Historic status sought for Brashear’s home and factory in Perry Hilltop


Above: Brashear’s home stands on Perrysville Avenue. (Photo by Kelsey Shea).

The life work of John Brashear is admired worldwide, and that work began here in Perry Hilltop.

Both a scientist and a philanthropist, John Brashear dedicated his time in Perry Hilltop building scientific and astronomical instruments. He also fundraised for and help to build Allegheny Observatory located on Riverview Avenue, once considered one of the greatest astronomical research centers in the world.

His factory and home where he spent his time working still stand on Perrysville Avenue and are now up for national historic recognition.

The Brashear house at 1954 Perrysville Ave. is owned by Michael Goldstein of Slam Properties LLC and Goldstein Photography.

Goldstein bought the house last year, and has since remodeled it into a transitional living home, where people coming out of rehab live with month-by-month leases.

He said when he bought the house from a bank, it was filled with drug paraphernalia, and most of the original fixtures were gone.

Goldstein isn’t sure how he feels about the nomination, and said he needs to do more research.

The factory, located at 2016 Perrysville Ave., is owned by the city, is not currently vacant and not undergoing any renovations.

Lisa Miles, the author of ‘Resurrecting Allegheny City: The Land, Structures and People of Pittsburgh’s North Side” is one of the main forces driving for national historic recognition for the two buildings and the person who nominated the Brashear house and factory.

“This is the hilltop where the original Observatory sat next to the factory and house. It should be acclaimed and have markers, attention, care [and] preservation,” Miles adds.

She would like to see the factory used to the highest standards as a museum to feature old instruments and other devices that would have been used by Brashear with the help of NASA scientists, Smithsonian professors and astronomers from across the United States.

“Some think anything that happens is good,” Janet Gunter, secretary of the Perry Hilltop Citizen’s Council said about the future use of the Brashear home, “while others say it should only be used in a reasonable way.”

Gunter specifies that while the Perry Hilltop Citizen’s Council supports renovation that would bring good use to the Brashear buildings, especially the vacant factory.

Gunter and the Perry Hilltop Citizen’s Council held a meeting on Monday Sept. 24 with Goldstein and several other local landlords to discuss an increase in noise disturbances, litter and unsupervised children in the area.

The community voiced its concern over Goldstein’s decision to turn the Brashear building into a what they believed was a halfway house that they believed would go against zoning ordinance.

“Neighbors in the immediate area are sick of being assaulted, having noise and garbage already…only to add this to Perry Hilltop’s one major historical component,” said Miles.

At the meeting, Goldstein explained that the eight residents who live in the house are not violent or sexual offenders, can be evicted at any time by the in-house manager, must work and are held to strict schedules. He also pointed out that they do service projects in the community and are drug-tested at random.

“It was a misunderstanding,” said Goldstein. “Most of the problems were from a rental unit next door and some nearby Section 8 housing. By the end of the meeting, they all shook my hand and wished me good luck.”

The two buildings will be given or denied their historic status in the National Register of Historic Places in October by the state Historical and Museum Commission.

“Mr. Goldstein seemed happy to hear homeowners concerns and was willing to address them and take these concerns into consideration,” said Gunter. “Conversation is better than silence.”

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