For release: 2004 July 14

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Pittsburgh, July 14 – By a unanimous vote, on Tuesday morning Pittsburgh City Council designated five original neighborhood branch buildings, of The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, as “City Designated Historic Structures.”  The library branch buildings so designated include the branches in the Pittsburgh neighborhoods of 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).


These designations culminated a seven-month public process, which began with the nomination for historic designation of the five library buildings by Walter Kidney, Architectural Historian for the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation. After several public hearings, both the Historic Review Commission of Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh City Planning Commission forwarded unanimous recommendations, to Pittsburgh City Council, in favor of the historic designations.


City Council, then, held their own public hearings on the nominated library buildings on June 30. More than 45 citizens testified at the five public hearings, all enthusiastically supporting the proposed historic designations.


Twenty-two of these citizens specifically endorsed the historic designation of the Mt. Washington Branch Library, located prominently on Grandview Avenue. Many of these people expressed concern regarding the possible relocation of this branch library out of the historic library building, which is the only library building construction that had been partially funded using monetary contributions from neighborhood residents.


Although the Homewood Branch Library recently received a $3.5 million rehabilitation (from a bond-issue supported by the Allegheny Regional Asset District), in March Carnegie Library abandoned the Hazelwood Branch Library building, in opposition to the wishes of the majority of Hazelwood residents, by moving the Hazelwood Branch to a smaller, second-floor rental unit three blocks away. Rumors persist that Carnegie Library would also like to abandon the Lawrenceville, Mt. Washington, West End, and Allegheny Regional Branch (a City Designated Historic Structure since 1974 March 15) library buildings, by moving those branch libraries to alternate sites.


Designation as City Designated Historic Structures means that these five library buildings cannot be demolished, or their exteriors altered, without approval of the Historic Review Commission of Pittsburgh. Such designation does not protect the interior of the building, or furnishings, equipment, or artifacts in the building. Nor does designation require that the owner or lessee continue operations in the building. All five library buildings are owned by the City of Pittsburgh and leased by The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.


So, with Tuesday’s affirmative vote in City Council, all of the original Andrew Carnegie-built library buildings in the City, which have been used as libraries this year, are protected by the City’s Historic Review Ordinance. In addition to the five library buildings which just received historic designation, the Main Branch in Oakland, Allegheny Regional Branch on the North Side, and the South Side Branch, of The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, are already protected by the Historic Review Ordinance.


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 in Pittsburgh!


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