Updates: Buhl Planetarium and Carnegie Library – 2004 December

 

Buhl Planetarium: Last month the expanded Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, including The Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science building, opened to the public. This expansion quadrupled the size of the Children’s Museum, despite the fact that Children’s Museum operation, in the smaller Old Allegheny Post Office building, had resulted in five straight years of operating budget deficits totaling $2.4 million. With completion of a $29 million project, there were quite a few changes made to the Buhl Planetarium building. For a complete report on all building changes, go to this Internet web site address: < http://buhlplanetarium4.tripod.com/friendsofthezeiss/CMPcritique.htm >.

 

As reported in last year’s Update, the historic Zeiss II Planetarium Projector, 10-inch Siderostat-type Refractor Telescope, and large Mercator’s Projection Map of the World continue to be dismantled and in storage in The Carnegie Science Center warehouse. Although there was some run-off flooding along this warehouse’s north wall, from the remnants of Hurricane Ivan on September 18 (Ohio River flooding did not reach the warehouse this time, as it did in 1972 June, after passage of the remnants of Hurricane Agnes), at the request of Friends of the Zeiss, City Councilman Bill Peduto was able to confirm that there had been no damage to these three historic artifacts. Although information from the City or the Science Center, regarding the status of smaller City-owned artifacts from Buhl Planetarium, has been unavailable.

 

The proposed $90 million Science Center expansion project, which included reassembly of the three artifacts, was cancelled in 2003 May. The most recent information is that reassembly of the Zeiss II (only as a partially-activated exhibit) has been delayed until 2006. There is no indication when, or if, the other two artifacts would be reassembled.

 

In the Planetarium Theater, the 65-foot diameter inner-dome and the historic Westinghouse Worm-Gear Elevator (Buhl was the world’s first planetarium to be placed on an elevator!) are all that remain (elevator kept in Zeiss Pit below Theater). Wires from new exhibits do now connect directly to the dome; however the dome seems undamaged. A large window, overlooking Buhl’s staff parking lot (now also used by the public), has replaced the world’s first permanent theatrical stage in a planetarium (as shown on the cover of the Christmas card). Although the loss of the rest of the planetarium infrastructure is deplorable, retention of the dome and elevator means it would be quite possible to return the Zeiss II to the Theater of the Stars, sometime in the future, without a huge expense.

 

However, the Children’s Museum now plans to convert the original Buhl Astronomical Observatory into a Board Room for the Museum’s Board of Directors, using part of a new $1 million grant from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Such a conversion could make the return of the Siderostat Telescope, some day in the future, much more costly, and hence, less likely to occur. Friends of the Zeiss has written a letter asking the Children’s Museum Board to reconsider this action, as well as letters to the State and public statements against such a conversion before the Allegheny Regional Asset District Board and Pittsburgh City Council. Thus far, these pleas have been ignored.

 

From a KQV-AM 1410 news report, it seems that the large “The Rise of Steel Technology” mural (commissioned by the U.S. Steel Corp. and painted by local artist Nat Youngblood) is now in the possession of the Steel Industry Heritage Corp. in Homestead. I will investigate their plans for the mural.

 

On 2004 June 8, Friends of the Zeiss and The Duquesne Incline co-sponsored a telescope observing session so the public could see the historic Transit of the Planet Venus across the image of the Sun—the first time this has occurred since 1882! Located on the observation deck of The Duquesne Incline, it was the only such public observing session in Allegheny County! Telescopes and binoculars were staffed by very active members of Friends of the Zeiss—16cm refractor telescope: Francis G. Graham (Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Kent State University and Founder of the American Lunar Society); 20x80 binoculars: Eric G. Canali (former Buhl Planetarium Floor Manager); 4-inch reflector telescope: John D. Weinhold (former Buhl Planetarium Observatory Volunteer); and 8-inch reflector telescope: Glenn A. Walsh (former Buhl Planetarium Lecturer and Observatory Coordinator). More than 50 people attended this event, which began at sunrise and ran for an hour and a-half. There was good media coverage of the event, including a cover story in Pittsburgh’s new afternoon tabloid newspaper, Pittsburgh Trib p.m. To see photographs taken at the event, and learn more about the event, go to this Internet web site address: < http://venustransit.pghfree.net >.

 

An alumnus of The Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science, Mike Fincke, returned to Earth on Oct. 24 (which just happened to be Buhl Planetarium’s 65th anniversary!) after a six-month Science mission on the International Space Station (ISS). During a video down-link from ISS on September 22, he told students assembled at The Carnegie Science Center that

his visits to the original Buhl Planetarium inspired him to become an astronaut.

 

gaw                                         ( Update: Carnegie Library on page two )

 

 

 

 

Updates: Carnegie Library and Buhl Planetarium – 2004 December

 

Carnegie Library:  The historic 103-year-old Hazelwood Branch building, of The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, closed its doors as a public library building on Saturday, March 13, 2004

at 5:00 p.m. This occurred despite a 2003 September 9 public meeting and 2003 November 5 public hearing before Pittsburgh City Council which made it quite clear that moving the Library

out of the historic building was opposed by the majority of Hazelwood residents. A few weeks later, the library branch reopened three blocks away in a second-floor rental unit (above

a laundromat and a deli which sells beer) on Second Avenue. To this date, the historic library building on Monongahela Street remains empty and unused. There have been no firm plans

for reuse of this building, which the Young Preservationists Association of Pittsburgh designated number four in their annual “Top Ten Best Preservation Opportunities for 2004” on

May 3.

 

In the early Spring of 2004, there were rumors that the Lawrenceville Branch Library would be the next historic building to be abandoned by Carnegie Library. The Lawrenceville Branch

was the very first neighborhood branch library built by Andrew Carnegie in the nation and is considered the prototype of all other neighborhood branch Carnegie libraries throughout

the world! The Library staff told Glenn A. Walsh that a public meeting, to announce a move of the library branch, would occur in the late Spring or Summer. Mr. Walsh, then, publicized

these plans in statements before Pittsburgh City Council and the Board of Directors of the Allegheny Regional Asset District. No public meeting occurred in 2004, but rumors indicate a

public meeting may occur in early 2005, perhaps as early as January. A grass-roots neighborhood group, the Lawrenceville Library Association, has been formed to support a thriving

library in the historic Fisk Street building.

 

After a public process lasting more than six months, on July 13 Pittsburgh City Council unanimously voted to designate five original Carnegie Library branch buildings as City Designated

Historic Structures: Hazelwood (opened 1900 August 15), Homewood (opened 1911 March 10), Lawrenceville (opened 1898 May 10), Mt. Washington (opened 1900 May 31), and

West End (opened 1899 January 31). The Mt. Washington neighborhood (which originally helped pay for the Grandview Avenue site where the Library now sits), through their

Community Development Corporation, was particularly active in pushing for historic designation of the Mt. Washington Branch and strongly opposes any move of this Library

to an alternate site, as proposed by Carnegie Library.

 

Along with three library buildings which already received historic designation (Allegheny Regional Branch, South Side Branch, and Main Branch), all Andrew Carnegie-built library

buildings in the City, which have served as libraries this year, are now protected by the Historic Review Commission of Pittsburgh (the original East Liberty Branch was razed in the

1960s, and the original Wylie Avenue Branch was sold in the 1980s and is now used as a mosque). However, such protection only extends to the exterior of the building (demolition,

or exterior changes, cannot occur without approval of the Historic Review Commission); no present law exists to protect the historic interior, equipment, or furnishings, or that would

require the buildings to remain as libraries.

 

Although rehabbed prior to the Library’s 1995 centennial celebration, the Carnegie Library Main Branch went through another $4 million rehab in September, including expansion into

a courtyard. Carnegie Library also closed the Downtown Library Center, which they had shared in a unique collaboration with Point Park University, in August. A smaller Downtown

library will open early next year. Point Park will continue to use the Library Center [rehab of several historic bank buildings] as the University Library. Carnegie Library Director Herb Elish

announced his impending retirement, shortly after the Main Branch completely reopened; Carnegie Library President Ellsworth Brown resigned in the Spring. In May, Carnegie Library’s

Three Rivers Free-Net, which provided area non-profit organizations with free Internet web sites, was phased-out. To meet the need of these non-profits, long-time Carnegie Library

advocate David Tessitor started the new Pittsburgh Free.Net: < http://www.pghfree.net >.

 

This year, the Oakmont, Pa. Carnegie Library started their own expansion project, and the Andrew Carnegie Free Library in Carnegie, Pa. began their rehab project with the start of

construction of a new elevator. Last year, the historic Carnegie Library building in Downtown Washington, D.C. became the home of the City Museum of Washington; next Spring,

 this museum will close to the public, due to low attendance.

 

In October, Mr. Tessitor and Mr. Walsh, along with Mt. Washington Library advocate Armand Panson, attended a meeting in Louisville to form a new grass-roots network that would

work on national and international Carnegie Library preservation issues. This meeting was held in Louisville’s original Carnegie Library (Main Branch), as part of the annual national

conference of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Joanne Weeter of Louisville, Mary Ellen Armentrout of Cleveland, and a couple dozen other Carnegie Library advocates from

around the nation attended. Now in the formative stages, this new network has established a web site: < http://www.carnegielibraries.net >.

 

gaw                                         ( Update: Buhl Planetarium on page one )

 

Glenn A. Walsh              Internet Web Sites - Friends of the Zeiss: < http://www.friendsofthezeiss.org >

P.O. Box 1041                                                        History of Buhl Planetarium: < http://www.planetarium.cc >

Pittsburgh PA 15230-1041  U.S.A.                    Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries: < http://www.andrewcarnegie.cc >

Telephone: 412-561-7876                                    Preserving Carnegie Libraries: < http://www.carnegielibraries.net >

E-Mail: < gawalsh@planetarium.cc >               Save Hazelwood Library: < http://andrewcarnegie.tripod.com/hazelwood  >