Natrona begins work on row house museum
For workers at Pennsylvania Salt Manufacturing in the late 1800s and early 1900s, there weren't many choices.
You were paid in money issued by the Harrison company, you spent that money at the company stores, and you lived in the company's row houses.
Almost 150 years later, the company and its stores are gone, but the row houses remain.
One of the houses will now serve a new purpose — acting as a row house museum.
“The row houses were created for returning Civil War veterans who worked at Penn Salt,” said Bill Godfrey, the president of Natrona Comes Together, which is heading the project along with the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation. “You were obligated to live in the house and buy all your groceries at the company store.
“The only thing you couldn't buy was alcohol. You would have to barter a pig or something like that, I guess,” he said with a laugh.
Godfrey said exterior restoration of one of the row houses that sit along Federal Street will begin this week.
Godfrey said some of the restoration inside of the house has begun.
“They were peeling off layers of the walls,” he said. “They insulated some of the walls with old newspapers.
There are papers dating from 1912 on.
“It's like a time capsule.”
Arthur Ziegler, the president of the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation, said project funding comes from two state grants, one for $100,000 and another for $91,000.
“About $50,000 went to purchase of the site and removal of asbestos,” Ziegler said. “Another $100,000 will go to further architectural drawings and having the exterior returned to original design.”
Of regional importance
Ziegler said the museum is important not only to Natrona and the Alle-Kiski Valley, but to all of the Pittsburgh region.
“This is one of the very few well-preserved communities of workers' housing,” Ziegler said. “Most worker housing that was in communities like (Natrona) have been removed. We think having this architecture restored is very important.”
Ziegler and Godfrey said state Sen. Jim Ferlo, D-Pittsburgh, was a driving force behind the museum's creation. “Sen. Ferlo was the leader, the chaperone of this project,” Ziegler said.
Ferlo said that while some may look at the row houses as relics of the past, he sees them as a part of Natrona's future.
“These were some of the first worker houses,” he said. “ ‘Place' means something to a lot of people. The idea was to replenish one of these homes and make it be an operable history museum for the lives of workers and immigrants.
“It can be an attraction and amenity for people who want to understand the lives of workers and their struggles.”
Ferlo said the museum only adds to what he sees as Natrona's attraction for new residents.
“Natrona could be the kind of community like we've helped build in Garfield and Lawrenceville,” he said, of two Pittsburgh neighborhoods. “It could attract people who are into sustainability, gardening or art and want to find affordable housing in an area that supports those things.
“Natrona has a lot of assets, and this adds another,” he said. “It's safe and affordable.
“Harrison Township is a wonderful community.”
Natrona Comes Together's Godfrey echoed Ferlo's sentiments.
“I could see this becoming almost a visitor center, with changing exhibitions,” Godfrey said. “We're not exactly sure what we're going to display yet, but we're excited.
“It was either use (the building) or lose it.”
R.A. Monti is a freelance reporter for Trib Total Media.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pittsburgh Street in Springdale to close April 10
- ‘I-Run Days’ helps promote student fitness, self-esteem
- Leadership Butler County aims to benefit community with pavilion project
- Vietnam vets event at Tarentum VFW brings ‘brothers’ back together
- Battle of Fawn fire departments heats up
- Harmar eagles abandon their nest
- Smaller properties in Alle-Kiski Valley remain attractive to drillers
- Oakmont bridge, New Kensington overpass near finish line
- OSHA fines East Deer company $70,000 in aftermath of worker’s electrocution
- Man in New Kensington standoff charged
- Eagle egg breaks, parents abandon nest