Kaufmann’s added to Miniature Railroad exhibit at Carnegie Science Center
The Miniature Railroad & Village exhibit at the Carnegie Science Center turns 100 this year. To celebrate, the museum is adding a model of Kaufmann’s, the department store at the center of Downtown Pittsburgh for decades.
“We thought that in terms of iconic symbols of Pittsburgh that really are memorable to people in the region, Kaufmann’s is right up there,” said Patty Everly, historic exhibits curator.
The store was founded by the Kaufmann brothers in 1871, starting as a simple men’s clothing shop in the South Side. It moved Downtown in 1877, and grew to be the mammoth department store many Pittsburghers affectionately remember.
The 17-by-28 inch, four-story replica is of the first version of the Downtown store, known as the “Grand Depot.” It opened in 1885.
It features the original Kaufmann’s clock, 15 window displays, a crystal chandelier, a statue of the “Goddess of Liberty” atop its corner tower, and detailed window and masonry work.
“Kaufmann’s has long been on our radar, but the building was quite big and impossible for us to scale down. We couldn’t make the size work. But then, we discovered through our research, that there was the first version of the store on Fifth and Smithfield, the original ‘Grand Depot,’ [that] was a little bit smaller in scale than what is there today,” Everly said.
The Kaufmann brothers provided interpreters in their stores to be able to communicate with immigrants, and were the first to put price tags on their merchandise so everyone would have to pay the same amount, Everly said.
“It’s a wonderful story, that alone, of the Jewish-German immigrants, the Kaufmann brothers, who started the business,” she said.
The train exhibit was created by Charles Bowdish on Dec. 24, 1919, and displayed at his home in Brookville, Jefferson County, to entertain the guests at his brother’s wedding. It moved to Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science in 1954, and finally to the Carnegie Science Center in 1992.
The overall exhibit features replicas of other historic Western Pennsylvania landmarks such as Primanti Bros. in the Strip District, Forbes Field, Donora’s Cement City and Gobbler’s Knob.
The public will be able to see the Kaufmann’s replica starting Nov. 21. Access to the display is included with general admission to the science center.
“We’re honored to be able to carry on this tradition and contribute to it,” Everly said of the exhibit.