Proposed Expansions and / or Renovations of

The Buhl Planetarium & Institute of Popular

Science / Buhl Science Center, Pittsburgh

Which Never Happened

2020 March


  1. Mid-1960s – Old Allegheny Post Office

The U.S. Post Office decided to down-size their historic, domed North Side post office, by closing the historic building and constructing a new post office on the south side of Allegheny Center, at the former site of the Fort Wayne Railroad Station (South Commons Street at Federal Street – the railroad station's historic wrought-iron fence still exists at the site). The Old Allegheny Post Office was originally constructed in 1897 as the main post office of the independent City of Allegheny (annexed to the City of Pittsburgh in 1907), just across the street from the Allegheny City Hall (the site of The Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science since 1939). Since this building is located just across the street from Buhl Planetarium, the U.S. Post Office offered to sell the building to Buhl Planetarium for just one dollar! At that time, the management of Buhl Planetarium declined the offer, as they did not believe they could raise the funds to operate an additional building.


Consequently, Allegheny Center proposed buying the Old Allegheny Post Office, demolishing the building, and replacing it with an apartment tower. In their first major preservation effort, the new Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation prevented the demolition of the historic building and turned the Old Allegheny Post Office into a city history museum. The building was named to the National Register of Historic Places in June of 1971.


In 1983, the Pittsburgh Children's Museum started in the basement of the Old Allegheny Post Office. Some years later, the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation sold the entire building to, what is now, the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh. In November of 2004, the Children's Museum expanded into the Buhl Planetarium building, constructing a connecting building between the two historic buildings. In April of 2019, the Children's Museum expanded into the historic Carnegie Free Library of Allegheny (MuseumLab - formerly known as the Allegheny Regional Branch of The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh), resulting in the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh having the largest Children's Museum campus in the nation. The Buhl Planetarium and Carnegie Free Library buildings are both under lease by the Children's Museum from the City of Pittsburgh, which owns both buildings.


  1. 1960s-1970s – ALCOA Balcony

The Aluminum Company of America, ALCOA, developed the Allegheny Center office, shopping mall, and apartment complex, which surrounded Buhl Planetarium by the 1970s. ALCOA proposed building an aluminum balcony exhibit level within the huge, first-floor Great Hall of Buhl Planetarium. Some type of plaque on the balcony would credit ALCOA for construction of the balcony. For unknown reasons, Buhl Planetarium management did not accept the proposed donation.


  1. 1960s-1970s – Buhl-Mellon Planetarium

One of the Mellon family foundations proposed paying for a complete renovation of Buhl Planetarium, including installation of a modern planetarium projector. The name of the institution would be changed from Buhl Planetarium to Buhl-Mellon Planetarium. For unknown reasons, Buhl Planetarium management did not accept this proposal.


Fortunately, this means that, today, the City of Pittsburgh continues to own Buhl Planetarium's historic Zeiss II Planetarium Projector, which is currently on display (but not in use) in the Atrium Gallery on the first-floor of The Carnegie Science Center.


  1. 1960s-1970s – New Zeiss Planetarium Projector

The Carl Zeiss Company of Germany offered to provide Buhl Planetarium with a new Zeiss Planetarium Projector, free-of-charge, in exchange for Buhl's historic Zeiss II Planetarium Projector, which the Carl Zeiss Company wished to place in their company museum (as it was one of the very few Zeiss II Planetarium Projectors still in existence). However, this exchange would require that Buhl's Chief Technician, Glenn L. Cochenour, travel to Germany to learn the operation of the new, modern planetarium projector. Buhl Planetarium management decided they could not afford this overseas trip; hence, the exchange was never made.


Fortunately, this means that, today, the City of Pittsburgh continues to own Buhl Planetarium's historic Zeiss II Planetarium Projector, which is currently on display (but not in use) in the Atrium Gallery on the first-floor of The Carnegie Science Center.


  1. Mid-1980s – Expanded Buhl Science Center & Omnimax Theater

There was a proposal to expand Buhl Planetarium / Buhl Science Center, before it was decided to build a completely new, and much larger, science center building on the North Shore of the Ohio River, west of Three Rivers Stadium. The Allegheny Square Plaza, located between Buhl Planetarium and the One Allegheny Square office building, would be replaced with a huge underground exhibit gallery and a modern-looking (a transparent cube on its side) Omnimax Theater at street-level. The underground exhibit gallery would likely have a pedestrian, underground connection with the three-level parking garage under the Allegheny Center Mall. However, it was decided to build The Carnegie Science Center, which was opened on 1991 October 5 and expanded in the Summer of 2018.


  1. Mid-1980s – Allegheny Center Mall Science Center

There was a proposal to purchase the Allegheny Center Mall and turn the entire shopping mall into an expansion of Buhl Science Center.


Shoplifting was a major problem in this inner city shopping mall. Through the mid-1980s, Buhl Planetarium and The Carnegie Library, Allegheny Regional Branch, shared an advertising kiosk (complements of Allegheny Center) on the shopping mall concourse. One day, the author (Glenn A. Walsh) placed items, for sale in the Buhl Planetarium Discovery Shop, in the display case of the kiosk (on the Buhl Planetarium side of the kiosk). However, within a day or two, the glass of the display case was smashed and the items were stolen. The kiosk was taken off of the concourse and never returned to public view.


Being a major inner city shopping mall, the Allegheny Center Mall did not create a sufficient return-on-investment. Hence, such a purchase would probably have been considered. However, it seems the cost of purchasing and programming such a large building doomed this proposal.


1991 September 1 – The Carnegie Science Center, Allegheny Square Annex

Following the closing of The Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science / Buhl Science Center, on 1991 August 31 (and the opening of The Carnegie Science Center on 1991 October 5), the historic Buhl building became known as The Carnegie Science Center, Allegheny Square Annex. The Carnegie Science Center was not originally built with science classrooms (until the PPG Science Pavilion addition was completed in the Summer of 2018). Hence, all science center classes and teacher development programs were scheduled to occur at the original Buhl Planetarium building, now known as The Carnegie Science Center, Allegheny Square Annex. This included continuing use of major Buhl facilities including the historic Zeiss II Planetarium Projector and the 10-inch Siderostat-type Refractor Telescope.


This occurred because the Administration of Pittsburgh Mayor Richard Caliguiri had insisted that The Carnegie Science Center not abandon the historic, city-owned Buhl building. So, The Carnegie Science Center promised to continue using the Buhl building. However, Mayor Caliguiri, tragically, died in office in 1988, of amyloidosis, a rare and serious protein disorder. By February of 1994, with the death of Mayor Caliguiri, the Science Center promise was conveniently forgotten, and the Buhl building was abandoned.


In June of 1994, there was a meeting of several stakeholders (a meeting attended by the author, Glenn A. Walsh, at the invitation of City Councilman Dan Onorato) in the Mayor's Office, to determine the future of the Buhl Planetarium building. When the meeting chairman, the Mayor's Special Assistant, asked if the building should be torn-down, Mr. Walsh hesitated for a moment. When no one else said anything, Mr. Walsh immediately stated, “Heavens No!” No one disagreed with Mr. Walsh's sentiment. With this one statement, Mr. Walsh may have just saved the Buhl Planetarium building. The meeting ended with no consensus on what to do with the Buhl Planetarium building.


Over the years, four major plans were proposed for use of the Buhl Planetarium building, which did not happen:



Finally, the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh, located across the street in the Old Allegheny Post Office, decided to expand into Buhl Planetarium. The expansion project was completed in November of 2004.