Old barn in Richland christened for new use

Share with others:

Print Email Read Later

Chatham University administrators celebrated the transformation of an old dairy barn on its Eden Hall campus in Richland into a cafe and library with a milk christening.

Instead of smashing a milk bottle against the barn, which had been lifted and moved by a crane from its original foundation to a more stable location, school president Esther Barazzone poured milk onto the structure, which will become the Dairy Barn Cafe & Library.

In the spirit of recycle and reuse, she joked that she would repurpose the empty bottle to hold flowers.

It was all about sustainability and repurposed buildings during the ceremonies May 15.

Situated off Ridge Road on Bakerstown-Warrendale Road, the 388-acre Eden Hall farm was donated to the university in 2008 by the Eden Hall Foundation.

Bill Campbell, vice president of marketing and communications for Chatham, said the land originally belonged to Sebastian Mueller, a cousin of Henry J. Heinz and an executive of the Heinz Co. After Mueller's death in 1938, the farm, at his request, became a place where female employees of the Heinz Co. could go for weekend retreats.

Mary Ann Eisenreich, 59, of McCandless has been involved in the Eden Hall project through her job as director of Gov. Tom Corbett's southwest regional office.

She said Eden Hall has received a $3 million capital development grant, which originated with former Gov. Ed Rendell, for its role in economic development for the region. "We proceeded with completing the promise the former governor had made."

As a Heinz employee from 1969 to 1973, however, Mrs. Eisenreich also has a personal history with the farm.

"I was in the purchasing department, and a group of us from my department went there for a weekend once a year," she recalled, noting that the farm's luxurious mansion, which features a bowling alley and outdoor pool, could accommodate approximately 40 women at one time.

"It was really like going to the country back then. They had horseback riding, bowling, hiking, fabulous food, and it was a lot of fun," she recalled, adding that the house hasn't changed since she was there and still sports the same '60s art deco furniture. "When I walked in there a year ago with Esther, it was like taking a step back in time."

Currently undergoing the first phase of development, the Eden Hall Campus will be home to the university's new School of Sustainability and the Environment, which was created to honor the legacy of Chatham alumna and environmentalist Rachel Carson. Mr. Campbell said the school will produce its own solar and geothermal energy on campus while it educates students in methods of solving environmental and sustainability problems.

A few students already attend classes at Eden Hall, but the campus will officially open for classes for the fall semester. Eden Hall eventually will be able to host up to 1,500 students -- 1,200 as residents -- and offer master's degree programs in sustainability and food studies as well as undergraduate courses.

Estimated to cost $40 million, Eden Hall's first phase includes infrastructure development, renovations of repurposed structures, landscape restoration and the construction of academic and residential facilities, including two residence halls supporting 150 beds, which are expected to be ready for use in 2015.

The campus will have field labs, classrooms, a dining hall, the dairy barn cafe, an amphitheater and a mosaic garden.

Chatham has a 20-year, multi-phase plan for Eden Hall farm, which Ms. Barazzone said could put this area on the map because of the economic impact its environmentally conscious goals could have on the region.

Ms. Barazzone will speak about sustainability in urban university collaborations at a June conference in Singapore.

"What is happening here is a project of enormous national and even international importance, as this is truly a model of sustainable development for municipalities," she said.

Richland manager Dean Bastianini recounted the coincidental way in which the township had established a new zoning ordinance in 2009, which featured a campus overlay.

"This property was residential, but it had civic-oriented uses," he said, referring to the local volunteer fire department, the Northern Tier Library and other public services. It was just after that ordinance was passed that Ms. Barazzone approached the township with Chatham's Eden Hall plan.

"It was more than a coincidence. It was meant to be," Mr. Bastianini said. "Our planning seemed to anticipate this type of a use, and when Esther explained their approach and the way they wanted to conserve the land, it seemed ideal."

Mr. Bastianini acknowledged that residents initially were concerned about a college campus being built in their backyard.

"But Chatham was transparent with their plans and engaged residents until people realized it would be better than a housing plan because there will be less intense development," he said, adding that public meetings will continue to be held as the project moves forward.


Jill Cueni-Cohen, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.


Create a free PG account.
Already have an account?