Lightning has knocked out library service on Pittsburgh's North Side.
A bolt Friday night sent the top of the clock tower crashing through the roof of the Allegheny Regional Branch of the Carnegie Library.
Officials yesterday were assessing the damage and trying to figure out how long it would take them to reopen.
Library spokeswoman Suzanne Thinnes said the building would be off limits to patrons until further notice, maybe for weeks. A crane was to be brought in today to extract granite chunks that crashed through the roof and into the attic and lecture hall of the library.
The closing of the Allegheny Branch left the North Side without a library. The Woods Run branch is closed for renovations until this summer.
People in the neighborhood said they heard what they thought was a bomb blast when lightning struck the library's clock tower about 8:15 p.m., Friday after the building, on Allegheny Square East, had closed for the night.
The granite, urn-shaped finial atop the clock tower was knocked through the roof, cracking pipes in the attic and sending water cascading down the stairs.
Another large piece of granite fell through the attic into the second-floor lecture hall, taking a steel beam and part of the ventilation system with it. The granite slab missed a Steinway & Sons baby-grand piano in the room by a few feet.
In addition to the damage to the lecture hall, part of the ceiling of the first-floor children's room also fell, dropping plaster onto the low bookshelves and little chairs in the room.
Other pieces of granite from the tower fell onto the lawn. A large, decorative rock scroll fell onto the sidewalk that separates the library from the Pittsburgh Children's Museum in Allegheny Center.
Ms. Thinnes said none of the collection sustained any water damage, but many books were coated with dust from the falling debris.Click photo for larger image.Steve Mellon, Post-Gazette
Lightning damaged the clock tower of the Allegheny Regional Branch of the Carnegie Library system on Pittsburgh's North Side Friday night. Above, a chunk of debris crashed through the roof, leaving a gaping hole. At top, is a photo of the library when it opened in 1890.
Click photo for larger image.Steve Mellon, Post-Gazette
The large chunk of masonry that crashed through the roof of the Carnegie Library on Pittsburgh's North Side during a lighning story Friday night sits on the lecture hall floor.
Click photo for larger image.
The building, which cost $300,000 to construct, opened in 1890 and was dedicated by President Benjamin Harrison, according to the history of the library in a booklet prepared for its centennial in 1990.
The library was donated by Andrew Carnegie to the City of Allegheny before it merged with Pittsburgh. While the Allegheny Branch was the second library given by the industrialist, it was the first opened. Mr. Carnegie's first library, the Braddock Carnegie Library, was still under construction when the City of Allegheny's library welcomed its first book borrowers.
Ms. Thinnes said that while Mr. Carnegie donated the cost of building the library, he did not leave an endowment for the operation. She said the cost of repairs would most likely have to come from donations.
Ann Belser can be reached at email@example.com or 412-263-1699.