Like many professions, preservation has been doing some self-examination recently. How can we be even more inclusive, honoring more of the buildings and histories important to diverse communities. Our great friend Arthur Ziegler, who stepped down as president of the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation (PHLF) last Friday, was way ahead of us.
Arthur founded PHLF in 1964. He was admiring homes in a largely African American community on Pittsburgh’s North Side one day when he learned it was one of seven neighborhoods scheduled to be torn down for urban renewal. He was appalled.
“Urban renewal was absolutely soul-less,” Arthur said. It broke the emotional bonds people had to each other and to their community institutions. He fought back with a vision of urban revitalization that preserved buildings and neighborhoods. He has always worked with, and listened to, local people. Buying and restoring countless abandoned buildings. Creating affordable housing and homes for moderate income buyers. It was never “top down.” Arthur also helped revitalize downtown Pittsburgh. He stopped the City from tearing down more than 60 buildings. PHLF bought and restored many of them bringing in new retail and residents. Much of PHLF’s success came from developing Station Square, 42 acres of railroad buildings and land by the river. More than three million visitors a year have been going there to eat and shop. Arthur’s energy and vision have inspired preservationists around the country.
Now Michael Sriprasert, PHLF’s talented vice president, is taking over. Arthur is president emeritus. Pittsburgh will remain in good hands. Anyone wondering about preservation’s future should look at how PHLF has been doing it for more than 50 years.