Right now, in the growing sections of the city, there is a trend to knock down the old buildings and replace them with new, modern structures. Sometimes that may be acceptable, if not ideal. Some old buildings (admittedly few) may not seem to be worthy candidates of preservation. That is, until you factor in how green it is to recycle and adaptively re-use old buildings for new purposes, or until you look beyond the beautiful (or ugly) appearance or condition of a building, and consider the history that building may have witnessed. An old building can tell many stories, and some of those stories are untold. Is there enough focus on racial history, gay history, immigrant history, labor history, or industrial history among our landmark buildings?
Currently, there are many endangered buildings in the city. We lost a few recently on Forbes Avenue downtown for the new Point Park development, and on Penn Avenue in the East Liberty Commercial Historic District for an upscale apartment building (I blogged about both here). The East Liberty district was a National Historic District, but not recognized as a city historic district. If it had been recognized by the city, the buildings would have had a better chance at survival. As it turned out, the prospect of new development won out over the more noble cause of preservation, but where money is concerned, that is too often the case.
In Bloomfield, the Albright Church on Centre Avenue is endangered. A developer intends to demolish the structure and build a drive-through Starbucks on the site. There is currently an effort to have the church listed as a historic landmark by the city, which would theoretically protect it from impending doom. Hopefully, this handsome building will not be sacrificed for the retail whims of the East End, where there are already several other coffee shops within walking distance!
|Albright Church, Centre Avenue, Pittsburgh. Photographed by writer 2/25/16|
In closing, many older buildings remain threatened in the Pittsburgh area, of which these are just a few. What is significant is that these buildings are not in depressed locations, but in gentrifying neighborhoods. It seems that even in the most prosperous urban neighborhoods, there is a disturbing trend to replace the historic architectural fabric with modern crap.