North Allegheny History Museum to get new home

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As curator of the North Allegheny History Museum, Joe Bullick has been making history come alive for students.

Soon, the historical artifacts will be available to a wider audience when McCandless builds a new museum to house what the 83-year-old Mr. Bullick affectionately refers to as his “flea market of history,” which has been exhibited since 2009 in McKnight Elementary School on Cumberland Road. 

A former North Allegheny custodian for 40 years and a former semi-pro baseball player, Mr. Bullick of Pine, never thought he would become the curator of a museum.

But people kept giving him old photos, antique cameras, maps, toys from past decades, North Allegheny uniforms, typewriters and telephones.That’s when he asked the school board to give him a permanent space.

Unfortunately, “permanent” did not mean “forever.” Mr. Bullick was informed earlier this year that he would have to move.

“McCandless … is saving my museum,” he said as he prepared to catalog and relocate the record players, pedal cars, baseball bats, jukebox, pinball machine, yearbooks, antique dolls and even the doorknob from a beloved teacher’s classroom in the old Ingomar Elementary school, which burned down in 1960.

“Joe Bullick has spent a lifetime embracing the history and culture of the North Allegheny School District, the Town of McCandless, and the Wexford area,” said McCandless manager Toby Cordek. “When Joe told me his collection needed a permanent home, I proceeded to town council, and they concurred wholeheartedly.”

The new museum will be built between the McCandless-Franklin Park Ambulance Authority and Lorraine G. Rogers Memorial Soccer Fields, with access from Grubbs Road.

The existing museum will remain in McKnight Elementary School for another year. Mr. Bullick said individuals who want to donate an item are welcome to stop by.

Designed by architect Ralph Sterzinger of RSSC Architecture of Pine to replicate a one-room schoolhouse, the new museum will have a main floor for displays and a basement for the storage of rotating exhibits.

Work is scheduled to begin in the fall by students at the A.W. Beattie Career Center who are studying heating, ventilation and air conditioning and continue during the next two years. 

Beattie’s executive director Eric Heasley said 75 to 100 students will build the museum.

“Our students will be provided with the materials, and we’ll assemble sections at the school to be transferred to the site, assembled onsite and then completed,” he said, adding that students with get experience in activities they ordinarily wouldn’t get to do, such as installing a fire alarm and burglar system and using a crane truck to place items on the roof.

“They’ll be using their math and engineering skills, and this will be a great opportunity for the students to someday tell their kids, ‘I built this,’” Mr. Heasley said. “It’s going to be a regional asset.”

Funded by McCandless, cost of the construction materials is estimated to be nearly $100,000.

“We have formed a cooperative and comprehensive team to continue to nurture and plan the logistics of the museum,” said Mr. Cordek, noting that town council and RSSC Architecture and Gateway Engineers have collaborated in the early stages of planning.

Mr. Bullick said items from all North Allegheny schools, La Roche College, Community College of Allegheny County and Vincentian High School will be included in the museum. He also has yearbooks from Perry, Pine-Richland and Shaler — schools students attended before North Allegheny’s high school was built in 1954.

Mr. Bullick also said the museum will be involved in class reunions or in holding themed events.

“In the new space, people won’t be able to touch anything or look through the albums unless they come for shows,” he said. “It won’t be hands-on like I have it now, but it will be better organized, which will be good.”

Jill Cueni-Cohen, freelance writer:

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