By Lindsay Allen
Pittsburgh’s oldest standing firehouse, Observatory Hill’s historic Engine Co. #54, is undergoing several renovations to repair deficiencies and restore the original spirit of the architecture.
Originally called Allegheny City Engine House #14, the Romanesque style building located on the corner of Bonvue Street and Perrysville Avenue was built in 1894.
Cas Pellegrini, project manager of the city’s Department of Public Works, said the renovations included updating the fire house for modern times.
“There were several renovations starting from the bottom up. Originally, that building had horse drawn pumper wagons, so the floors were not designed for the kinds of trucks we put in there now,” said Pellegrini.
After investigating the floors and finding cracks and other inadequacies, Pellegrini and the team involved with renovations, including Moshier Studio Architecture, G&W Roofing and Construction and project architect Federico Siegert of the City’s Department of Public Works, will be replacing the floors in the spring.
Currently, the team is working on restoring leaking roofs and gutters, which have resulted in rotting wood throughout the building.
The team is also restoring the entire exterior of the building, because bricks had been falling off the façade.
“We’re using the same materials as the original structure, but some aren’t exactly the same because we are finding more durable materials,” said Pellegrini.
Funded by the city’s Building Maintenance Fund, the renovations are projected to cost $300,000.
This cost includes complete masonry restoration of four facades, roof and gutter replacement, and original 1890’s tower restoration.
Preservations of historic buildings can be difficult because the only sources that architects and contractors have to work with are the original, rudimentary drawings or photographs of the buildings. The team is doing their best with the pictures they have to capture the original appearance of the firehouse.
“We’re bringing it back to its original turn-of-last-century period, and that included bell towers,” said Pellegrini. “The little bit extra will be worth it to bring it back to its original glory.
Lindsay Allen studies at the University of Pittsburgh and hails from Eastern Pa.