The Children’s Museum had a turnout of about 100 people last night for tours of the old Allegheny branch of the Carnegie Library. The 1889 landmark has been closed since lightning hit its clock tower in 2006 and the branch has since moved to a new building on Federal Street.
The museum wants to expand and so do its partners, including the Saturday Light Brigade radio show and the New Hazlett Theater, which is in an adjacent building in Allegheny Center. But the old library, at 45,000 square feet, is big enough to accommodate their expansion and several other enterprises. (The photo above shows a second floor room with a glass roof that did not survive the 1970s.)
Chris Siefert, the museum’s deputy director, said residents and other community stakeholders will help shape what the plans look like and that a management collaboration is the likely result.
People who turned out were asked to post comments, such as ““What are your memories of this building?” and “What are your hopes for this space?”
Rick Lerach posted “I got married here.” His wedding took place on the steps of the library in 2009.
Ann Canning posted that she had brought her daughters to the library for pre-school story time.
Former librarian Mary Usnick remembers that in the 1960s, there were apartments on the third floor for writers in residence.
Ideas for the future ranged from multi-use, such as a restaurant/bar, dance and yoga studio to a center for tutoring youth to art galleries.
Chris said it will take $5.5-7.5 million “just to get in and use it. That’s our first goal” — to raise that much to get the building in basic working order. That will include making the first floor completely accessible to patrons with physical handicaps. As much as $25 million total would be needed “to do it right, with an operations budget.”
He said the Children’s Museum sees more than 250,000 visitors a year, “and we feel we need more space.”
Most people were extremely positive that any use might be made of the building and laud the museum for its track record. Some think the museum is taking over Allegheny Square.
After another 6-8 months of meetings with the public, during which partnerships will be formed and fund-raising started, Chris said the museum will begin preparing to have a presence in the building by 2015.
Last night, on one of the tours through the building, one of the tourists, Paul Rosenblatt of Squirrel Hill, was granted the right to ring the original three bells on the tower.
He said he is interested in the reuse of old buildings and “that even though we have all the social networking of the 21st century, we still need beautiful buildings to gather in.”
(Photo left was taken in what's called "the delivery room," the main room at the top of the front steps.)