Photo by Neil Strebig
An inside look of Allegheny City Historic Gallery.
By Neil Strebig
Century old photos decorate the halls of 433 E. Ohio St. — a time machine located in the heart of Duetschtown’s business district — place where residents can step off the sidewalk, escaping the present and transplant themselves into a world of Northside’s history.
“It means everything to me, to promote our history. To promote my family’s history and to promote other people’s families’ histories on the Northside,” Bill Gandy, owner of Allegheny City Historic Gallery said, “We all have fond memories of the Northside. We all went to the same schools, same halls, same streets.”
It’s a “collection of collectors” as Gandy calls it. The museum boasts a plethora of old artifacts, photographs, and memorabilia from all neighboring corners of the Northside many of which have been donations from community residents.
The ACHG, which officially opened a little over a year ago, harvested most of its success from social media. As Gandy recalls, he received an enormous amount of support sharing old photographs on Facebook. One of the biggest supporters was Councilwoman Darlene Harris, a Spring Hill native. She and the Urban Redevelopment Authority helped Gandy get the museum started.
“[The museum is] Extremely important,” Willy James, Gandy’s son, said. “The history is the heart of the city.”
Since ACHGs inception, the gallery has hosted a number of reunions and exhibitions including last week’s expo on North Shore’s Ward, which drew over 100 visitors including Dan Rooney. In Gandy’s words, it was a “magnificent time.”
The ACHG will also be hosting the Federal Street Walking Tour on Saturday, April 30. The tour starts at the intersection of Federal Street and Henderson Street, continues to the old Carnegie Library, and finishes at the museum’s East Ohio Street location.
“Along the way we’re going to show photos of what the areas used to look like over different periods of time,” Gandy said, “We wanted to ramp up the walking tour experience.”
Gandy, who runs the gallery primarily with his wife Kim and two children, Willy and Sydnie, along with a few volunteers, expressed an interest in relocating the gallery due to its rapidly expanding archive.
Described as an “ambitious” project, Gandy is looking towards moving to the former Waverly Mansion on North Avenue and Sandusky Street. While no official plans have been made, Gandy would not only welcome the extra exhibit space, but also the chance to incorporate a computer into their current archives.
“We wanted to do a physical gallery because lot of older citizens don’t know how to use technology,” Kim Gandy said. The inclusion of technology for historical and ancestry research would be a “whole new world” for older residents she added.
This addition would be welcomed not only for older residents, but also new businesses in the community.
“We’re the center of the hub. Everybody comes to us for research,” Gandy said. He has worked with local upstarts like Allegheny City Brewery, Alphabet City, Allegheny Center Alliance Church, TREK, and Wigle Whiskey helping them familiarize themselves with their buildings and the surrounding community.
“They all come to us for information,” Gandy said. “For old artifacts on their building, old photos of what it used to look like.”
The presence of these new business is just another sign of the positive transformation taking place on the Northside. A transformation that is aided by the education Gandy and his family offer businesses and residents alike.
“I have confidence in the Northside at this point. There’s so much room. It was destroyed so much that it gave so much room for rebuilding, expansion, growth,” Gandy said. “And I think a lot of people see that. The location of the Northside to town – and we have the stadiums and the casino – it makes it a hot spot. You’d be foolish not to open a business in the Northside.”
The Gandy family’s commitment to preserving the history of the Northside is an integral part for its revival and the city of Pittsburgh.
“Our goal is to keep reuniting Northsiders. We feel like everybody on the Northside should be promoted,” Gandy said.
The ACHG is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.