More than 100 tour ever-changing Lawrenceville's past
By Bill Zlatos
Published: Sunday, April 21, 2013, 9:30 p.m.
James Wudarczyk led more than 100 people on a tour Sunday through Lawrenceville's past — a stable on Urbana Way and a private library near 40th and Butler streets where residents could rent a book for 10 cents a day.
Over the past 200 years, Lawrenceville has reinvented itself many times — from a community with an arsenal for America's military to one that later had a riverfront lined with steel mills.
The Pittsburgh neighborhood, once populated mostly by Presbyterians and Republicans, now is a mishmash of religions, ethnicities and political groups.
In the past 15 years, Lawrenceville has evolved into a trendy destination with high-tech businesses, galleries, boutiques and restaurants.
“It's good that we are bringing businesses and private homeowners back in the area,” said Wudarczyk, a researcher for the Lawrenceville Historical Society after the tour. “But the downside is the radical increase in property values is making it difficult for longtime residents to maintain their homes.”
The society organized the Ninth Ward walk, the largest of its tours since it introduced them 25 years ago.
The tour started at a pre-1850 house on 40th Street above Davison Street named for Edward Davison, a riverboat captain and construction company owner.
John Symington, commandant of the Allegheny Arsenal at the time of the 1862 explosion that killed 78 people, stayed there in November 1862 after being relieved of command because of poor health.
“This is one of the oldest standing houses in Lawrenceville,” Wudarczyk said of the Greek Revival house.
Wudarczyk led the group to an alley made of hand-cut Belgian blocks between Fisk and Main streets. In the late 19th century, he said, many Sunday school pupils who, when asked who made the world, innocently answered Booth and Flynn. The contractors paved 594 of 600 city streets.
Among the walkers on the tour were Ken Labuskes, who moved to Lawrenceville in 2005 from Swisshelm Park. He called Lawrenceville a great place to live.
“You can walk to maybe 100 great restaurants and about as many bars and great events like this,” said Labuskes, 53, pointing at the crowd gathered on the tour.
Wudarczyk stopped at the old Arsenal Bank on Butler Street, built in the 1880s for $17,000. The bank, now Tender Bar + Kitchen, once rented rooms to the YMCA, which debated whether to allow members to play checkers. Checkers was eventually crowned king.
Wudarczyk stopped on Butler Street in front a Lawrenceville landmark of personal interest to him. Originally the YMCA of Lawrenceville, the building was converted in 1928 to a Boys Club before it became a charter school.
“In 1960, dues were $1 a year. When I grew up in Lawrenceville, I don't know any boy who didn't belong to the Boys Club,” he said.
He pointed to the site of the Ewalt Bridge, a wooden structure that once crossed the Allegheny River. In 1924, the county sold it to the Diamond Match Co., and it was torn down for its lumber to make matches.
“In the end,” he said, “it went up in smoke.”
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.
- Century III new owner seeks to reverse vacancy trend with new theater
- Corrected performance profiles provided for Pennsylvania schools
- Hill District nonprofit’s finances are taking another dive
- Likely $2.3B influx puts PennDOT big-ticket road projects in play
- Newsmaker: Richard L. Byrne
- Natural history museum in the red
- American soldier charged in Iraq killings of deaf, unarmed teens
- Allegheny County police arrest 29 on drug charges in Pitcairn area
- Police say fellow cop arrested for drunk driving after coming to work intoxicated
- Pa. child abuse statutes faulted as too narrow
- Long-overdue memorial to region’s World War II vets opens