Photo by Erika Fleegle

Photos from local contributors line the walls of the new Allegheny City Historic Gallery.

By Erika Fleegle

For a city with as rich a history as Pittsburgh – and Northside being the oldest section of the city with its 18 neighborhoods – it’s no surprise that many residents are passionate about preserving that history. Bill Gandy, pioneer of the Allegheny City Historic Gallery, shares that passion.

The Allegheny City Historic Gallery in Historic Deutschtown opened its doors May 22 to the public for a wine and cheese preview party -a sneak preview of its future offerings– that also functioned as a fundraiser for the gallery.

Throughout the evening, guests munched on light hors d’oeuvres, sipped a variety of wines and danced to smooth jazz provided by the Lee Robinson Quartet.

“What we have here is a skeleton,” Gandy said, gesturing to the walls, soon to be filled with photographs and other artifacts. “But I kind of like the industrial look.”

Though the gallery is still in its early construction stages, with exposed beams and plastered walls, Gandy has high hopes for the space, saying, “We’ll have a gallery, a gift shop. …We may even sell coffee.”

In looking at the amount of people drifting in and out of the space, it’s easy to imagine it completed as a fully-functional gallery. Where large canvas prints of old photos hang, more and more will follow. Artifacts like Heinz bean pots and 19th century cigar boxes will no longer rest on a table, but will have shelves and cases devoted to them entirely.

The gallery project initially began on a whim when Gandy found some old photos online and shared them with a Facebook group called Northside Old Timers.

“People went crazy over the photo,” he said. “So I started searching for more photos and I started sharing them online. Once I started sharing, people started sending me other photos and their private collections so I could share those as well.”

That was when Gandy knew he wanted to do something more. With help from Councilwoman Darlene Harris and the Northside Leadership Conference, he and his family were able to find a building to house their project and funding to help it grow. In other terms of growth, the gallery hopes to benefit from the collection of Northsiders’ photos and artifacts.

One such contributor is Gail Knight-Kreuzer, a lifelong Northside resident.

“I was born here, raised here,” she said. “My dad used to call himself King of the Avenue. Almost every house had a family I knew in it.”

Knight-Kreuzer had already contributed several artifacts to the project that she found in her father’s garage. While reflecting on a lifetime spent in the community, she noted that the Northside “means family. Everybody always loves each other here.

Another contributor, Frank Lochner, was equally proud of the project, and for good reason. Most of the photographs hanging on the walls were out of his personal collection.

“I didn’t know what to do with them,” he said, “so I called someone and they pointed me to Bill.”

While he’s excited to share the snapshots with the community, what he’s hoping to see is something with more personal appeal.

“Honestly,” he said, “I want to see a picture of my father.”

Lochner’s father was a constable on the Northside, elected alongside the former Judge Weir in 1964.

“They had a prisoner from the state pen down here who was an artist and he painted a portrait of him,” he recalled. “I still have it.“

When asked about the importance of the gallery for the community, Gandy noted that he “wanted to show the community that we’re a multicultural community that’s been built up, since the beginning of Allegheny City.”

He added: “That’s what I want to portray here. I want to represent everyone’s schools, their neighborhoods, the streets and all the common areas that we have.”

No official opening date for the gallery has been set.

If you or anyone you know has old photos or artifacts that you would like to contribute to the Allegheny City Historic Gallery, send them to though the official website. Donations can also be made on the same page.