Nature center barn in North Park to celebrate a century

| Wednesday, July 30, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

An unassuming barn that started as part of a farm a century ago has become a vital location for providing outdoor opportunities to the community.

County staff will recognize the centennial anniversary of the Latodami Nature Center barn, located off of Brown Road, with a special event in August.

The Latodami Barn birthday party event is scheduled from noon to 2 p.m. on Aug. 9. The event will include a tour and history lesson of the barn and property, and games for children.

“It's 100 years and it's still standing,” said Meg Scanlon, interpretive naturalist at the Nature Center, of the reason to celebrate the barn. “And there are still people (who) remember when this was a farming community, and so we're celebrating the farming community.”

The barn was built in 1914 and originally part of the Latodami Farm. The property was developed in the early 1900s by Pittsburgh lawyer John Dean Brown, who hired a farm manager to run the farm known for its dairy products, turkey, pork, chicken products, honey and produce.

The name Latodami is derived from the first two letters of the Horning family's four children, direct descendants of Brown: Orlando, known as Landy; Antoinette, known as Toni; Davea, and Michele.

The county purchased the property in 1969 to create the environmental nature center. The name stayed when the barn became part of the Nature Center.

The county hired the first naturalist, Joe Grom, in 1969. Scanlon succeeded him after his retirement.

Mary Bates of McCandless lives within walking distance of North Park and first met Scanlon when she was part of the now-defunct Volunteers for Outdoor Allegheny, an organization that helped build trails for the park.

Bates said the Nature Center provides a service to the area.

“I don't think the public knows too much about it,” Bates said. “They might know North Park exists and focus their thoughts on the lake.

“There aren't a lot of people who know the nature center is there or what kinds of activities that are provided … it is activities for all age groups.”

Bates said she enjoys volunteering for Nature Center activities.

Scanlon said the Nature Center property is perfectly located in North Park and in a centralized location in the North Hills area that allows her and her staff to provide programming to a variety of people.

“We can definitely reach so many more people than if we were not at this location,” Scanlon said.

“We have this huge burgeoning population that is continuing to explode in the North Hills in general, so I think it's even more important than ever to reach out to the general public and school groups to provide them with these opportunities … to provide accessibility and ease of opportunity for people to explore the out of doors and nature and learn more about nature.”

Bethany Hofstetter is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6364 or bhofstetter@tribweb.com.

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