Wednesday, October 6, 2021 will mark the 175th anniversary of the birth of George Westinghouse Jr.
In observation of his “dodrensbicentennial,” efforts are underway to restore Westinghouse Park, formerly the site of “Solitude,” the estate of George and Marguerite Westinghouse.
The creation of a comprehensive master development plan for the park is already underway, including the construction of a new community building and the implementation of a multi-year, archeological exploration of the historic site.
In addition, a broader effort is taking shape, a 175th retrospective of George Westinghouse, his life, accomplishments, impacts, and legacies.
We call it Westinghouse 175.
From June 2 through 27, Quantum Theatre will stage the world premiere of The Current War in Westinghouse Park.
And here’s how the tent raising began.
Westinghouse Park certified as eligible for listing on the National Registry of Historic Places!
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.
Here’s a bird’s eye view of the park today.
From 1871 to 1918, the site was “Solitude,” the estate of George Westinghouse Jr. and his wife Marguerite.
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 had a private railroad siding at the Homewood Station immediately across Lang Avenue.
Here’s how the property looked in 1890.
And here are photos of Solitude’s mansion and grounds.
Westinghouse also had a new stable building erected, with a power generator and his private laboratory in its basement.
And to get from his house to his ‘inner sanctum,” Westinghouse had a 220-foot tunnel dug between the two. Eight feet high from floor to ceiling, the brick-lined tunnel remains entirely intact for its entire length.
During the four decades Westinghouse lived and worked at Solitude, numerous notable politicians, industrialists, and scientists came to visit, including Congressman and future President William McKinley and Britain’s Lord Kelvin. Nicola Tesla, the AC electricity theorist, lived at Solitude for several months while helping to develop a practical AC system that would work with his motors and generators.
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.
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 for a dollar to be used as a public park and memorial to Westinghouse.
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.
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