Westinghouse Park, a 10.2-acre property in North Point Breeze, is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, a key step toward efforts to improve the green space.
“Solitude,” the home of George Westinghouse, once stood on the site. A pioneer of alternating electrical current and inventor of the railroad air brake, Westinghouse drilled three natural gas wells on his property. His early customers were his neighbors, Henry Clay Frick and H.J. Heinz. This year is the 175th anniversary of his birth in 1846.
Westinghouse’s mansion was demolished in 1919 and the land became a city park with more than 30 species of mature trees, most of which are native to Western Pennsylvania. The city demolished stables on the property in the 1960s.
Aside from a play area, the park’s paths and facilities are outdated. The park connects the neighborhood with Homewood and Point Breeze.
“This is a meaningful historic place with connections to George Westinghouse,” said Gavin White, community projects manager for the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy.
A March 12 letter from Douglas C. McLearen, chief of the division of environmental review for the state historic preservation office, indicated the park is eligible for listing on the National Register. He cited “its potential to yield important information about George Westinghouse and his significant contributions to national, state and local history.”
A 220-foot-long underground tunnel that connected the inventor’s home to his private labratory remains intact beneath the park. Discovered during an archaeological dig in 2005, the brick-lined, beehive-shaped tunnel is 8 feet tall and 5 feet wide.
Brandon Davis, a project manager for Christine Davis Consultants, said the 2005 dig also found evidence of the natural gas wells.
The City of Pittsburgh's Open Space, Parks and Recreation Plan, known as OpenSpacePGH, calls for developing a master plan so that Westinghouse Park can achieve its full potential. It aims to improve the park for users, strengthen community, improve environmental quality and reveal an important chapter in world history.
The Point Breeze North Community Development Corporation and the Westinghouse Park 2nd Century Coalition have secured a $20,000 grant from the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s Neighborhood Initiatives Fund and private funders to pay for planning.
The panel of experts includes Christine Davis Consultants, Tree Pittsburgh, Grounded Strategies and the parks conservancy. The city’s Department of City Planning will create a master plan.
Tree Pittsburgh assessed and surveyed trees in the park, many of which date to the Westinghouse estate. The Westinghouse 2nd Century Coalition has proposed designating the park as an arboretum.
Grounded Strategies has developed a park survey that will be mailed to residents in the surrounding three neighborhoods. Staffers will conduct interviews with stakeholders this month and P3R will hold a “Let’s Move” event to discuss the park’s future at the park on April 10. Staff from the parks conservancy and Grounded Strategies will synthesize community input from the survey and the April 10 event to discuss at a community meeting May 6.
Marylynne Pitz: firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter:@mpitzpg