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Historical Society of Carnegie to raise $3M for building

| Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012, 9:31 p.m.
Elks Club member Lloyd Epler presented a $500 grant to Marcella McGrogan of the Historical Society of Carnegie during the Benevolent and Protective Order ofr Elks Carnegie Lodge No. 831 and the Elks National Foundation gratitude grant dinner at Polish White Eagles in Carnegie last March. Randy Jarosz | For The Signal Item
The Husler Building in Carnegie, at the corner of W. Main Street and Highland Avenue and housing the local historical society since it was founded in 1990 by Marcella McGrogan and her late husband Dan. File photo

Renovations to the Husler Building, home of the Historical Society of Carnegie, will cost an estimated $3 million.

That is what historical society treasurer Dan Burns said last week. This will be raised through state grants and donations in a five-year capital campaign, Burns maintains.

But at a time when most others are backing away from the enormous expenses of renovating the historic building on Carnegie's West Main Street, Burns, only 23, said saving the building is the most important thing.

The building was constructed in 1896. It has survived two floods and one fire, the latter of which nearly destroyed the fourth-floor ceiling and has left present-day leaks.

But Burns remains undeterred by the financial costs of repairing the Hustler Building.

“I do not care how much it costs,” said Burns, a senior at the University of Pittsburgh who will earn a bachelor's degree in business this year, “because this building has so much historical significance to the borough of Carnegie. I think most people agree with that. Sure, it needs work. Sure, it is going to take a lot of money. Anyone who walks through here can see that.

“But I think we can do it. I really can. We will make it work. We will make it happen,” Burns said.

Once the renovations begin, the second floor of the Husler Building, right now a home for several old desks, filing cabinets, old tables and phone books, would be cleaned out, Burns said. It would then be home for two classrooms and a volunteer breakroom, he said.

The third floor would be home for the historical society's exhibits. The fourth floor now has huge holes ripped out of its ceiling, caused by a torrential fire in October 2005.

“One of the first things we will do, once we have the money, is repair the roof,” Burns said.

Raising the money is another subject altogether.

The Carnegie resident said he has spoken briefly to Maggie Forbes, the former executive director of the Andrew Carnegie Free Library, regarding possible assistance. It was Forbes who, in a period of just under eight years, spearheaded the cause to raise $7.5 million to renovate and restore the Andrew Carnegie Free Library.

Forbes believes the building is “extraordinary” but has no plans at this time to offer assistance.

“I think it is the community, really, that has to get involved first. My real feeling is the community itself has to get behind the historical society and the building itself. You can't throw away your history. I cannot imagine Carnegie without it,” Forbes said.

The Historical Society of Carnegie is a non-profit organization and does not receive any money from Carnegie Borough. As for the money the capital campaign Burns has proposed, the borough would need to see more information before making any moves, said borough council vice-president Pat Catena.

The historical society also has never asked for financial help from the borough, said Catena, who serves as the board's finance chairman.

“I think what needs to happen, is the historical society needs to come together and figure out what their next step is going to be. The renovations, obviously, are going to cost a lot of money. It's a beautiful building on the outside, but the interior needs a lot of work,” Catena said.

Jeff Widmer is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5810 or jwidmer@tribweb.com.

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