Allegheny-Kiski Valley Heritage Museum gets boost with new windows

| Monday, July 22, 2013, 12:54 a.m.

The Allegheny-Kiski Valley Heritage Museum needed new windows, but faced the problems and cost associated with replacing them while preserving the building's character.

The Redevelopment Authority of Allegheny County solved those problems, approving an $84,000 grant for new energy-efficient windows at the museum along Seventh Avenue in Tarentum.

The aluminum-framed windows will replace the single panes that extend from the museum's ballroom floor to its ceiling. The current windows are original to the building's 1931 construction as an American Legion post and are permeable to harmful ultraviolet rays, according to Dolly Mistrik, president of the Allegheny-Kiski Valley Historical Society.

“Some of the artifacts we have are really delicate and the sun rays coming through can damage and destroy them,” she said. “The new windows are UV-reflective, so we can put a lot more out on display and expose people to more of our collection.”

The ballroom in which the windows will be installed holds many artifacts relating to military, labor, union and industrial history in the region.

Dennis Davin, the county's director of economic development, said the grant was approved because the authority believes the museum plays a key role in attracting visitors to the neighborhood.

“One of the aspects we focus on in our assessments is tourism,” he said. “We thought that securing the property and the artifacts inside was imperative in bringing people into the area who will invest in local businesses.”

The county's investment is projected to pay dividends for the museum itself, as well.

With a spray-applied, acrylic extrusion coating from PPG Industries, the Traco-made windows are designed to optimize energy efficiency. Mistrik said she anticipates the windows will cut the museum's annual energy expenses in half — a welcome reprieve for the financially strapped society.

“Everything we take in covers nothing but our operating costs,” she said. “If it weren't for grants like this, we couldn't survive. We need assistance and support. Otherwise, we couldn't do what we do.”

The redevelopment authority rejected the historical society's applications four times before approving its latest on Friday.

On each of those occasions, the group had jointly applied for financial support on three projects. The redevelopment authority would indicate that the historical society's applications met the guidelines, but denied the requests due to insufficient funds.

That's when Mistrik decided to prioritize the society's needs and apply solely for the window renovation.

“I wasn't even going to turn it in this time,” she said. “I was sick of getting rejected, and I didn't feel like doing the work. I'm so that I did.”

Aside from the window replacement, the historical society requested grants for central air conditioning and limestone to reinforce the building's foundation.

“The building is pretty much crumbling at the corners,” Mistrik said. “We need help getting the foundation back in place.”

World War I veterans built the museum as an American Legion Post in 1931 and dug and laid the foundation by hand.

“I consider the building to be the best artifact we have,” the historical society president said. “Preserving our building in itself is preserving history.”

The window installation won't taint the building's rich history, according to Mistrik.

“The windows will have no effect on the appearance or structure of the building,” she said. “We could have spent a lot less, but I didn't want to ruin a great piece of history.”

Mistrik said she will apply for air-conditioning and limestone grants separately through the county in the coming weeks.

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