Updates: Buhl Planetarium and Carnegie Library – 2008 December

 

Dear Friends: Sorry for missing last year’s “Updates.” At the time, David Tessitor and I were very busy trying to stop Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s abandonment of the nation’s first publicly-funded Carnegie Library building, the Allegheny Regional Branch located next-door to Buhl Planetarium. This effort was not successful as you will read.  gaw

 

Update -- Buhl Planetarium: When the Children’s Museum took over the original Buhl Planetarium for construction in 2002, several historic artifacts were moved to The Carnegie Science Center warehouse including the Zeiss II Planetarium Projector (oldest operable major planetarium projector in the world!), 10-inch Siderostat-type Refractor Telescope (at that time, second largest of its unique type), and the large Mercator’s Projection Map of the World (considered largest such map when installed at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York). In 2007 September, Pittsburgh’s Port Authority Transit system approved purchase of this warehouse and is now in the process of demolishing the building to construct a light-rail transit station as the terminus of the “North Shore Connector” extension of the subway system from Downtown.

 

I have corresponded with the President of Carnegie Institute, Dr. David M. Hillenbrand, regarding the future storage status of the historic Buhl Planetarium artifacts. In referring to the Zeiss Projector, Siderostat Telescope, and Mercator’s Map (the

three artifacts with legal contracts for display and storage, between the City and The Carnegie), Dr. Hillenbrand replied, “Before the Miller Building is razed, we will move these items, along with many other assets residing in the Miller Building, to another facility where they will be stored until such time as we determine their ultimate disposition.” In April, I attempted to accompany an official Port Authority tour of the warehouse; The Carnegie Science Center refused me entry. I complained about this in a letter to Dr. Hillenbrand, in which I also noted that The Carnegie had agreed in contracts with the City that the “ultimate disposition” of the artifacts would be display in the Science Center. I also, again, asked about the status of other City-owned Buhl artifacts currently in the possession of the Science Center, of which there are no formal contracts. I have received no reply to this second letter. You can see an inventory of all City-owned Buhl artifacts that were moved to The Carnegie Science Center at the Internet address:

< http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/friendsofthezeiss/cityassetsCSC.html >.

 

In 2002, the Science Center had promised the City that the Zeiss and Mercator’s Map would be reassembled as part of a “Final Frontier” exhibit, to be built on the Science Center’s second floor near the planetarium theater by 2005; the Siderostat Telescope was to be reassembled following a $90 million reconstruction of the Science Center. In May of 2003, the $90 million expansion project was cancelled and the Zeiss reassembly was delayed a year; there was no mention of reassembly of the Siderostat or Mercator’s Map. To this date, none have been reassembled. In 2008 April, the Science Center announced that the largest robotics exhibit in the nation would open on the Science Center’s second floor in 2009. This leaves no space for the Zeiss Projector or a “Final Frontier” exhibit.

 

Until now, Friends of the Zeiss has been an informal organization, as we presently do not have access to the historic Buhl Planetarium artifacts. However, as it is now obvious that The Carnegie Science Center has no intentions of displaying these artifacts, Friends of the Zeiss has decided to become a more formal organization, which will include raising funds for the preservation and possible use or display of the artifacts. We will then make the case to the City of Pittsburgh, legal owner of the artifacts, that we will work to provide public access to the artifacts, which The Carnegie Science Center has failed to do.

 

To be able to legally raise funds, it is necessary for Friends of the Zeiss to become an official non-profit corporation. So, we are starting the process that will lead to legal incorporation and non-profit IRS status of Friends of the Zeiss. In the past, we have had to decline donations, due to the fact we are not a legal non-profit organization. When our legal filings are complete and approved, we will be able to seek foundation grants and accept donations.

 

Other Buhl Planetarium-related News:

 

·         In time for Buhl’s 69th anniversary this-past October, finally a plaque has been mounted near the entrance to Buhl Planetarium announcing the building is a historic landmark. Approved by the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation in 2001, this plaque was mounted by the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh. The plaque provides no legal protection to the building. However, Friends of the Zeiss was successful in having the building designated as a City Designated Historic Structure in 2005, which does protect the building’s exterior.

·         With the demolition of the Science Center warehouse, a new two-floor building is now under construction for their popular “SportsWorks” exhibit. To meet city ordinances, the Science Center had to file a Master Development Plan with

the City for all future planned construction. This Master Plan includes a four-floor addition to the main Science Center building, to be built within the next decade. This Master Plan does not include a Siderostat Telescope Observatory, as Science Center

officials had promised the City in 2002. After I informed the City Planning Commission of this shortcoming, Science Center officials stated that they had not gotten to that “level of detail” in planning for the building addition. I will continue monitoring this process.

 

 

(More – Page 2 of 2)

 

Updates: Buhl Planetarium and Carnegie Library – 2008 December    Page 2 of 2

 

·         The Children’s Museum is proposing a complete reconstruction of Allegheny Square Plaza/Park. Located in front of Buhl Planetarium, it was reconstructed from Diamond Square into Ober Park at the same time Buhl was built in 1939; it was reconstructed again in the 1960s, with the construction of Allegheny Center. Although current plans are to remove the central fountain/amphitheater (to allow the park to be raised to the same level as the Buhl Planetarium building), the proposed underground parking garage has been eliminated from the plans. Also, it will remain a City park, with the Children’s Museum assisting in park maintenance.

·         Children’s Museum renovation of the original Buhl Planetarium building included construction of a large window in the east wall of the first floor’s Great Hall. This resulted in removal, from the exterior wall, of a well-known astronomical inscription from the 19th Psalm of the Bible: "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth His handywork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge." This inscription became fragments, which were left, unorganized, on Buhl’s east lawn, providing borders for flower beds! In June, these inscription fragments were removed from the east lawn. The Children’s Museum management has now accepted my suggestion that this inscription be reassembled in the rehabilitated Allegheny Square Park.

·         More Buhl Planetarium News: < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/update/2008Buhladdendum.htm >.

 

       Update – Carnegie Library: On 2006 April 7, a few hours after closing, America’s first publicly-funded Carnegie Library, the Allegheny Regional Branch of The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (located next-door to the original Buhl Planetarium) endured a lightning strike on the top of the landmark clock tower. No one was injured, but the building was damaged. About a year later, insurance-funded repairs to the building were completed. However, the previous August, Carnegie Library had decided to use this “Act of God” as an excuse to close the historic library permanently and build a new library building three blocks north.

 

Long-time Carnegie Library advocate David Tessitor and I fought the permanent closing of this historic library in September of 2006 and again in December of 2007. In both cases, the Urban Redevelopment Authority, and later City Council, allowed Carnegie Library to move the library out of the historic building (although Carnegie Library plans to continue to store older books on the second floor). The New Hazlett Theater continues to operate in the Carnegie Hall section of the building (first Carnegie Hall ever built) and a Senior Citizens Center continues operating in the basement (although the basement will eventually be vacated, with the opening of a consolidated North Side Senior Citizens Center in Riverview Park). After a 2008 May groundbreaking, actual construction of the new North Side library began in July; it is scheduled to open next Summer.

More information: < http://buhlplanetarium4.tripod.com/friendsofthezeiss/archive/news.2006.html#clocktower >.

 

Carnegie Library news does not get better. Over this past year, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, quietly, commissioned Carnegie Mellon University to conduct a “rightsizing” study (not available for public review) which could mean library branch closings next year. I have informed City Council and the Allegheny Regional Asset District Board of Carnegie Library’s possible plans to close library branches. Without any actual threat to close a branch, no public officials have wished to deal with this.

More information: < http://andrewcarnegie.tripod.com/clpgh/ST-PCC-CMUCLPstudy.htm >.

 

And, the precedent to close library branches has come with the announcement in November that Philadelphia will close 11 library branches, to deal with a $1 billion budget deficit. Four of these are historic Carnegie Libraries: Holmesburg, Logan, Kingsessing, and Haddington. More info: < http://andrewcarnegie.tripod.com/phila/2008librarycrisis.html >.

 

However, there actually is some good Carnegie Library news. Carnegie Library history will soon be made in the suburban Atlanta town of Newnan, Georgia. After their original downtown Carnegie Library (built in 1904) was replaced by a new library structure at the edge of town in 1987, the original Carnegie Library building was reused as a court house annex. A year ago, after the courts moved out of the building, Newnan officials decided to renovate the building and reuse it as a library !!!

 

The decision of the town fathers to return the Newnan Carnegie Library building to public library service is historic. Not only will the Newnan Carnegie Library be the oldest Carnegie Library in the state of Georgia, it will also be the first Carnegie Library building in the history of Carnegie Libraries to, after many years of use as a public library, be converted to another purpose, and then many years later to be converted back to use as a public library!

More information: < http://andrewcarnegie.tripod.com/cfl.html/#newnan >

 

gaw

 

Glenn A. Walsh              Internet Web Sites - History of Buhl Planetarium: < http://www.planetarium.cc >

P.O. Box 1041                                        Friends of the Zeiss: < http://www.friendsofthezeiss.org >

Pittsburgh PA 15230-1041                U.S.A.               Science News & Astro-Calendar < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/#news >

Telephone: 412-561-7876                                 Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries: < http://www.andrewcarnegie.cc >

E-Mail: < gawalsh@planetarium.cc >             Preserving Carnegie Libraries: < http://www.carnegielibraries.pghfree.net >