John Canning: Preserving our war memorials


An errant auto swerving on an ice-covered Lowrie Street in Troy Hill smashed into the neighborhood’s World War I memorial . Fortunately a number of Troy Hill residents collected the pieces of the damaged monument and stored them for safe keeping in the local VFW.

Within a few months several community leaders, working with City Council President Darlene Harris, developed a plan for repairing the monument and restoring it to its original site.

This one event led to a movement throughout the Northside to identify the location of similar monuments, memorials and plaques honoring the men and women who have served in the country’s armed forces.

From that single incident in Troy Hill in the winter of 2009-10 a committee of concerned citizens from almost every Northside neighborhood has joined in this process of recovering and restoring these important records of Northside heroes.

Morton Brown, who heads the city’s Art Commission, has been working with Council President Harris’s staff in preparing a survey form that will identify the location of memorials scattered at various sites throughout the Northside.

In many ways this process is a template for a similar city-wide survey. Brown’s form will not only enable the city to have an updated record of these community memorials, but citizens will have an opportunity to evaluate their condition.

For the past several years, the Allegheny City Society has been committed to establishing a data base of all names located on such monuments and memorial plaques. Council President Harris and Commissioner Brown, however, have taken this up several notches in terms of helping community organizations find some support for repairing and restoring monuments that became victims of neglect and deterioration.

Mike Kraus at the Allegheny County Soldiers and Sailors Memorial is providing considerable help in the processes of locating, identifying and preserving monuments and memorial plaques that might be found in schools, fraternal halls, veteran clubs, churches and community centers.

Honor Rolls of veterans who were connected with organizations and congregations were often printed in commemorative and anniversary booklets. The task force assembled by Council President Harris and representatives from member groups of the North Side Leadership Conference are diligently seeking out such records and images of memorials as well as the original monuments or plaques.

The call is out for any and all Northside folks to help in preserving the story of our service men and women. If you know of the location of such "Honor Rolls" or community memorials please contact Karen McLellan at the North Side Leadership Conference at 412-330-2572 or by e-mail at; or Ruth McCartan of the Allegheny City Society at

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