Citizens Against the Demolition of 4, 6, and 8 West North Ave
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Please sign this Petition to take a stand against the demolition of 4, 6, and 8 West North Avenue. Our community's history and architecture is what makes our community unique. That history is worth fighting for and is not worth destroying in a short-sighted bid for a quick fix. This is not a binary choice between preservation and development. We can work together as a community to develop this block AND preserve these historically significant structures. We cannot give in to the siren sound of short-sightedness and quick fixes. If demolition of these buildings occurs, their historical significance will be lost forever with little to nothing gained. This Petition is being circulated to send a loud and clear message to the ACCA, URA, and City of Pittsburgh that our community supports development of the Garden Theater Block that preserves our history and opposes demolition that will result in the irreparable destruction of our history.
On the evening of March 12, 2018, a small number of the more than 3,000 residents of the Mexican War Streets and broader Central Northside voted in favor of a motion for the Allegheny City Central Association ("ACCA") to take a formal position in support of the demolition of 4, 6, and 8 West North Avenue. The small number of citizens who voted in favor of advocating demolition is not representative of the more than 3,000 residents of the Mexican War Streets and broader Central Northside.
What was abundantly clear from the discussion at this meeting in advance of the vote is that ACCA has no plan whatsoever for what will happen after the proposed demolition of the buildings in question. In essence, the the argument that emerged from the ACCA Executive Board during the meeting is they supported this motion to try to make something happen whatever that may be. There is literally no plan what comes after the destruction of these historically significant portions of our community.
What also emerged from this meeting is that the URA continues to work with Trek to try to develop feasible plans for the preservation of these buildings and development of the block. The URA has not taken a position in support of demolition. Furthermore, no other signatory or consulting party to the MOU governing the development of the Garden Theater Block has taken a position in support of demolition. Chuck Alcorn (representative of the URA) explained during the meeting that the URA is working on plans for preservation and the budgeting necessary to close the existing funding gap for such a project. He further explained that even if demolition of 4, 6, and 8 West North Avenue occurs, there will still be a funding gap in the path toward development. Regardless of whether the buildings are preserved or demolition occurs, there will still be a funding gap--rendering demolition nonsensical, short-sighted, and utterly pointless.
The three buildings in question should be preserved for future generations because of their historical significance to the history of our City:
8 West North Avenue: The building now known as 8 West North Avenue served as an academic building for three different institutions of higher education in the late 1800's and early 1900's--the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary, the Western University (University of Pittsburgh), and the Park Institute. The building was owned by the Reformed Presbyterian Church for a period of several decades. This building served as one of the academic buildings for the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary. After the academic building of the Western University (University of Pittsburgh) in downtown Pittsburgh burned down in a fire in 1882, the Western University was relocated to two buildings on the Northside, one of which was 204 North Avenue (today 8 West North Avenue) and was operated out of those buildings for several years. Shortly after the Western University relocated to 204 North Avenue, a controversy ensued because the State Legislature proposed giving the land where the Western Penitentiary was located (currently part of the park today) to Western University to expand its presence in the Northside. Ultimately, opposition to giving the land to the Western University prevailed and the university relocated to Observatory Hill after several years in the Northside. Once the Western University relocated, the Park Institute began to operate classes out of this building. In essence, the Park Institute was a preparatory school that prepared students for pursuing higher education at colleges and universities. One of the Park Institute's early students who attended classes in this building went on to become the very first African American graduate of the Western University (University of Pittsburgh). The Park Institute operated for several decades on the Northside.
6 West North Avenue: The building currently located at 6 West North Avenue is a beautiful row house similar in architectural style to many of the row houses that are located in the Mexican War Streets.
4 West North Avenue: The building currently located at 4 West North Avenue was the home of Sarah J. Carson-a strong, independent First Wave Feminist of Allegheny City who bucked against the patriarchy years before women even had the right to vote. Despite the onerous legal restrictions placed on women's rights at the time, Ms. Carson was a business woman who financially supported herself without the assistance of any man by running a hotel in Allegheny City. Her level of independence was groundbreaking given the legal restrictions placed on women at the time. In the early 1900's, she became embroiled in an extensive legal battle with her husband over the ownership of a certain property in Allegheny City. The case was ultimately appealed to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, where she succeeded in obtaining a favorable decision finding that she-and not her husband-had the sole legal right to own the property in question. Ms. Carson pursued legal status of "femme sole trader" in the courts-which at the time allowed a married woman to engage in business and financial transactions independently of her husband. Eventually, she pursued legal divorce from her husband long, long before women became empowered to leave their marriages if they chose to do so. The litigation before the Supreme Court, divorce, and disputes with her husband were the subject of news articles of the time. In her younger years, Ms. Carson also served as a nurse in the Civil War. Ms. Carson lived in the building currently located at 4 West North Avenue until she died at home in 1914.
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