Internet Web Site Master Index for the History of
The Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science, Pittsburgh
Information Regarding the Construction of Buhl Planetarium's Dome
History and Photo Album of
The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, Allegheny Regional Branch
(Formerly Carnegie Free Library of Allegheny)
* Historic Carnegie Library Clock Tower Struck by Lightning 2006 April 7 !
History of the Boggs and Buhl Department Store
The Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science was constructed by the Buhl Foundation(the nation's thirteenth largest foundation in 1939). The Buhl Foundation was founded, using a bequest of more than $11 million(1927 dollars) from the estate of Henry Buhl, Jr.(1848-1927), a wealthy Allegheny City merchant. Henry Buhl's business, the Boggs and Buhl Department Store(1869-1958), which catered to the carriage trade(particularly customers from Allegheny City's "Millionares Row" on Ridge Avenue, a few blocks west of the department store), was located one block south of The Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science, on Federal Street--now the location of the 1960s urban renewal project, Allegheny Center. The will of Herny Buhl provided the funds for The Buhl Foundation, in the memory of his late wife Louise, for charitable works in the Pittsburgh area, with some emphasis on the city's North Side.
The Buhl Foundation completely funded the construction and furnishing of The Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science building at a cost of $1,070,000(1939 dollars); the Buhl Foundation then presented the building and all furnishings as a gift to the City of Pittsburgh. This included the Zeiss Model II Planetarium Projector, imported from the Zeiss Optical Works in Jena, Germany, at a cost of $135,000(1938 dollars). "The People's Observatory," when completed and opened to the public on November 19, 1941, included a ten-inch, Siderostat-type, refractor telescope. Although designed specifically for use by the public, the telescope was manufactured to professional observatory specifications by the Gaertner Scientific Company of Chicago, at a cost of $30,000(1941 dollars).
Henry Buhl's business, the Boggs and Buhl Department Store, catered to the carriage trade--particularly to the residents of Allegheny City's "millionares row" on Ridge Avenue, just a few blocks from the department store's Federal Street location; several of these former mansions now are buildings used by the Allegheny Campus (original and largest campus) of the Community College of Allegheny County(CCAC). The Boggs and Buhl Department Store stood about a block from where The Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science building was constructed. Boggs and Buhl closed in the late 1950s; it is said that the last owner of the department store did not consider it economically feasible to update(including the installation of air conditioning) the building.
Interestingly, when The Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science was dedicated on 1939 October 24, it was the first public facility to be air conditioned, absolutely necessary since the first floor and the lower level exhibit galleries did not include windows. The Downtown Pittsburgh department store of the Joseph Horne Company is said to have been the first large store in the city to install air conditioning, in 1937.
The six-floor Boggs and Buhl was one of the six major Pittsburgh department stores, in the twentieth century. The large 13-floor[plus basement and sub-basement] Kaufmann's Department Store is the lone remaining original store, which still has its flagship store at Fifth Avenue and Smithfield Street in Downtown Pittsburgh. The Joseph Horne Company Department Store[seven floors], at Penn Avenue and Stanwix Street, was the city's oldest until it was bought by the Lazarus Department Store chain; Lazarus continued running the Penn Avenue store, before building a new four-floor building on Fifth Avenue and Wood Street[the first department store, in America, to build a free-standing(not as part of a shopping mall) department store building in a Downtown district, in many years]. Gimbel Brother's Department Store[famous in New York City and Philadelphia(sponsored Philadelphia's Thanksgiving Day Parade), as well as having a store in Milwaukee] bought-out the former Kaufmann's and Baer Department Store[13 floors with basement and sub-basement] at Sixth Avenue and Smithfield Street[later Mellon Square]; Kaufmann's and Baer had been started by rival members of the Kaufmann family, who could not get control of the Kaufmann's Department Store. In the mid-1980s, all Gimbel's stores, nationwide, were closed; Kaufmann's bought-out the Downtown Gimbel's store. The last Gimbel's in the country closed in the late 1980s at Century III Mall, in suburban Pittsburgh's West Mifflin Borough. The other two department stores, which closed in the 1950s and 1960s, were Rosenbaum's at Sixth Street and Liberty Avenue and Frank and Seder's across Smithfield Street from Kaufmann's. Saks Fifth Avenue[originally which had a small store on the sixth floor of Gimbel's--the two stores were owned by the same company] took over the building formerly used by W.T. Grant and Company on Smithfield Street and Oliver Avenue. Lord and Taylor[owned by the May Company of St. Louis, which also now owns Kaufmann's] opened a new store, in November of 2000, in the renovated original Downtown home of the Mellon National Bank and Trust Company, across Fifth Avenue from Kaufmann's.
In the late 1960s, Allegheny Center Mall, part of the new Allegheny Center retail, office, and apartment complex(originally developed by the ALCOA Corporation, which has recently constructed a new world headquarters building two blocks south of Allegheny Center on the North Shore of the Allegheny River), replaced the Boggs and Buhl Department Store building. This shopping mall included Sears, Roebuck, and Company(which had formerly been located elsewhere in the lower North Side business district), Woolworths, and, eventually Zayres(which later became Ames) as anchor tenants. In addition to the shopping mall, Allegheny Center includes three office buildings(including a building built to house the regional headquarters of IBM Corporation--which had previously been housed in Five Gateway Center, Downtown), four apartment buildings, a three-level underground parking garage, and an above-level parking garage(as part of the IBM building complex).
Other new buildings were constructed on the periphery of Allegheny Center, across the new four-lane, one-way street(Commons Street-North, West, East, and South) which circles the complex. A new post office(former location of the Fort Wayne Railroad Station--where Abraham Lincoln disembarked on his way to his first Presidential inauguration in 1861), Equitable Gas steam plant, two new churches, townhouses, and Section 8 apartments for the low-income were built on this periphery. Existing buildings remaining on the periphery include a Bell Telephone local exchange building, Allegheny High School(now Middle School) with a newly-constructed Annex building, Saint Peters Roman Catholic Church with a newly-constructed elementary school, and two churches(one church was destroyed by fire in the late 1980s). Allegheny Commons Park--West, North, and East(the largest part of the park to the west of Allegheny Center is better known as West Park) encircles Allegheny Center on the west, north, and east. This was part of the original "Commons" land set-up by Allegheny City in the early nineteenth century. Allegheny Center is bordered to the south by the Norfolk and Southern Railroad(originally the Fort Wayne Division of the Pennsylvania Railroad, which later was known as the Penn-Central Railroad and ConRail).
With the completion of Allegheny Center, Buhl Planetarium was suddenly in the middle of this new Urban Renewal complex, along with the old Allegheny City Post Office(1897) and America's first publicly-funded Carnegie Library adjoined with the world's first Carnegie Hall(1890). A new Allegheny Square city plaza was built in front of Buhl Planetarium. The height of the newly-constructed office and apartment buildings had been a concern to Buhl Planetarium management; they feared the new buildings would prevent use of the institution's telescopes. Although the building heights(they did not exceed thirteen floors) did not affect Buhl's ten-inch, "Siderostat-type" refractor telescope, some parts of the horizon were now blocked by the new buildings, when using portable telescopes on Buhl's roof.
The new Allegheny Square city plaza replaced what was known as Ober Park(endowed by a North Side brewery) and originally known as Diamond Square, the original town square for the City of Allegheny. Diamond Square was part of the Allegheny Commons, originally set-up as common grazing land for the townsfolk in 1788. With industrialization and urbanization, the common grazing land had become a run-down swampy mess. In the 1860s, the Allegheny City government hired a New York firm to turn the commons ground into the first major city park in the region. Many older residents remember when walking on the park grass was prohibited(you were expected to stay on the park sidewalks)--except one day per year! In the 1880s, one of the region's first electric trolley lines ran from Diamond Square to a terminus on Perrysville Avenue on Old Observatory Hill, the location of the Allegheny Observatory and later the main campus of the Western University of Pennsylvania(forerunner to the Univcrsity of Pittsburgh). The original Allegheny Observatory was demolished in the 1950s, as were the original buildings of the Western University of Pennsylvania. This area later became the campus of Ivy School of Art and is now the campus of Triangle Tech. Old Observatory Hill (better known today as Perry Hilltop) is not to be confused with the new Observatory Hill, also on Perrysville Avenue, the location of the second Allegheny Observatory bulding(1914). You can learn more about the history of the Allegheny Commons from a recent newspaper story:
The Carnegie Library and Music Hall was in poor shape, when the library moved part of its collection to a small site on the Terrace Level of the Allegheny Center Mall in the late 1960s. Although demolition of the building was considered, the interior was renovated in a modern motif and reopened in the mid-1970s.
The interiors of both the Library and the Music Hall were completely gutted and "modernized." A spiral staircase (for public access to the second floor Reference Department and the third floor Lecture Hall) in the clock tower replaced the original marble staircase between the first and second floors. The only original furnishings in the interior of the Library remaining are the original balcony railings and banisters, as well as the original fireplace hidden behind a "modern" wall.
The new theater in the Music Hall was christened the Theodore Hazlett Theatre and became the home of the new Pittsburgh Public Theater; the Public Theater remained in Carnegie Hall until the opening of the new O'Reilly Theater, in the Downtown Cultural District, in December of 1999. The Hazlett Theatre is now being operated by the City of Pittsburgh for the use of local theatrical groups. Recently, Carnegie Library has consolidated operations on the first floor of the building. Current plans are to move the Children's Room to the second floor, which originally housed the Library's Reference Department.
With the reopening of Carnegie Library and Music Hall, and the creation of the Old Post Office Museum--later the Children's Museum, along with the continually-operated Buhl Planetarium, Allegheny Center boasted three cultural facilities in the midst of the Urban Renewal complex. This was unique compared to similar urban development projects in the country.
With the bankruptcy and closing of Ames in the late 1980s, and the closing of Sears and Buhl Planetarium in the early 1990s, Allegheny Center Mall converted from a shopping mall to an office complex. Even with this conversion, Woolworths remained as an anchor tenant--until the parent company closed all Woolworth stores, nationwide, in the mid-1990s.
Internet Web Site Master Index for the History of
The Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science, Pittsburgh