Tue, 21 Jun 2005 17:44:58 -0400


"Friends of the Zeiss" <>  View Contact Details  View Contact Details



"Glenn A. Walsh" <>


[Friends-of-the-Zeiss] Buhl Planetarium Historic Designation Hearing

The Summer Solstice, the official beginning of the Summer Season in
the Northern Hemisphere, occurred this morning (June 21) at 2:46 a.m.
Eastern Daylight Saving Time [EDST]. Happy Summer Solstice Day:
< >
This year, Friends of the Zeiss has worked to have the original Buhl
Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science building designated as a
City-Designated Historic Structure. The LAST AND MOST IMPORTANT public
hearing for this effort will occur Wednesday, July 13, 2005 at 1:30
p.m. EDST before Pittsburgh City Council, in the City Council Chamber
on the fifth floor of the City-County Building, at the corner of Grant
Street and Forbes Avenue in Downtown Pittsburgh.
Any citizen may testify at this public hearing, although the City does
request testifiers to pre-register by telephoning the City Clerk's
Office at 412-255-2138. Verbal testimony, at this public hearing, will
be strictly limited to three minutes per person; however, additional
written testimony, of any length, can also be submitted.
If you cannot attend this public hearing, you can e-mail, to me, a
short letter of support for the historic designation of Buhl
Planetarium. I will submit these letters along with my written
testimony at the public hearing. For those people who have already
submitted support letters (Katherine Roolf, George E. Reder, II,
Marguerite Atria, Virginia Peden, and Jordan Marche), be assured that
your letter will be submitted at the July 13 public hearing.
The effort to have Buhl Planetarium designated as a historic structure
began when, on behalf of Friends of the Zeiss, Jon Wilson Smith
submitted the official nomination application [application completed
by Glenn A. Walsh] to the Historic Review Commission of Pittsburgh in
January. Since that time, there have been three public hearings before
the Historic Review Commission and one before the City Planning
Consequently, both the Historic Review Commission and the City
Planning Commission have voted, unanimously, recommending that
Pittsburgh City Council approve the original Buhl Planetarium building
as a historic landmark. After the last public hearing before City
Council [on July 13], City Council will then discuss the proposal at
two future meetings, leading to a final vote on the issue, probably a
couple weeks after the July 13 public hearing.
As a City-Designated Historic Structure, the City of Pittsburgh will
officially recognize the historic importance of the Buhl Planetarium
building. Once designated as historic, the exterior of the Buhl
Planetarium building cannot be altered without approval of the
Historic Review Commission. Regrettably, this legal protection does
not extend to the historic interior, equipment, or artifacts of Buhl
Planetarium. At the present time, no law exists to protect historic
interiors, equipment, or artifacts.
Once the historic designation takes effect, the Buhl Planetarium
exterior will be protected, as it exists at the time of designation.
The law does not require that the building facade be restored as built
in 1939.
This is a political matter, as is anything that goes before an elected
assembly. This is the reason historic designation, for Buhl
Planetarium, was not attempted any sooner [although proposals for such
designation date back to Buhl's 50th anniversary in 1989]. Had Friends
of the Zeiss attempted historic designation before the Children's
Museum altered the building, the Children's Museum could have claimed
that Friends of the Zeiss was being "obstructionist," trying to stop
the Children's Museum from using the building as they see fit.
Consequently, it is likely City Council would not have approved
historic designation for Buhl Planetarium, at that time.
However, with the Children's Museum's construction project completed,
this is now the best time to seek historic landmark status for Buhl
Planetarium. And, during the first public hearing before the Historic
Review Commission, on February 2 [Groundhog's Day--quite appropriate
as the original celebration, Candlemas, was derived from Astronomy!],
the Children's Museum announced their support of the historic
designation of Buhl Planetarium [which makes sense, since they have
been operating in a City-Designated Historic Structure, the Old
Allegheny Post Office, since 1983].
So, with the unanimous recommendations of the Historic Review
Commission and the City Planning Commission, and the support of the
Children's Museum, I am cautiously optimistic that City Council will
support the historic designation of Buhl Planetarium. However, it
would be best to have a good showing of public support, both verbal
testifiers and letters of support, to show that the people really want
this historic designation.
For more information on the effort to designate Buhl Planetarium as a
historic structure, including viewing the historic nomination
application in its entirety, click on the following link:
< >
And, if you have any other questions, do not hesitate to respond to
this e-mail message, or telephone me at 412-561-7876.
Glenn A. Walsh, Project Director,
      Friends of the Zeiss < >
Electronic Mail - < > 
Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
* Buhl Planetarium, Pittsburgh: 
  < >  
* Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries: 
  < >
* Duquesne Incline cable-car railway, Pittsburgh: 
  < >
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