Armand Panson of Mount Washington has enjoyed the inside of the Carnegie Library branch in his neighborhood for more than 17 years, but lately he's been using the outside too, sitting on the steps of the library circulating flyers to promote the building's designation as an historic structure, encouraging residents to attend the June 30 public hearing before Pittsburgh City Council about Mount Washington and four other branches. "That building is a part of the heart of this community," Panson says. Andrew Carnegie's donation alone was not enough to support the Grandview Avenue facility at the turn of the last century, and residents rallied to collect that extra money. "That same spirit is still here," Panson says. "The library was important then and it is important now."
Glenn Walsh of Mount Washington, who has helped lead the drive for historic designation and maintains a Web site concerning Andrew Carnegie and the history of his libraries, fears that recent cuts in library funds and services threatens the existence of smaller branch facilities. The Historic Review Commission and the City Planning Commission have already recommended that city council approve the designations, which would prevent demolition or exterior changes without HRC approval.
This move for historic designation of the Hazelwood, Homewood, Lawrenceville, West End and Mount Washington library buildings, built separately between 1898 and 1911, began when Walter Kidney, architectural historian for the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation, sought initial approval from the HRC. The buildings, Kidney says, "have a certain kind of dignity to them. They are old friends of the neighborhood. I do believe that there should be some continuum between the past, the present and the future."
Walsh, long a preservationist, agrees: "Andrew Carnegie started a major movement to bring libraries to everyone. He did not want just one big library in the city of Pittsburgh. He felt very strongly that there should be branch libraries in the neighborhoods."