ShareThis Page

Student's design revealed for Piano Place, a park in Wilkinsburg

| Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012, 7:36 p.m.
Wilkinsburg mayor John Thompson with Louise Stugress of Pittsburgh History and Landmarks gather at the community garden 'Piano Place' in Wilkinsburg on Jeannette Street on Saturday October 27, 2012. The park was designed by Pittsburgh CAPA student Ronald Butler (center), who is interested in becoming a landscape architect. Ronald's sister Aminah Butler, age 11, is shown opening a piano blanket gift. Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Local community leaders gather at the community garden 'Piano Place' in Wilkinsburg on Jeannette Street on Saturday October 27, 2012. The park was designed by Pittsburgh CAPA student Ronald Butler, who is interested in becoming a landscape architect. Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review

Ronald Butler didn't want to dream small or simple.

So when he asked a counselor at a 2011 summer camp what would be the most difficult design to create for a park, the counselor suggested a piano.

“I didn't want to always go for the easiest task,” said the eighth-grader at the Pittsburgh School for the Creative and Performing Arts. “I just wanted to see how far I could go. I just like to push myself the extra limit and test myself.”

Saturday, the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation and community leaders presented the results of Butler's hard work — Piano Place, a small Wilkinsburg lot transformed into a community park.

A stone pathway snakes through the park, resembling black and white keys of a piano keyboard. The park also features drums and a sign where children can plunk keys to produce musical notes. The park sits next to a community garden tended by Hamnett Place neighborhood residents.

The park honors the memory of longtime foundation member Harry Goldby, a former French language professor at the University of Pittsburgh, who died in September 2011 at 94. Foundation Executive Director Louise Sturgess said Goldby, an avid pianist, saw Butler's park design before he died and loved it.

Some funding for construction of the park came from Russell Coe, another foundation member and an old friend of Goldby's. Both men were raised in and resided in the Pittsburgh area, and both lived in the same Carlisle nursing home.

Coe, 97, wasn't able to make it to Saturday's event. His friends, Dick and Shirley Chamberlain of Carlisle, brought several gifts that Coe wanted Butler to have, including Goldby's blanket with a piano motif, along with a book about the Declaration of Independence and African art bookends.

“I know we will be seeing great things from Ronald,” Pittsburgh Public Schools Superintendent Linda Lane said at the park dedication.

Goldby's cousin, Dale R. McCausland, 63, of Pittsburgh and Manhattan said that Goldby would be thrilled to see Butler's creativity.

Butler designed the park and volunteers built it according to his drawings.

Butler said that he got the piano idea while attending the school district's Summer Dreamers Academy in the summer of 2011. The foundation sponsored an event during the academy called, Camp Design, Explore and Create.

Butler, 13, of East Liberty said he first tried to interest Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, who wrote back that he liked the park idea. However, the foundation found land in neighboring Wilkinsburg, next to the community garden along Jeanette Street.

“It was a really long process,” said Butler, the son of Robert Butler and Marcia Butler. “I got bored, but I had to keep it in perspective. I had to realize it was going to be something amazing when it was done.”

Members of the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation said the organization, with the help of funding partners, has spent about $12.5 million in the Hamnett Place neighborhood of Wilkinsburg, including the restoration of the Crescent Apartment and Wilson House apartment buildings, developing a Housing Resource Center and development of other vacant lots.

Two foundations headed by Dick Scaife, publisher of the Tribune-Review, donated $1.1 million in total to Hamnett Place restorations.

Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5621 or

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using 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.