History loving podcaster John Shalkosky gets to know George Washington better, and he likes what he discovers. John recently shared his enthusiasm on two episodes of his program “The Pittsburgh Oddcast, heard on KDKA radio.
On Tuesday morning, August 13, 20 volunteers from Westinghouse SURE, a group of retired employees of Westinghouse related companies, visited the park.
In addition to spreading mulch around the trees along the Thomas Boulevard park front, the group enjoyed a tour of the park’s past, present, and future conducted by WP2CC member David Bear, followed by subs in the block house. Incidentally, that’s George Westinghouse himself standing for the group shot, along with Mayor Peduto.
Thanks to the SURE stalwarts who organized the morning, to City Parks for providing the mulch, and everyone else all who helped put together what we hope will be a re-ocurring event.
When this article ran last year, this website did not exist. What progress we have made. The 2019 races will be run on Sunday, September 22. Here’s where to find out more information and register. Sign up for pre-registration and be the first to know when registration for this event is live! www.surveymonkey.com/r/H7L6596
When he died in 1914, George Westinghouse Jr. left no specific instructions regarding the disposition of Solitude, his Pittsburgh estate. When his wife Marguerite died three months later, everything passed to their only child, George Westinghouse III, who no longer called Pittsburgh home.
For insight in the process of how the Westinghouse Estate became Westinghouse Park, we recommend an explanation provided in the 2018 application to the city of Pittsburgh Historic Landmark Nomination for the Westinghouse Memorial in Schenley Park. Prepared by Preservation Pittsburgh, the impressive application is pending.
George Westinghouse, an eminent Pittsburgher, prolific inventor, and world-renowned industrialist was dead. His passing on March 12, 1914 sent the world into a state of morning and prominent leaders, Westinghouse workers, and Pittsburgh officials attended his funeral en masse.
While there were calls at that time to find an appropriate way to memorialize the inventor’s life, it would be nearly two years until a course of action took shape around Solitude, Westinghouse’s home in Homewood. It would be another sixteen years before the dedication of the Westinghouse Memorial in Schenley Park.
The Pittsburgh Press reported on September 19, 1916 that Pittsburgh City Council initiated the movement to erect a memorial to the late George Westinghouse, asking the mayor to appoint a commission of five to consider the matter.
However, it was the Engineers’ Society of Western Pennsylvania that would take the first step to create a memorial to Westinghouse by attempting to raise $400,000 to buy his home on Thomas Blvd. so that it could be turned into a memorial and the grounds turned into a public park. At the time of publication in the Post-Gazette on October 26th, 1916 they had raised nearly half that sum towards the endeavor.
(The actual transaction took two more years to complete. It wasn’t until the fall of 1918 that the society raised the funding, primarily using contributions from companies associated with Westinghouse, and took ownership of the property.
On November 30, the deed was transferred to the city of Pittsburgh for $1.00.
As close readers will note, stipulation C of the deed transfer required the city to “remove the homestead building” within six months, which it did the following summer. No reason was given, but is assumed that no one wanted to maintain the mansion.
The only record of the Solitude’s destruction was the demolition ad, which provides a tantalizing glimpse of its plush interior, replete with onyx and marble mantels and rooms of ebony, mahogany and walnut.
After the sale, the building was unceremoniously collapsed into its basement, which was covered with soil and seeded with grass.
Voila, the Westinghouse estate is now Westinghouse Park.
But the erection of the monument to Westinghouse noted in stipulation D was not as expeditious.
Perhaps because of post-WW1 economics, the Engineering Society was not focused on the project, and seven years elapsed before the idea began to take shape, and the site for the Westinghouse Memorial shifted to the more centrally located Schenley Park.)
It was not until 1926, however, that the focus of a memorial in Schenley Park was set forth in earnest. On September 22, 1926 City Council granted the request to place the proposed George Westinghouse memorial in Schenley Park and referred to the matter to the art department and department of public works “as a matter of routine.” On December 28th, 1926 the art commission approved the site selection in Schenley Park.
So it happened that Westinghouse Park was denied a memorial to its name-sake, and other than park signs at either corner of Thomas Boulevard, there is no city recognition for George Westinghouse, and the recently placed historical marker offers only a bare glimpse of the incredible History that Happened Here.
CitiParks’ giant George Westinghouse (animated by WP2CC member Rich Ekstrom) greets cyclists during BikePittsburgh’s OpenStreets event on May 25.
“WESTINGHOUSE, Life and Times of an American Icon,” a 36-chapter, one hour 50 minute-video, is an excellent chronicle of the remarkable life and accomplishments of a seminal inventor and progressive industrialist.
Talia Perry and David Bear stand ready to share Westinghouse Park’s history with riders in the OpenStreets Pittsburgh event on May 25. Other Westinghouse Park 2nd Century Coalition members on hand included Christine Davis, Rich Ekstrom, Reinhard Schumacher (thanks for the picture and Viv Shaffer.