch was even given a beautiful stained-glass dome, above the original mahogany circulation desk! Andrew Carnegie made sure that each of these libraries, purposely built as detached structures, was not perceived by the public as just another establishment in a retail district.

 

Unlike other cities, such as New York and Baltimore which each had four or five neighborhood library branches, Andrew Carnegie proposed a neighborhood branch library plan which would effectively serve the entire City of Pittsburgh! In the 1890 letter, he also said, Such branches, I think, should be established in the various districts of the city, probably one in Birmingham, another in Temperanceville, another in East Liberty, a fourth in Lawrenceville, perhaps a fifth in the older part of the city. However, once planning for neighborhood branch libraries had begun, additional library sites were quickly secured in Hazelwood, Homewood, and Mt. Washington. In fact, the Hazelwood and Mt. Washington branches were among the first built, both opening in 1900!

 

Most of these libraries have been focal points for their respective neighborhoods for more than a century, with the Homewood Library building being a focal point for the Homewood-Brushton community for more than 93 years! These buildings, each a gift to each neighborhood from local steelmaker and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, are a matter of neighborhood pride. And they are among the most distinguished buildings in each community; they are truly icons of the neighborhood.

 

Today, inner-city neighborhoods, such as Hazelwood, Homewood, Lawrenceville, Mt. Washington, and the West End, encounter many challenges to their financial viability and livability. Monumental buildings, such as the five libraries nominated for historic designation, serve as part of the foundation of each neighborhood, helping to counter the social forces which lead to neighborhood disintegration and deterioration. Indeed, as centers of culture, these libraries have assisted in bringing neighborhood residents together.

 

Providing protection, by designation as a City Designated Historic Structure through the Historic Review ordinance, of these very valuable neighborhood assets, the City of Pittsburgh would be affirming that these monumental buildings should continue their leading role in neighborhood revitalization. This would certainly meet the goals, of the City Planning Commission, to promote established planning, development, and land use objectives for the City of Pittsburgh.

 

Hence, the designation of these five libraries as City Designated Historic Structures deserves your positive and enthusiastic recommendation to Pittsburgh City Council.

 

Thank you.

 

gaw