Sunday, August 7, 2011

Same News, Different Decade III

Lewis Hines/Library of Congress

Original photo text: James Lequlla, newsboy, 12 years of age. Selling newspapers 3 years. Average earnings 50 cents per week. Selling newspapers own choice. Earnings not needed at home. Don't smoke. Visits saloons. Works 7 hours per day. Investigator, Edward F. Brown. Location: Wilmington, Delaware. May 1910

Here’s another post featuring news stories from the past that could be featured in today’s media and those that I found interesting.

All items appear exactly as they were published in the long-gone Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph, except for bracket passages I inserted for additional information or clarification. My scintillating commentary appears in italics.

Published Tuesday, April 25, 1932

Just as assaults are no stranger to the South Side today, the same held true in 1932

Beaten by Three,
Injured Man Says

Found dazed at South Eighteenth and Sarah streets early today, Stanley Rycknek, 23, of 159 South Eighteenth street, told police he had been beaten by three men. Rycknek was taken to St. Joseph's Hospital, where it was said he had suffered a probable fracture of the skull.

Published Wednesday, April 26, 1932

This teacher was instructing a student in more than reading, writing and ‘riithmetic

Wife Divorces Ex-Teacher

Judge George V. Moore today granted a divorce to Kathryn E. Hilty, Smithfield, Pa., school teacher, from Marlin E. Hilty, 35, former Latimer Junior High School instructor and Boy Scout leader.

Hilty was dismissed as a teacher after he had been held for court on charges brought by the parents of a 15-year-old North Side girls, a pupil in Hilty's classes.

Mrs. Hilty had testified she had employed detectives to follow her husband and that they had trailed him to the home of a girl called "Edna."

On another occasion she testified she returned home and found the bedroom disarranged and her photograph taken from the wall.

A highly charged atmosphere often surrounds athletes in many sports. Just see this story on a brawl between the Philadelphia Phillies and San Francisco Giants Friday and the following item.

Feuds Flare in Majors

NEW YORK (INS) -- Scrappy days are here again in the big leagues.

In line with the plea of [league] Presidents Heydler and Hartridge for more aggressiveness on the diamond, feuds are flaring in both circuits. Spikes were flying high, wide and handsome when the Yankees and Senators clashed at Washington yesterday. Heinie Manush threw cold steel at Frank Crosetti, Babe Ruth went into Joe Cronin like a runaway freight train, Ben Chapman bowled over Buddy Myer, and Manush took a flying leap at Lou Gehrig when there was no necessity for a slide.

In the National League Rogers Hornsby of the Cardinals is threatening to whip half the Chicago team, and Dick Bartell, of the Phillies, spiked Joe Judge of the Dodgers, roughed up Lefty O'Doul, of the same club, and bowled over Bill Terry, of the Giants, for a short count.

If hostilities continue, they'll have the boys wearing a fielder's glove on one hand and a boxing glove on the other.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Chloe is a Spitfire

Joy's Spitfire

My friend, Joy, has a huge crush on a car: a 1977 Triumph Spitfire named Chloe. Having bought it from the original owner, she has lavished it with TLC. She parks it in a garage and recently had the seats redone. Joy’s also learning how to drive with a manual transmission.

Joy enjoys flashing photos of Chloe as much as or better than mothers who pass around photos of their children.

To sum up, the Spitfire truly is Joy’s pride and, er, joy.

Speaking of Joy, I assisted her with a project this week. An ad agency from Cleveland is coming to Pittsburgh to shoot furniture ads in some of our stately homes and mansions.

Why are Cleveland people coming to Pittsburgh? Because most of the ones in the Lake Erie city, and in the Gilded Age there were plenty, have been knocked down.

She is helping the ad people scout the houses, and I helped her by emailing photos of candidates – many of which have appeared on Above Bellefonte.

I also tracked down owners using the Allegheny County property tax list, then I found phone numbers for most of them.

Joy was quite happy when she saw my work, but it wasn’t work. It was fun.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Doctors War Memorial


This statue of Hygia honors the 450 Allegheny County doctors who served in World War I.

Here’s another post featuring the statues and monuments of Schenley Park that I captured in photos during a recent walk through the park.

The Allegheny County Medical Society turned to Giuseppe Moretti, who had made a name for himself in Pittsburgh and beyond with his work in the city, to create a memorial for those members who served in World War I.

Moretti produced a fine classical piece that depicts Hygia, the daughter of Asclepius and the goddess of health, with a caduceus and torch.

The base carries this inscription: "’Non sibi sed patriae. [Latin phrase meaning “Not for self, but for country.] This monument in honor of four hundred fifty members of the Allegheny County Medical Society who served in the World War 1914-18 is presented and affectionately dedicated by their colleagues. Honor est praemium virtutis." {Honor is the reward of virtue.}

The base also bears a bronze plaque with the names of those who served.

The memorial is located beside Phipps Conservatory on Panther Hollow Road in the Schenley Park Historic District, which entered the National Register of Historic Places in 1985.

Source: Discovering Pittsburgh's Sculpture by Marilyn Evert and Vernon Gay, 1986, University of Pittsburgh Press

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Monkey Business

Here’s a bonus post for Thursday from the BBC showcasing alcohol-loving vervet monkeys in the Caribbean who acquired a taste for alcohol after eating fermented sugar cane left in the fields.

Now, they invade resorts and beach bars, grab whatever manner of drink they can get their tiny hands on and party down.

This video is quite interesting and funny, and you just might – Gasp! – learn something.

Christopher Columbus Monument


The Christopher Columbus Monument creates quite an impression in Schenley Park.

Here’s another post featuring the statues and monuments of Schenley Park that I captured in photos during a recent walk through the park.

During the first celebration of Columbus Day in Pittsburgh in 1909, plans were made to create a monument to honor the great explorer.

100_2266Left: A tighter view of the Christopher Columbus Monument.

Those plans wouldn't come to fruition until 1958, when a colossal statue created by Italian-born sculptor Frank Vittor was dedicated with ceremonies that included a 21-gun salute. Vittor's brother, Anthony, carved the detail on the granite base that complements the statue.

The huge monument with a fountain in the base stands on Schenley Drive near Phipps Conservatory. In the early planning stages, the Sons of Italy had wanted to erect it at the entrance of Schenley Park on Forbes Avenue. That site was shot down because the powers that be didn't want it to block the view of the planned Mary Schenley Memorial and they didn't want such a large statue to dominate the park's entrance.

100_2263Right: This historical marker celebrating the work of Frank Vittor stands in front of the Columbus statue.

The monument, which underwent a $150,000 restoration in 1992 for the 500th anniversary of Columbus' first voyage, has been a target for vandals who decry the effects of the explorer's discovery of the New World on the indigenous people.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Same News, Different Decade II

newspaper boys

Library of Congress

New York newsboys take a break before peddling their papers.

Here’s another post featuring news stories from the past that could be featured in today’s media and those that I found interesting.

All items appear exactly as they were published all those years ago, except for bracket passages I inserted for additional information or clarification. My scintillating commentary appears in italics.

Brisbane Today

Here are some short opinion items by Arthur Brisbane, who worked at Joseph Pulitzer's New York World before defecting to William Randolph Hearst. Eventually, Hearst made him editor of the New York Journal.

Brisbane’s column, syndicated to Hearst papers, including the Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph, was said to have been read by 20 million people daily. The column, titled “Today,” appeared in the far left column on Page 1, which is prime newspaper real estate.

Published Monday, April 24, 1932

PRESIDENT ROOSEVELT and [British Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald] will discuss war against depression "on a world wide basis," seeking a plan that will help everybody, everywhere. A beautiful idea, all success to it.

But unfortunately we learned, while ladling out billions in loans, that foreign borrowers are too tired to repay, that things may be good for the outside world without being good for the United States.

Arthur_Brisbane It is to be hoped that somebody will concentrate on a fight against depression with an eye strictly to better conditions here in American.

We need better conditions HERE, not in Timbuctoo, and we pay the government several  billions a year to keep its mind on that.

SOLEMN REPUBLICANS in the Senate object violently to using the power plant at Muscle Shoals for the benefit of the people of the United States who paid for the plant in good, fat, heavy taxation.

Those Republicans say that permitting the people that own Muscle Shoals to operate the plant for their own benefit, with no rake-off for private grafters, would be "the entering wedge to socialistic government."

Republicans may be surprised to know how many such socialistic steps the people of the community would approve and MAY TAKE.

Published Wednesday, April 26, 1932

Brisbane’s crystal ball certainly got clear reception when he made the following prediction:

DON'T FAIL to cross your continent while railroad trains still run. Airplanes will drive out passenger trains and then you will cross without seeing the country. You can't really see it from the clouds. It is seeing giant mountains towering above you and little things close by that makes your country beautiful and worth while.

Flying will be a great convenience, but we belong on the earth, close enough to see the flowers, the young grass, the children coming from school, the men working hard.

The following were published Monday, April 24, 1932, in the Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph

London Crowd Riots;
Urges Nazi Boycott

LONDON (INS) -- Despite police precautions, violence broke out today in the vicinity of the German embassy following renewed agitation for an anti-German boycott in protest against alleged mistreatment of Jews.

William Dunlee, a 32-year-old seaman, was remanded to Bow Street Police Court charged with throwing a bottle through the window of the embassy. Police said the bottle contained this message:

"Hitler, the butcher, you have gone too far."

It seems our “honorable” congress folks always have had a hard time controlling themselves

Congressman Faces
Court in Radio Row

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Representative F.H. Shoemaker of Minnesota waived immunity today, and appeared in Police Court to face an information charging assault on Theodore Cohen, a neighbor, whom he hit in the eye, "because his radio was too loud." He pleaded not guilty and demanded a jury trial.

Pittsburgh might be getting a new professional football team.

DiMeolo May Coach Pros

Luby DiMeolo, a former captain and star lineman of the University of Pittsburgh football team and now head line coach at New York University, likely will be appointed coach of the Pittsburgh Professional League football team.

Art_Rooney_1937 Art Rooney [left], Milt Jaffe and Charley Nowe are the local men behind the movement to give Pittsburgh a professional eleven.

Whether or not the team will become a reality depends on the passing of the Sunday blue laws.

The blue laws prohibited almost every form of work and entertainment on Sunday. Here is a 2001 Post-Gazette story about them and how some are still in effect. However, the story contains an error. The reporter wrote, “Technically, the old blue laws remain on the books. They were not repealed.”

While that was the case with the majority of them, the state legislature did approve baseball and football games between 2 and 6 p.m. on Sundays.

This change allowed for the birth of what would become the Steelers in 1933.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Hiker


Pittsburgh’s copy of “The Hiker” by Allen George Newman stands beside Frick Fine Arts Center.

Another of the fine sculptures in Schenley Plaza and Schenley Park is this memorial, which honors the service of the Fourteenth Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, the Eighteenth Volunteer Infantry (Duquesne Grays) and Battery B (Hampton Battery) in the Spanish-American War.

While the other sculptures in the park are originals, this one is a copy of a work created by Allen Newman for the New York State Building at the 1907 Jamestown Exposition.

100_2280 Right: A plaque from the trees honoring the mothers and wives of soldiers flank “The Hiker.”

Pittsburgh's statue, which stands between two memorial trees planted at the same time near the Schenley Bridge and Frick Fine Arts Center on Schenley Drive, was dedicated in April 1925. Other copies of the work were put up in such places as Buffalo, Staten Island, Providence, R.I., and Monongahela, Pa.

Communities that bought the statue also received a free pedestal design from Newman. However, his grandiose plan was rejected and the county architect completed the finished product.

One puzzle surrounding the memorial concerns the fact the county spent $27,500 when the list price of the statue was $1,750.

Source: Discovering Pittsburgh's Sculpture by Marilyn Evert and Vernon Gay, 1986, University of Pittsburgh Press


Plaque on the base of “The Hiker.”

Map picture

Monday, August 1, 2011

Flag Monument


The Flag Monument, which was dedicated on the 150th anniversary of the U.S. flag, is located near the Westinghouse Memorial in Schenley Park.

With the 150th anniversary of the American flag's creation approaching, the Pittsburgh Chronicle Telegraph announced it would mark the occasion with the erection of a bronze tablet funded by the pennies of school children.

In four weeks, the students contributed 188,163 pennies and their names were inscribed on an honor roll buried in a monument built near the future site of the Westinghouse Memorial and dedicated June 14, 1927, on Flag Day.

Here's an editorial that ran in the Chronicle Telegraph the following day:

Most significant of the many interesting features of Pittsburgh's Flag Day celebrations was the unveiling of the monument commemorating the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of our national emblem, made possible by the contributions of Allegheny County's school children.

Flag day 1941  Library of Congress
Flag Day in Pittsburgh, 1941

More than 188,000 boys and girls participated in this notable tribute to the flag and gift to the community by giving one penny each through The Chronicle Telegraph in cooperation with the American Flag Day Association. The names of all contributors were printed in this newspaper and have been placed in a niche of the memorial tablet for permanent preservation.

This monument, consisting of a giant granite base and bronze tablet suitably inscribed, is unique both in design and purpose. Our community is the first in the land thus to mark the sesquicentennial of the country's flag, and never before has there been such a practical expression of their patriotism by a host of school children, eager to prove their devotion to America's beautiful emblem.

The Chronicle Telegram is proud to have had the privilege of co-operating in this great work in which the boys and girls of Allegheny county have so loyally assisted. Thanks to their generous response, our city will possess a beautiful and enduring reminder of the origin and meaning of the Stars and Stripes, teaching its impressive lesson to all frequenters of Pittsburgh's principal pleasure ground.

100_2186 A closer view of the Flag Monument plaque.

Map picture

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Bigelow Monument


It's quite appropriate that the first sculpture/monument erected in Schenley Park honors Edward Manning Bigelow, the city director of public works and "Father of the Parks."

He was the man who spearheaded the effort to convince heiress Mary Schenley to donate land for the park, supervised the creation of Highland and Riverview parks, as well as a system of parkways to connect them.

Edward_Manning_Bigelow_circa_1890 A huge throng -- including the statue's subject -- turned out in Schenley Park on dedication day, July 4, 1895. It was said Bigelow's tribute, created by Giuseppe Moretti, was one of only three statues in the country at the time erected to living people.

In 1935, Pittsburgh physician Thomas Diller told the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania that the statue was a "holy terror" and should be moved to a list prominent place.

However, the head of the Carnegie Institute and the historical society, as well as Bigelow's sister, Mary, objected to the move.

They eventually prevailed and the statue of Bigelow can still be seen greeting those who cross the Schenley Bridge to enter the park.

Source: “Discovering Pittsburgh's Sculpture” by Marilyn Evert and Vernon Gay, 1986, University of Pittsburgh Press

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Same News, Different Decade


I recently spent some time in the microfilm department of the Carnegie Library in Oakland perusing Pittsburgh newspapers for research on the Westinghouse Memorial.

While reading through microfilmed issues of the Post-Gazette, as well as the defunct Press and Sun-Telegraph, I came across the following items that piqued my interest.

They help to illustrate that the crazy, sad, funny, outrageous and cruel things people do that we read, see and hear in the media today are far from novel. The only differences are the toys, tools and appliances available to the human race in the 21st century are more advanced.

These items also help to prove that while we shake our heads over the latest example of barbarism or stupidity, and we long for the “good, old days” when these things didn’t happen, the fact remains that they’ve happened pretty much since homo sapiens first appeared on this planet.

Here are some of the things that caught my eye. I recorded them as they were published, stilted language and all. I’m sure you’ll find that if you point your browser to the nearest news site you will come across similar tales of the human condition.

I greatly enjoyed reading and recording the following items and will provide similar posts regularly. My commentaries on some of them are in italics.

Please leave any reactions you have in the comments section.

The following are from the Oct. 7, 1930, issue of the Press:

Here’s an example of how prejudice against smokers isn’t a new issue.

Smoking too much

CHICAGO -- Mrs. Anna Silvers did not mind when her husband brought strange women home with him, but she did object to their smoking in her house, "because it injured her prestige and social standing in the community," she stated today in a divorce suit filed here.

Man, 80, kills wife

SEATTLE -- William J. Christie, 80, shot and killed his wife yesterday, then wounded himself fatally. Before he died, he told physicians that he wakened to find his wife threatening him with a revolver. He seized it and fired in self-defense, he said.

From the Oct. 7, 1930, issue of the Sun-Telegraph

Government agents did everything they could to stamp out that tool of the devil known as beer.

Brewery Raided,
Mouthful of Beer Evidence

A mouthful of beer was evidence upon which prohibition agents based their raid of an alleged wildcat brewery at Curry and Library roads, Bethel Township, and arrested pretty Pauline Campbell, 16, and her father, Thomas Campbell, 48, the agents testified before the United States commissioner today.

The agents testified that on September 27, at Campbell's barbecue stand which was part of the property, they bought four bottles of high-test home brew from Pauline.

farmeral_beer_im_icon_clip_art_9550 When her father cautioned them that they would not be allowed to take the beer from the place, one of the agents, so he testified, succeeded in retaining a mouthful until he left the place. Analysis revealed its high test, the agents added.

Two days later the agents raided the place and reported seizing 3,000 bottles of beer. Today Pauline and her father were held for court on charges of sale, possession and manufacture of beer.

Platform for Pittsburgh
and Western Pennsylvania

(Published Monday, Oct. 13, 1930)

1. A better, cleaner, more beautiful city
2. Rapid Transit
3. Repeal or modification of "blue laws"
4. Establishment of Pittsburgh metropolitan district
5. Community Fund for charities
6. Town Hall, seating at least 15,000
7. Voting machines to insure honest elections
8. Development of river transportation
9. Development of air transportation
10. Electrification of railroads

Some of these goals were met:

  • The “blue laws” strictly prohibiting many Sunday activities eventually were eased. What became the Steelers couldn’t exist until that happened.
  • The Town Hall the paper mentioned came to fruition 30 years later with the opening of the Civic Arena.
  • A Community Fund, now called the United Way, was created.
  • Greater Pittsburgh Airport in Moon opened in 1952 to relieve the overwhelmed Allegheny County Airport.

Some of the goals are still in the sights of today’s leaders.

  • Public transit is far from rapid and even less capable of serving the community’s needs.
  • The consolidation of the county’s many municipalities into one entity remains a far-off dream.
  • While Pittsburgh is far cleaner and more beautiful today than in 1930, much remains to be accomplished.

From the Oct. 22, 1930, issue of the Press

The alleged benefits of shale are nothing new.

Oil From Shale

WASHINGTON -- Oil can be produced from shale with reasonable satisfaction, according to reports of the United States Department of Commerce. Experiments being conducted by the United States Bureau of Mines at Rulison, Col., produced shale oil by retorts of types now available for large scale operations.

From the July 5, 1900, issue of the Press

Kicked a Boy

Andrew Notta was selling balloons on Twenty-seventh street at 8:30 a.m. and was greatly annoyed by boys. He kicked Dan Curtin, 10 years old, in the stomach and was arrested by Officer Carver. The boy was taken home by friends.

The biggest difference between the following ad from the Press and today’s ED cures is that Viagra is more slickly marketed.

Cures Weak Men Free, Insures
Love and A Happy Home For All

How any man may quickly cure himself after years of suffering from weakness, lost manhood, varicocele [a widening of the veins along the cord that holds up a man's testicles], etc., and enlarge small, weak organs to full size and vigor.

Pharmacist Simply send your name and address to Dr. L.W. Knapp, 1128 Hull Bldg., Detroit, Mich., and he will gladly send the free receipt, with full directions, so that any man may easily cure himself at home. This is certainly a most generous offer, and the following extract taken from his daily mail shows what men think of his generosity:

"Dear Sir---Your method worked beautifully. Results were exactly what I needed. Strength and vigor have completely returned and enlargement is entirely satisfactory."

All correspondence is strictly confidential, mailed in plain sealed envelope. The receipt is free for the asking, and he wants every man to have it.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Steven Foster Statue


This tribute to Pittsburgh-born songwriter Stephen Foster sits next to Carnegie Music Hall, near the Forbes Avenue entrance to Schenley Plaza in Oakland.

Stephen Foster, the composer of many timeless songs, such as “My Old Kentucky Home,” “Camptown Races,” and “Old Folks at Home,” was born July 4, 1826, in Lawrenceville, which was laid out by his father.

The statue of Foster that now stands beside Carnegie Music Hall near Forbes Avenue in Schenley Plaza began its life in 1900 in Highland Park.

The Pittsburgh Press began a campaign to raise money to create the sculpture, and Foster's popularity in his hometown made it an easy job.

From the pennies of school children to the checkbook of Andrew Carnegie, the people of Pittsburgh made it possible for sculptor Giuseppe Moretti, whose work is all over the city, to create a suitable sculptural salute.

Morrison Foster, the composer's brother, assisted Moretti, who was determined "to have the likeness photographically exact," a story in the Press reported.

When the work was dedicated in 1900, thousands lined up along Highland Avenue as a parade worked its way to Highland Park, where 3,000 children sang Foster's songs and his daughter unveiled the statute.

However, respect for the statue didn't last forever, as vandals took advantage of its out-of-the-way spot in Highland Park, stealing the pen and banjo several times.

To cut down on the vandalism, the sculpture was moved to its present site, which also is across the street from Pitt’s Stephen Foster Memorial. It was rededicated on June 29, 1944.

The statue isn’t without controversy, as many have objected to the depiction of a barefoot black man sitting below Foster, which is supposed to indicate his subservience to a white man.

Source: “Discovering Pittsburgh's Sculpture” by Marilyn Evert and Vernon Gay, 1986, University of Pittsburgh Press

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Westinghouse Memorial


This memorial erected to honor the memory of industrialist George Westinghouse has graced Schenley Park since 1930.

I’ve detailed the monuments and landmarks ruthless Gilded Age business tyrants like Andrew Carnegie, Henry Clay Frick, and the Mellons built for themselves to display their wealth and power, and as a way to achieve immortality.

They pretty much had to bestow such honors upon themselves because the employees they squeezed to earn their large fortunes weren’t going to do it.

However, George Westinghouse was a different case.

George_WestinghouseRight: George Westinghouse from the Library of Congress

The man who made complex transportation systems possible with the invention of the railroad air brake and who made the production and transmission of electricity over vast areas possible was beloved by the workforce that stretched from East Pittsburgh around the world.

The working population held Westinghouse in high esteem because he believed an employer could make huge profits while treating his employees in a humane fashion.

At the company town created in Wilmerding for the Westinghouse Air Brake Company, the concern for living conditions, as well as the educational and cultural growth of employees and their families, was paramount.

In 1869, WABCO became the first employer to implement nine-hour days, 55-hour work weeks, and half-holidays on Sundays.

Westinghouse Logo Although Westinghouse lost control of his companies after a financial downturn in 1907 and he died in 1914, the nearly 55,000 workers at his former firms decided they wanted to do something to honor him.

To that end, the employees chipped in to erect a monument in Pittsburgh, the heart of Westinghouse’s industrial empire.

The Westinghouse Memorial is an elaborate sculpture that once faced a small pond and a fountain in a picturesque spot in Schenley Park, not far from what was the campus of Carnegie Tech.

Architects Henry Hornbostel and Eric Fisher Wood designed the monument and the surrounding landscape, including the pond, trees, and location of black granite benches.

100_2201 Right: “The Spirit of American Youth”

The organizers chose sculptor Daniel Chester French, who also created the statue in the Lincoln Memorial, to design the sculptures, including a statue titled “The Spirit of American Youth,” a snapshot of a young man taking inspiration from the life of Westinghouse.

The center portion of the monument depicts Westinghouse between a mechanic and an engineer, with the surrounding panels (created by sculptor Paul Fjelde) illustrating Westinghouse’s achievements.

At the monument's dedication Oct. 6, 1930, which was broadcast by KDKA and Westinghouse radio stations in Chicago and Boston, all the bronze figures and reliefs had been covered in gold leaf. After the festivities, Hornbostel said that finishing touch, "will be enhanced by the smoky atmosphere of the city, [and] will endure for thousands of years, as is shown by traces of gold still to be seen on the monuments of the Roman Caesars."

However, the work of vandals forced the removal of the gold leaf in 1941.

On dedication day, nearly 15,000 people crowded the memorial site to hear the speeches and bands that were part of the festivities. A lavish banquet for the movers and shakers who came to honor Westinghouse was held the night before at the William Penn Hotel.

Westinghouse signature Reporters and photographers from Pittsburgh newspapers were on hand to record the ceremony for their readers and posterity.

Honor is Paid Westinghouse By Big Throng
Genius of Manufacturer is Eulogized
at Schenley Park Celebration, Banquet

Here is how the Post-Gazette’s reporter described the scene for a Page 1 story in the Oct. 7, 1930, issue:

On the eighty-fourth anniversary of the inventor's birth, the nations of the world joined hands in extolling the character of the man who had rendered an "inestimable service to mankind and whose contributions to industry played so large a part in the progress of civilization."

An admiring crowd that began to gather in the park during the early afternoon grew to immense proportions before the program was started and stretched far out over the adjoining hillsides with thousands content to stand through the proceedings.

The keynote speaker was James Frances Burke, general counsel of the Republican National Committee:

“It was he who first made safety the handmaiden of speed. It was he who was a leader in multiplying the world's motive power on land and sea. It was he who brightened the pathway and lightened the burden of God's children as they toiled and traveled on their never-ending journey down the ages.”

After Burke's address, the unveiling took place to the accompaniment of the combined Westinghouse bands, with the industrialist's nephew, Herman Westinghouse Fletcher, in charge. Westinghouse’s brother, H.H. Westinghouse, also was in attendance.

Westinghouse and Union Switch and Signal Company employee choruses also sang the “Star Spangled Banner” and “America.” The Right Rev. Alexander Mann, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, gave the invocation.

Labor, Capital Pay Honor to Westinghouse

The Press also set the scene in a Page 2 feature:

Men from workshops which rest their foundations on the inventive genius of Westinghouse joined with leaders assembled from throughout the nation in dedicating the George Westinghouse Memorial in Schenley Park yesterday.

Representing the employees who funded the memorial, George Munro, a foreman at Westinghouse Air Brake Company, said, "Those who knew him best loved him most. … This memorial, in its beauty, symbolism, and strength, typifies the character of Westinghouse."

U.S. Rep. James M. Beck of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh mayor Charles H. Kline also weighed in on the industrialist’s legacy.

100_2199Left: One of the tablets extolling Westinghouse’s achievements.
“George Westinghouse was a master builder of this economic nation, which is more truly represented by the genius ability of this country than the documents of all its lawyers,”  Beck said.

Kline told the crowd, “Time may cause this memorial to decay, but when a thousand years have passed, the readers of history will find still brilliant the name of George Westinghouse.”

In a statement sent by Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon to be read at the ceremony, he wrote, "George Westinghouse earned an important and permanent place in history by his many contributions to the advancement of civilization.”

Nations Honor Westinghouse

This was the lead of the story that was buried inside the Hearst-owned Sun-Telegraph:

Industrial giants of many nations paid tribute yesterday to the memory of a boy who toyed with trinkets -- to George Westinghouse, who gave the world 400 inventions and almost single-handed revolutionized modern mechanics.

In a supposedly exclusive column for the Sun-Tribune, but which bears the name of the McClure Newspaper Syndicate, former president Calvin Coolidge wrote from Boston:

“George Westinghouse had that combination which is so rare of both inventive and business genius. ... Because he lived, industrial life is more human, more safe and more productive. He ranks as one of the great benefactors of mankind.”

All in all, it was quite a fitting day of tribute for a giant who had a huge impact on his world.

And the monument that was the centerpiece of that day remains an impressive one, although the pond and fountain that once graced the site are filled with sediment and weeds.

According to an Aug. 25, 2011,  blog post on the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy Website, the organization and the city have teamed up to create a plan to restore the pond.

However, 11 months later, there has been no update on how the planning is progressing. The only information I could find was an April 4 response to a comment on the original blog post that states the city had taken the lead in the design and cost estimation process.

The clock is ticking for starting construction this season, but I hope the city and the conservancy can get their ducks in a row to restore the pond to its former beauty.


A portrait of George Westinghouse sits between a depiction of a mechanic and an engineer in the centerpiece of the memorial.

Map picture

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Bellefield Hall


Pitt’s Bellefield Hall once served as the home of the Young Men’s and Young Women’s Hebrew Association.

When Andrew Carnegie built his library and museums in Oakland around the turn of the 20th century, he laid the first foundation blocks of what would later become Pittsburgh’s first cultural district.

With the backing of Edgar Kaufmann, the department store head and owner of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater, the Jewish community decided it wanted to locate a facility for the cultural benefit of their young people there as well.

100_1892 To design what would house the Young Men’s and Young Women’s Hebrew Association, the organizers engaged architect Benno Janssen, whose work we surveyed in the Pittsburgh Athletic Association and the Mellon Institute posts.

What Janssen gave them in 1924 was a combination of an Italian palazzo and Stratford Hall, the Tidewater Virginia family seat of the Lee family and the birthplace of Robert E. Lee.

He also provided a practical building that contained sports facilities, including an indoor pool, meeting rooms, and a splendid concert hall that provided an excellent venue where world-renowned musicians displayed their talents.

The YMHA, which became the Jewish Community Center, was making plans to build a larger facility on Wightman Street in Squirrel Hill, so it entered into a lease-purchase agreement with the University of Pittsburgh in 1984.

While it had no concrete plans for the building, Pitt performed yearly renovations on it until assuming full ownership in 1994.

Now called Bellefield Hall, the structure still houses sports facilities, including intramural programs, meeting rooms, and rehearsal space, a recording studio, and a renovated auditorium for the School of Music.

The building is listed by the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation and is part of the Schenley Farms National Historic District.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Mellon Treasure Plundered

Photo by Lee Paxton

The stately former Mellon Bank building is a shell of its former self.

This blog has featured many success stories of historic buildings and sites that, through the foresight and passion of their owners, have made a successful transition into the 21st century.

These places, large and small, from the Sellers House to Highland Towers to the Cathedral of Learning, continue to serve the purposes for which they will built and add a great deal to the landscape of Pittsburgh.

This is a story of the tragic loss of an architectural gem that was lost for no good reason.

The powerful Mellon family commissioned the architectural firm of Trowbridge and Livingston, which also designed the Gulf Building on Grant Street for the Mellons, to create a palace of money for them downtown.

Mellon Bank logoOpened in 1924 on Smithfield Street, the Classical structure displayed a solid, conservative face to the city while the interior featured a forest of tall, Ionic columns that added dignity to the open banking floor.

Called “the Cathedral of Earning” by some witty folks, the interior was a remnant from another age.

But it wasn’t destined to last forever.

In 1999, then Mayor Tom Murphy, in an attempt to revive downtown Pittsburgh, lured Lord & Taylor to open a department store in the building.

The city pumped nearly $12 million into the effort and ripped the heart out of the banking floor by pulling down the columns.

But to add insult to injury, Lord & Taylor couldn’t compete and pulled out in November 2004.

It’s been empty ever since.

In his book “Buildings of Pittsburgh,” Pitt professor Franklin Toker laments the fate of this elegant space:

“Serene and majestic on the outside, Mellon Bank has covered the block of Smithfield between Fifth Avenue and Mellon Square since 1924, but it has been destroyed inside. The long and airy banking hall, one of Pittsburgh's prime architectural and social spaces, vanished in 1999 when its short-sighted owners and an overeager city hall let Lord and Taylor rebuild it as a faux-Manhattan emporium.

“Fifteen tons of Italian marble in each of the Ionic columns was smashed and hauled away, leaving just their steel cores. Gone was the vast basilica-like space of the hall, 65 feet tall and 200 feet long; gone were the aisles coffered and painted deep blue with speckles of gold leaf; gone was any hint that the world's earliest venture capitalists once operated out of Pittsburgh.

“Befitting its place at the heart of Mellon operations, the hall commemorated [Andrew W.] and [Richard Beatty] Mellon with portraits and inscriptions on the walls of the vault.

"After Lord and Taylor's quick demise a few years later, the now banal interior awaits some new use.”

While it’s true that the building had been empty for some time before the tragic Lord & Taylor enterprise, that fact didn’t justify what was done to a unique building that New York would have been proud to claim.

Here’s hoping that some use can be found to salvage what’s left of the Mellon Bank building.

But I won’t hold my breath.

Mellon Bank 2

Photo by City of Pittsburgh

This was how the majestic banking floor of Mellon Bank’s landmark building on Smithfield Street looked before it was gutted for the Lord & Taylor scheme.

Mellon postscript

While doing some research on this blog entry, I found a recent Post-Gazette review of the biography of Thomas Mellon – founder of the family fortune and dynasty – written by his great-great grandson, James.

A dour man whose only interest was business and the gaining of even larger piles of money, Thomas Mellon objected to city taxpayers supplying $40,000 for the creation of the Carnegie Library and the construction of H.H. Richardson’s masterpiece, the Allegheny County Courthouse. A plain brick one would do for him.

But what struck me about this piece was how little things have changed in 150 years.

With the Civil War raging and the Union, as well as business interests, threatened, James Mellon, 18, wanted his father’s permission to put off learning the coal and iron business to enlist in the Army.

In withholding his permission, the elder Mellon held a belief that he saw as trumping any idea of patriotism or duty: His son should be making money.

This is what he told James:

"I had hoped my boy was going to make a smart, intelligent business man and was not such a goose as to be seduced from his duty by the declamations of buncombed [or bullshit] speeches."

So, just like today, the poor of the 1860s fought the fight for the rich.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Press of History

"Advertising without posters is like fishing without worms."

The Hatch Brothers

While it takes some doing, it’s possible to find something more than funny kitty tricks, stupid human tricks, and old TV stuff on YouTube. While sifting through the millions of tons of chaff, I sometimes come across a few kernels of wheat like the video posted above.

The video provides a bit of history about Nashville’s Hatch Show Print, which was founded in 1879 and now is part of the Country Music Hall of Fame.

One of the last letterpress print shops in the nation, Hatch Show Print has been churning out show-biz posters, especially those promoting country music, the old-fashioned way for more than 130 years.

Click on the video and what you’ll find is not a static museum, and the presses aren’t collecting dust. Instead, they still are employed to create products in the 21st century.

They don’t use computers and Photoshop, as is the norm today. They pull out old type from drawers, carve wood blocks for graphic elements or pull one from the archives.

Go ahead and take a few steps back in time by checking out the video. I think it’s great that this business has been saved and still is relevant today.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Rodef Shalom Temple


The graceful Rodef Shalom Temple has been an imposing presence at the corner of  Fifth and Morewood avenues since it opened in 1907.

The Jewish congregation formed in 1847 and that eventually would join the Reform movement and be called Rodef Shalom had a good problem: it kept growing larger.

After building several structures in Allegheny City – today’s North Side – a new temple was to be constructed in the more wide-open spaces of the East End at the border of Shadyside and Oakland in what was becoming the city’s cultural center.

100_1416 Left: An (off-center) shot
of the detail and electrified menorah over the main entrance on Fifth Avenue.

Rodef Shalom turned to architect Henry Hornbostel, who also designed such Oakland landmarks as Carnegie Mellon University’s Hamerschlag Hall and U.S. Bureau of Mines/Hamburg Hall, and the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial, for a suitable design.

Hornbostel created a Beaux Arts masterpiece for Western Pennsylvania’s oldest Jewish congregation. Employing yellow brick, with terra cotta pieces providing bursts of color and detail, the building has a 90-foot high squared dome that used the Guastavino vaulting system instead of steel.

A unique feature at Rodef Shalom, which opened in 1907,  is the Biblical Botanical Garden that pairs biblical verses with plants native to the Holy Land.

Rodef Shalom Temple entered the National Register of Historic Places in 1979, and is listed with the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation.

For information, visit Rodef


A closer view of  Rodef Shalom Temple’s  green-tiled square dome and its terra cotta detail features.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Gardner Steel Conference Center

Pitt bought this Early Modern building designed by Pittsburgh architects Kiehnel and Elliott in 1920.

The building now called the Gardner Steel Conference Center has served many functions since it was completed in 1912.

It began its life as the home of the Central Turnverein, a German-American social and athletic association, which later was known as the Central Athletic Association.

Right: A detail on the corner of the building.

During World War I, the Early Modern building designed by Pittsburgh architects Kiehnel and Elliott hosted the Student Army Training Corps.

To relieve crowded conditions at the dental school, Pitt bought the structure in 1920 and built an annex to hold 200 dental chairs.

It also housed the now-defunct Pitt Club, a faculty and staff club, and what would become the Pitt Alumni Association, which later moved to Alumni Hall.

Today, what’s known as the Gardner Steel Conference Center holds the Office of Technology Management, classrooms, and computer labs.

The building’s name honors 1891 Pitt graduate Gardner Steel, who made his fortune investing in the Oklahoma oil  boom. A member of one of the university’s first football teams, left most of his $300,000 estate to Pitt when he died in 1928.

The Gardner Steel Conference Center is a contributing building to the Schenley Farms National Historic District and is listed by the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation.

Gardner Steel Conference Center, University of Pittsburgh

Photo by Michael G. White

The Thackeray Avenue entrance and its art glass transom.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Wheels on Walnut


This sporty Morgan greeted the public during the Vintage Grand Prix Car Show Monday on Walnut Street in Shadyside.

The 2011 Vintage Grand Prix kicked off Monday with the annual car show on Walnut Street. From Aiken Avenue east to Negley Avenue, really old, somewhat old, and fairly new cars lined the street to undergo inspection by serious car buffs and curious patrons of nearby shops.

However, heavy storms literally put a damper on things. Torrential rain hit Shadyside at about 5 and 6:30 p.m., forcing some car owners to cover their beauties with tarps. The rain eventually ended at about 7:30.

Despite the weather, plenty of people still came out to admire these machines from the past. Many owners couldn’t have been prouder to talk about their labors of love with visitors, and the crowd seemed genuinely interested in their stories.

There are more activities this week leading up to Sunday’s race day, which is my favorite day of the summer. Since 2002, I’ve been heading to the golf course in Schenley Park to watch drivers take their vintage vehicles on the serpentine roads there.

I’ve also been a guest of a couple of friends who set up shop for a daylong party near a hairpin turn in the course. They’ve been doing it for years, and a good time is had by all. It’s great to see so many of the same faces each year – even if it’s the only time I see them.

Unfortunately, the weather forecast is calling for extremely hot temperatures for the next week. After what happened to me Saturday at Grant’s party, I might have to pass this year.

But things can change – both the weather and my mind – before then.

For more information, visit the Vintage Grand Prix Website.

Below are a few photos I managed to snap between showers that should whet your appetite for Sunday’s big event.

100_2115 The owner of this 1950s Oldsmobile wipes down the front half after the first rain storm blew through.

100_2162 This 1932 Franklin with an air-cooled engine was one of the standouts on the street Monday. The owner said it took three years for him to get it looking this fine.


This Fiat owner explains the unique items on the car’s engine to a curious passerby.


A young lady sits inside a 1931 Model A Ford.


The young lady’s friend captures the moment.


The gentleman who owns this 1956 Jaguar said it took five years and $100,000 to return it to pristine condition.


Two storms couldn’t keep people from the cars.


Some folks weren’t so fortunate.