by Kelsey Shea
After two years of planning and negotiating with the city, Spring Hill residents are looking forward to the revitalization of their neighborhood’s gateway.
A city-owned lot at the corner of Damas and Homer streets will be the site of a new parklet and decorative wall that will welcome visitors to the Spring Hill neighborhood.
The wall will feature the mosaic art work of local artist Linda Wallen, who will use tiles from The Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild to show the German and agricultural history of Spring Hill.
Wallen, a resident of Spring Hill, created and installed several other mosaic murals on homes on Yetta Avenue after she was inspired by a trip to Barcelona in the late ’90s.
The mural was funded by a grant from The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh’s Charm Bracelet Project to the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild.
Wallen worked on the mural with a class of high school students who interviewed older residents of Spring Hill about their experiences growing up in the community.
After extensive interviews, Wallen said they began to put the experiences the Spring Hill residents had discussed into images relating to the neighborhood.
“To put a young 16-year-old guy and a 62-year-old woman together and ask them to compare their cultures was really a treat,” said Wallen of the interviewing process.
The tiles will picture farming, a pub, the spring and other images to tell the story of Spring Hill’s past.
The mural is finished and currently in storage. It was originally planned to hang on the wall of the fire station, but was designated to the planned wall due to the unsuitable condition of the fire station’s wall.
Spring Hill resident and project contractor Chris Waraks said the parklet will be a key focal point in the neighborhood.
“It’s just going to look a lot nicer. A lot of people don’t know Spring Hill even exists,” said Waraks. “It’s a good way to welcome people to Spring Hill.”
The corner lot was vacant and an “eye sore” according to Waraks, and garbage often filled the unused space.
To address the problem, the Spring Hill Civic League came up with the gateway plan and negotiated for a year and a half with the city and the art commission to draw up a maintenance contract.
Now that a contract has been reached, the city has cleared the lot and the nearby hill and is laying the foundation for the wall.
The lot is also located near the site of the old spring that gives Spring Hill its name.
Though the spring’s water is now contaminated and the site is covered with cement, the SHCL hopes to improve the aesthetics of the spring’s location and add it to the city’s register of historic places.
Spring Hill resident and City Council President Darlene Harris has made it an objective of hers.
Waraks hopes that an influx of young people in the SHCL will lead to more projects like these two.
“There’s going to be a lot going on here in the next few years,” he said.