Welcome to Westinghouse Park

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Celebrating its centennial in 2018, Westinghouse Park is a 10.2 acre city park situated in Pittsburgh’s East End neighborhood of Point Breeze North.

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Here’s a bird’s eye view of the park today.

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From 1871 to 1918, the site was “Solitude,” the estate of George Westinghouse Jr. and his wife Marguerite.

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In 1871, Westinghouse was already a prosperous, self-made man of 25 when he purchased a house and 5-acre parcel along the Pennsylvania Railroad’s mainline 6 miles east of Pittsburgh, between Murtland Street and Lang Avenue. The location was appropriate; the railroad was Westinghouse’s primary customer and also his way to get around both the county and the country.

Over the next decade, he and Marguerite enlarged the house, and when he acquired the adjacent 5-acre parcel, Westinghouse expanded his estate up to Thomas Boulevard. He also acquired a private railroad siding at the Homewood Station immediately across Lang Avenue.

Here’s how the property looked in 1890.

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And here are some photos of Solitude’s mansion and grounds.

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Westinghouse also had a new stable building erected, with a power generator and a private laboratory in its basement.

And to get from his house to his ‘inner sanctum,” Westinghouse had a 220-foot, brick lined tunnel dug between the two.

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During the four decades Westinghouse lived and worked at Solitude, numerous notable politicians, industrialists, and scientists were regular visitors, including President Willam McKinley, Britian’s Lord Kelvin, and Nicola Tesla, the AC electricy theorist, who lived at Solitude for several months while working out the principles of an engine that would run on AC electricity.

But perhaps the most notable event that happened on Solitude was the 1884 discovery of a huge pocket of natural gas in several wells Westinghouse had drilled in his own back yard.

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After both George and Marguerite died in 1914, Solitude was bequeathed to their only child, George III, who in turn sold the property to the Engineers’ Society of Western Pennsylvania in 1918. The society deeded the estate to the city as a public park and memorial to Westinghouse.

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The Solitude mansion was razed the next summer, and the park was developed over the ensuing months. In the early 1960s, the stables were also torn down and replaced by the present cement block structure. Other than stone columns at old entrances, the only vestiges of Solitude that remain above ground are several copses of magnificent red oak and ginkgo trees.

Below ground is another matter.

Please continue scrolling down this long page for much more information about Westinghouse Park and George Westinghouse.

Westinghouse Park Planning Process Begins

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Westinghouse Park Planning Process Begins

The Westinghouse Park 2nd Century Coalition ( WP2CC) and the Point Breeze North Development Corporation (PBNDC) are pleased to announce they are working together toward the creation of a master plan for the park.

This partnership creates a mechanism for working with Pittsburgh’s Department of Public Works, Pittsburgh City Planning, other expert entities, and the community to develop the criteria for the City to use in developing a request for proposals for a master plan for the park. The project will run through May 2021.

Funding for the project has been provided by a Neighborhood Initiative Fund (NIF) grant by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA). The grant is supplemented by additional financial support from ICON Development.

Community participation is the essential element in this planning process, and a range of activities will be implemented over the coming months to nurture and quantify that participation. A series of meetings and park events are also envisioned to take place, as allowed by evolving Covid 19 concerns.

Planning will focus on four key elements:

1) Building Community: Westinghouse Park attracts visitors from beyond the immediate Point Breeze North neighborhood. The current connection with Homewood is a decrepit footbridge over the rail/busway, which is made less accessible by multiple flights of stairs. Similarly, relatively few Point Breeze neighbors cross Penn Avenue to visit the park. This project will engage and involve park stakeholders on both sides of those division lines, and seeks to establish and support a positive, cooperative relationship with the new sports facility now being developed at Homewood Field. The planning process will also consider the new residential and commercial development at the former Lexington Technology Park, one block away.

2) Historic and Cultural Significance: “History Happens Here” is more than a motto for the WP2CC. From 1871 to 1918, the Park was the site of “Solitude,” the Pittsburgh home of George Westinghouse, including his private underground laboratory. In addition to a lengthy list of luminaries who visited, myriad historic events actually occurred there. Preliminary archaeological studies indicate the probable presence of numerous artifacts at the site of the house, the lab, and the 220-foot-long tunnel that connects them.

3) Environmental Stewardship: The 10-acre park contains lawns, pathways, and many magnificent trees, including several planted by George Westinghouse some 140 years ago. The park also provides an opportunity for storm water mitigation. In addition to preservation of historic elements of the landscape and beautification of the park overall, planning process participants will explore possibilities for incorporating features such as rain gardens, bio-swales, permeable pathways, and other green infrastructure into the design. Since the park is a primary headland for the Negley Run watershed, PWSA, and ALCOSAN will also participate in the planning process.

4) Recreation and Relaxation: Neighbors and community members currently use the park for myriad reasons, bicycling, strolling, jogging, dog walking, and socializing. Its playground is popular with families. The plan seeks to enhance and expand those activities and experiences. For example, the existing, 60-year-old, concrete block structure, built over the remains of George Westinghouse’s laboratory, is unattractive, decrepit, and insufficient for neighborhood needs.  It should be removed and replaced.

If you are interested in joining the conversation, the first Zoom community meeting to discuss the plan will be held on Monday, August 3 at 7:00 p.m.

To receive a link to joining the meeting, or if you have anyquestions about the project, please send an e-mail to info@pointbreezenorth.com with WESTINGHOUSE PARK in the subject line.

For developments, check  www.westinghousepark.org ) or ( http://www.pointbreezenorth.com).

You can also follow us on Facebook at Westinghouse Park and at Point Breeze North Development Corporation.

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Greetings to Westinghouse Park’s new residents

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We are pleased to welcome this pair of proud relics from the recent fall of a trio of the park’s historic red oaks. They will attract admiring park visitors, both young and old, for many years.

Let’s call them Marguerite and George.

 

BTW – much of the lumber being sawn from the fallen trees will eventually be re-purposed for use in the park, while the chip pile may re-cover some of its long-neglected recreational pathways.

Fallen giants in the park

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As park visitors know Westinghouse Park suffered a major loss early on the morning of May 1, as three of the giant, Solitude-era red oaks in its center came down. Here is a drone video of the devastation and several still shots below.

Estimated to be nearly 150 years old, the oaks were probably planted in the late 1870s when George and Marguerite Westinghouse expanded and landscaped their estate.

Although the magnificent trees were probably near the end of their normal life span, the poor drainage in that part of the park likely contributed to their demise. Also, because they were planted in tight trios, the failure of one brought down the other two, as happened to another group three years ago.

Only two of the distinctive oak groupings remain, at the drive entrance where MacPherson meets Murtland.

At any rate, the immediate question is what is to be done with the fallen trees? We’re happy to report the city is already making arrangements to have them removed and that much of the wood will be salvaged for reuse.  Pittsburgh Urban Tree will select boards to make furniture and other boards may be used in the construction of the park’s new community center.

Thanks to Harvey Butts for these drone images of the fallen giants.

Fallen Trees in Westinghouse Park

The renewed Westinghouse Memorial

 

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On October 6, 2016, the 170th anniversary of George Westinghouse’s birth, Pittsburgh’s tribute to the scientist, inventor, and industrial giant – the Westinghouse Memorial at the bottom of  Schenley Park Drive between Phipps Conservatory and Carnegie Mellon University  – was rededicated.

Memorial 2Led by the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, the project’s $2.7 million cost was been raised through a $500k contribution from the City of Pittsburgh, and over $2 million from foundations and individual donors.  Funds were also raised from nearly 300 donors, including many employees of the present-day Westinghouse Electric and Wabtec Corporation (formed by the merger of Westinghouse Air Brake Company and MotivePower Industries Corporation).

The memorial first opened to the public in 1930, 16 years after Westinghouse’s death. Memorial 4 Originally intended for Westinghouse Park, a decision was made to move it to a more central location. Funded by individual donations from 55,000 workers at his former firms to honor him for his astounding contributions to society, the memorial’s pedigree is first rate, with architects Henry Hornbostel and Eric Fisher Wood, Sr., and artist Daniel Chester French best known for the Lincoln memorial in Washington D.C.

The centerpiece of  the memorial, titled The Spirit of American Youth, is the figure of a young man who is inspired by the life of Westinghouse. Critically acclaimed at the time as “the finest portrayal of American boyhood,” it conveys a clear message: future generations will judge Westinghouse, and they will be astonished and inspired. The statue – and all other bronze work has been hand-restored, cleaned, and preserved as part of the restoration and renewal project.

Enjoy these closer details of the monument, both front and rear.

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Fallen pioneer of the atomic age

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Westinghouse atomic relic                                                                                             Photo by Karla Boos

The Westinghouse Atom Smasher was a 5 Megavolt Van de Graaff electrostatic nuclear accelerator built and operated by the Westinghouse Electric Corporation at its Research Laboratories in Forest Hills. Built in 1937, the pear-shaped tower stood 65 feet high.

The first industrial sized Van de Graaff generator in the world, it marked the beginning of nuclear research for civilian applications.

Instrumental in the development of practical applications for nuclear science in the generation of electric power, its was used in 1940 to discover the fission of the elements Uranium and Thorium.

The tower was last used in 1958 and in 1985 was designated as a milestone by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

In 2012, the property surrounding the atom smasher was purchased by P&L Investments, which initially expressed an interest in saving it. In 2013, the Young Preservationists of Pittsburgh named it as one of the city’s top 10 preservation opportunities. But three years later, the structure was in significant disrepair. After workers laid bricks to brace the fall, the supports were removed and it was tipped over.

Despite that setback, an effort continues to try and “Save the Bulb.”