Diana Nelson Jones' Walkabout: North Siders' photos show sense of its big picture
November 11, 2014 12:00 AM
Diana Nelson Jones
Bill and Kim Gandy
By Diana Nelson Jones / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
North Siders love the history of their neighborhoods and go nuts over old photos of them. Bill and Kim Gandy found that out when they began posting on various sites the photos they were finding online and in other searches.
“People went wild,” said Mr. Gandy.
Interactions led the couple to more people who had photos, stories and memorabilia of Allegheny City through 1907 and from after it became Pittsburgh’s North Side. City Councilwoman Darlene Harris asked Mr. Gandy to copy her on some photos, and they started talking.
“We thought it would be great to have a place for these photos, where people can reminisce and see neighbors,” Ms. Harris said. “Kind of an Allegheny City/North Side reunion.”
She helped the Gandys with start-up funding and connected them to the Northside Leadership Conference, the project’s fiscal agent for fund-raising. They expect to sign a lease soon to establish the Allegheny City Historic Gallery at 415 E. Ohio St., Deutschtown. Ms. Gandy said the gallery should be open by spring, if not sooner.
Grants of $7,000 from the Urban Redevelopment Authority and $5,000 from Ms. Harris are getting the project on its feet. The Gandys have created an Indiegogo campaign with a $5,000 goal at https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-allegheny-city-historic-gallery.
A self-described history buff, Mr. Gandy said he was browsing the University of Pittsburgh archives for North Side images when he saw “the photo that popped my cap off. It was a picture of Federal Street going straight to Downtown. I had never seen that view of Federal without Allegheny Center Mall” in the way.
Sharing the photos, the Gandys, who are both North Siders, were connected to other North Siders, including Bob Rathke and Betty Muschar. They have amassed photos that they, their parents and grandparents have taken.
If North Siders love anything more than poring over old photos of where they live, it is lamenting the loss of so many architectural assets. The more images he has seen, Mr. Gandy said, “the more I felt like that commercial of the Indian with the tear falling down his cheek. So much is lost.”
One great loss was the Allegheny City Market House, torn down and replaced by a high-rise apartment building in 1965. There have been so many. Each time I pass the squat post office at the corner of Allegheny Circle and Federal Street, my mind sees the gorgeous monster of a train station that once occupied that site. Like the market house, it was built to last with materials that are too expensive to use today.
The gallery already has a presence online at YouTube/Allegheny City, featuring interviews with neighborhood historian John Canning, architectural historian Carol Peterson, Mr. Rathke and Ms. Muschar and Terry Mowrey, whose toy collection features products of the former Wolverine Toy Factory in Allegheny West.
Mr. Gandy’s son, WIlly James, is the videographer for the project.
“They’ve got a great collection of incredible images, stuff from people’s family albums, images that you never would have seen,” said Mark Fatla, executive director of the Northside Leadership Conference.
The Gandys hope to collect more photos, school yearbooks and other memorabilia. They plan to hold special exhibitions and book signings and sell books, gifts and authorized prints.
People who want to contribute can use the Indiegogo site or mail a check designated for “Allegheny Gallery” to the Northside Leadership Conference at 4 Allegheny Center, Suite 601, Pittsburgh PA 15212.
Diana Nelson Jones: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1626.
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