Updates: Buhl Planetarium and Carnegie Library – 2009 December

 

First, a personal note: My mother, Eleanor Walsh Perrine, passed-away on April 5 at age 78. She had suffered from

asthma and COPD for most of her life. In addition, she was legally blind. At her direction, her eyes were donated to the

Cleveland Clinic for medical research, through the Foundation Fighting Blindness. In all of my activism for several

different causes, over the years, I would have to say that my mother was my greatest supporter. She provided me with

the moral and other support I needed to keep going. I will miss her deeply.

 

Update -- Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science: October 24 marked the 70th anniversary of the dedication of The Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science. The dedication ceremony took place at 8:30 p.m. EST on Tuesday, 1939 October 24. The evening dedication ceremony, attended by many scientists, public officials, and civic leaders, was aired on three Pittsburgh radio stations (KQV, KDKA, and WWSW) either live or later in the evening. The ceremony occurred in Buhl Planetarium's Theater of the Stars, with nearly 500 seats under a 65-foot diameter, stainless-steel dome. From the time Buhl Planetarium opened, The Sky magazine (1939 October—1941 October) and later Sky and Telescope magazine (1941 November—1946 January) was the “official bulletin” of both New York’s original Hayden Planetarium and Buhl Planetarium.

 

In the 2009 May issue of Sky and Telescope magazine, columnist Sue French cited an asterism, in multiple star Struve 1659, named for long-time Buhl Planetarium Floor Manager Eric G. Canali: Canali or Canali’s Cluster. Eric calls it "that pretty little triangle-asterism-thingy."

 

This year, quilt enthusiasts finally “found” the Great Pittsburgh Friendship Quilt, after it had not been seen or exhibited for 20 years. This Quilt, consisting of small fabric squares signed by thousands of Pittsburgh-area residents, was created at Buhl Planetarium in 1988, in conjunction with a traveling exhibit called “Millions.” The quilt had been sitting in the basement of The Carnegie Science Center’s “SportsWorks” building for most of that time and did encounter a small amount of damage from water and rodents. The Quilt is now being displayed at special events, from time-to-time, such as a Quilters’ Weekend last January at the Heinz History Center.

 

Earlier this year, the Miller Printing Building (a.k.a. Science Center’s “SportsWorks” building) was completely demolished, and the Port Authority is now constructing an elevated, rapid transit “Allegheny Station” in its place. This terminus of the northern extension of the subway system is scheduled to open in 2011 or 2012. I have been told that the historic Buhl Planetarium artifacts that were stored in this warehouse building were moved to another warehouse—The Carnegie will just not tell me where!

 

In August, The Carnegie Science Center announced that they would reassemble Buhl Planetarium’s historic Zeiss II Planetarium Projector, to be an exhibit (not used to present sky shows) in the Science Center’s Atrium Gallery on the first floor. Previously, the Science Center had planned to display the Zeiss Projector next to the current Science Center planetarium; a robotics exhibit now utilizes this second-floor space. Originally, the Science Center had promised the city that the Zeiss II would be reassembled as part of a “Final Frontier” exhibit, by the end of 2005. In 2003, when the Science Center’s $90 million expansion project fell-through, this deadline was extended until the end of 2006; neither deadline was met. The new deadline, by the end of 2010, may be more realistic as they now have received funding for the project: $100,000 from the Buhl Foundation.

 

Friends of the Zeiss welcomes restoration and public display of this important artifact. This is a very important first step, which could some day lead to our long-term goal of reuse of the projector, to present sky shows, in the original Buhl Planetarium Theater of the Stars. We continue to be disappointed that there are no announced plans for reuse of the 10-inch Siderostat-type Refractor Telescope, Mercator’s Projection Map of the World, and other artifacts still in storage.

 

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 >

 

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Updates: Buhl Planetarium and Carnegie Library – 2009 December     Page 2 of 2

 

Update – Carnegie Library: This year there is both good news and bad news regarding historic Carnegie Libraries.

 

First the good news: September 15 was a red-letter day in the history of Carnegie Libraries. That evening, the Carnegie Library

in the Atlanta suburb of Newnan, Georgia reopened after being closed for 22 years! This library made history by being the first

Carnegie Library building, and probably the first library building of any type, to be closed, be reused for another purpose (as a

courthouse annex), then be converted back to library service! As the guest speaker at the reopening ceremony, I donated an

autographed copy of the 1999 April issue of the national children’s history magazine, Cobblestone  (of which I was the

Consulting Editor), which had the history theme of the life and philanthropies of Andrew Carnegie.

 

In last year’s “Update” newsletter, I mentioned that four original Carnegie Libraries were at risk of being closed in Philadelphia,

along with seven other Philadelphia neighborhood library branches. Due to a legal technicality, the city was not able to close

these libraries—at least not yet.

 

The news is not as good across the state in Pittsburgh. In October, The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh announced the 2010 closing

of four neighborhood branches, the consolidation of two others, the move of yet another to a new site, and the closing of their

Allegheny Depository, which houses archives and older books. These changes would directly affect four of the earliest, original

Carnegie Libraries.

 

The Allegheny Depository is located on the second floor of the city’s oldest library building, the historic Allegheny Regional

Branch (next-door to the original Buhl Planetarium), which Carnegie Library abandoned after lightning damaged the clock tower.

Although insurance paid for restoring this historic library, a replacement library building opened three blocks away in August.

 

The original West End Branch, where library story-times originated, would be closed in February, along with non-original

branches in Beechview and Hazelwood. As you may recall, the current Hazelwood Branch is located in a second-floor rental unit,

above a laundromat and deli. Despite neighborhood opposition, in March of 2004 Carnegie Library moved into this rental unit

after abandoning the original, Andrew Carnegie-built building constructed in 1900. The original building, which continues to sit

empty and unused, includes an ornamental skylight above the circulation desk and a 250-seat auditorium.

 

The Lawrenceville Branch, the very first neighborhood branch built by Andrew Carnegie and the prototype for all other community

libraries built by Andrew Carnegie nationwide, was scheduled to close in the Summer, following the reopening of the East Liberty

Branch that is currently being renovated. The Lawrenceville Branch was the first library to allow patrons to directly access books

(previously, a librarian had to obtain books for patrons), and it includes the first room specifically designed and built to be a library

children’s room! Consequently, the interior of this library branch is more historic than the exterior! However, as a City-Designated

Historic Structure, only the exterior is protected from changes, should the library close and the building be used for another purpose.

 

After months of public outcry on the closing of the branch libraries, Pittsburgh City Council found some excess money in a fuel

account, which was transferred as a stop-gap measure to keep the library branches open. In addition to the city’s annual contribution

to the library system ($40,000 to comply with an agreement the City made with Andrew Carnegie on 1890 February 25), an additional $600,000 will be available each year for 2010 and 2011. On December 14, The Carnegie Library Board of Trustees voted to accept this additional City money. This will keep all library branches open in 2010, although there may still be reductions in staff and public hours. However, Carnegie Library has already said that the additional $600,000 will not be enough to prevent branch closings in 2011.

 

Area State Legislators are now trying to find permanent funding for Carnegie Library, which would keep all branches open. However,

it was a 20 percent reduction in State funding to all libraries that contributed to Carnegie Libraries problems this year. One possibility

for Carnegie Library funding, that has been discussed, would be to earmark tax proceeds from the commencement of table games at

the city’s new Rivers Casino. Although the Pennsylvania General Assembly has not yet legally authorized table games at state

casinos, this is expected to occur within the next few months..

 

And, yet, there is another Carnegie Library-related problem. The historic Hazelwood Branch Library building could be put-up for

sale, to bring in additional money for the City of Pittsburgh. The current dilapidated shape of the building, combined with the fact

that the building cannot be demolished (as it is a City Designated Historic Structure), questions whether sale of the building is

feasible. However, if it would be sold, the beautiful interior wood-work, original book shelves and circulation desk, ornamental

skylight, and 250-seat auditorium would be at risk; historic designation only protects the exterior façade. Such a sale has been

proposed in the Mayor’s revised 2010 budget, to make-up budget shortfalls in other areas.

 

gaw