Allegheny Commons Park on the North Side has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places, a status it shares with two other parks in the city — Schenley Park and Point State Park.
The commons is Pittsburgh’s oldest park, established during the emergence of Allegheny, which was a separate city before Pittsburgh annexed it in 1907.
The Allegheny Commons Initiative nominated the park, which was already a city historic district. The initiative is leading the implementation of a multi-phase restoration.
“We are thrilled that Allegheny Commons has joined an elite group of landscapes included on the National Register,” said Alida Baker, the initiative’s project director. “As stewards of this very special place, we hope the designation will help us to attract much-needed investment and inspire our city to treat it with integrity and respect.”
Speaking of which... the city has made plans to begin demolition of the pedestrian bridge that spans sunken railroad tracks. The bridge has been closed for about 12 years.
Almost exactly four years ago, when city officials stated the concrete span was crumbling and presented a threat, the city proposed demolishing it. The Historic Review Commission delayed the decision that ultimately favored that request.
To say that neighborhood and park advocates objected doesn’t begin to describe the outcry. The arguments were to restore it or, if it must be demolished, to replace it. At the time, Pat Hassett, the assistant director of public works, said he “would very much like to have the bridge replaced, but I have no money to do it. I have 120 bridges and two engineers.”
The neo-classical concrete bridge was cast in place in 1906. It links two parks of the park that are separated by Norfolk Southern’s submerged tracks.
One of the fears expressed by historic review commissioners and residents is that once the bridge is removed, the neighborhood has no leverage to pressure the city for a replacement. Without a replacement bridge, the site will act as a broken hinge on a door that is supposed to open for pedestrian flow. It was the intent of the designers of the park.
It is difficult to restore something to its original. Concessions sometimes have to be. But restorations are quite skewed when pieces disappear. The bridge demolition without a funding commitment for its replacement makes the news of the National Registry a little bittersweet.