Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Endangered: Water Filtration Roundhouse - McKeesport

Water Filtration Roundhouse (1908) in McKeesport

The water filtration roundhouse was built in 1908 in McKeesport, and is currently owned by the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County (MAWC).

MAWC seeks to demolish this historic building for a storage shed.

The roundhouse sits on a parcel of land adjacent to the Great Allegheny Passage bike trail. This means there are numerous possible adaptive reuse options for this building.

Please make your voice heard and write, email, or call MAWC and tell them that the roundhouse should be preserved. Here is the contact information for MAWC.  They are also on Facebook and Twitter.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Pittsburgh Vernacular: The "Victorian Cottage"

The concept of micro-housing, or tiny houses, is gaining in popularity. This is not really a new idea, though. In the past, small houses were built for the working class and were very commonplace. However, over the last several decades, small houses were unfortunately thought of as less desirable than large, suburban houses, and many were demolished. 

We can preserve the tiny historic homes in our region and contribute to the micro-housing movement, while also "being green" by re-using existing structures.

These tiny houses represent Pittsburgh vernacular architecture. The one-story Victorian cottage with dormer was once very common on Pittsburgh's North Side and some of the southern hill-top neighborhoods. These homes were often built on the sides of hills. I believe this style of architecture is fairly unique to Pittsburgh.

Victorian cottage with dormer in East Deutschtown (North Side)

East Deutschtown

841 Suismon (now demolished) - an example of a Victorian cottage with mansard roof.

An example of a Victorian cottage built into the side of a hill on Walz Street (now demolished).

Victorian cottage with dormer, built on the side of a hill on Walz Street (now demolished).

Victorian cottages on Voskamp Street. Only the center cottage survives.

An example of a brick Victorian cottage in East Deutschtown.

A tiny house in Hays

Spring Garden

Spring Garden

Spring Garden

The center door is unique. Spring Garden.

Spring Garden

Spring Garden

Spring Garden

Thursday, June 5, 2014

McKeesport - Housing Rehab. Opportunities

These properties are currently vacant and tax delinquent.

633 Madison Ave.
633 Madison Ave.

920 Bellefonte

1405 Evans

1829 Evans

There is a line of thinking in distressed municipalities that goes something like this: "Old, vacant buildings are unsafe and hazardous, thus they should be demolished."

Vacant buildings do not need to be demolished. They can be stabilized and moth-balled, which is cheaper than demolition in many cases. It also preserves the architecture and historic character of our communities, until these buildings can be re-purposed.

The Beltzhoover House would be a prime candidate for stabilization and moth-balling, but demolition may be pursued instead.

I think if you really care about a town, you would rather preserve it than bulldoze it. Demolition is only progress if you see urban living as obsolete, and seek to remove rather than restore the town. There is a way of thinking in these distressed municipalities that involves seeing vacant buildings as a cancer that needs to be removed. Unfortunately, you remove enough buildings, and you also remove the town itself. That's okay if you think suburban life is better, but not if you love the town itself and are rooting for it to survive. I think having empty houses that sell for a dollar is better than having a bunch of prairie where houses once were. At least with the empty buildings you can see what was and what could be again, and you have the history and affordable structures to inspire people.

Spring Garden (Pittsburgh) - June, 2011

Monday, June 2, 2014

Can you look beyond the "blight" and see architecture and history? Can you see beyond low home values and see affordable home ownership? Can you see a vacant business district and see a walkable urban environment? Can you look at the overall picture and see opportunity and beauty in the waste? Let's reverse the cycle of sprawl and re-claim our established communities!

Downtown McKeesport