1 Dome Saved,
1 Dome to be Demolished
Friday, September 17, 2010 11:40 PM
From: "Glenn A. Walsh"
Committee, Friends of the Zeiss
From: Glenn A. Walsh
This-past week, the Board of Directors of the Sports and Exhibition
Authority (SEA) voted, unanimously with no discussion, to demolish
the historic Civic Arena, which features the largest retractable,
stainless steel dome roof in the world! Rob Pfaffmann's Reuse the
Igloo has vowed a court fight to save the Civic Arena, which I would
However, his fight will be quite difficult,
particularly with both the Mayor and the County Executive (running
for Governor) supporting demolition. It seems that the reported cost
of $500,000 a year for maintaining a moth-balled Civic Arena scared
the politicians and SEA Board members, particularly during this
recession with Tea Party activists becoming more prominent.
probably should be thankful that Buhl Planetarium was so small (Buhl
Planetarium: 40,000 square-feet; Civic Arena: 170,000 square-feet),
and The Carnegie Science Center abandoned the building at a time when
the city's finances were not as strained, as they are today.
my knowledge, there were only two times the Buhl Planetarium building
was at risk for demolition. Greg Madden reported that The Carnegie
was looking for a company to demolish the building, soon after they
abandoned it. Of course, this still would have had to be approved by
In the Spring of 1994, I contacted the office of
Dan Onorato (who then represented the North Side on City Council),
regarding my concern about the abandoned Buhl Planetarium building.
My timing was excellent. It turned-out that a meeting was planned in
June, in the Mayor's Office, regarding the future of the Buhl
Planetarium building. I received an invitation to that meeting.
meeting consisted of representatives from about a dozen-or-so
non-profit organizations and economic
development agencies both from the North Side and the city
in-general, and of course, Dan Onorato. The newly-formed Regional
Asset District was represented by Board member Gerald Voros. The
Carnegie was represented by President Ellsworth Brown and his new
aide, Lorene Vinski (who had previously been Co-Director of Visitor
Services and Volunteers at Buhl Planetarium, and one of my Buhl
The meeting was chaired by Mayor Tom Murphy's
Executive Assistant, Tom Cox, who also served as Chairman of the
Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) Board. When the meeting began,
after everyone went around introducing themselves, the very first
question Tom Cox asked was: Should we consider demolishing the
Well, I was horrified with the question, but
hesitated a moment to see if anyone else would give an opinion on the
question. After silence for a moment, I immediately blurted-out
"HEAVENS NO !!!"
No one made any comments in
opposition to my exclamation. The meeting proceeded with the
understanding that the building would not be demolished. To my
knowledge, that was the last time demolition of Buhl Planetarium was
considered. So, my "HEAVENS NO !!!" may-well have saved
As the meeting proceeded, several ideas for
reuse of Buhl Planetarium were talked-about. But there was no serious
consideration of any particular reuse plan, primarily because there
was no money for any particular plan. At the end of the meeting, a
special committee (which, of course, I volunteered for) was set-up
for future meetings to decide how to reuse Buhl Planetarium. This
committee never met.
When a historic building, such as the
Civic Arena, is to be replaced, the new replacement project should
include an economically-viable reuse of the historic building.
Unfortunately, even if such a provision was included in a historic
preservation ordinance, the Murphy Administration successfully
stopped the historic designation of the Civic Arena several years
However, in the mid-1980s, Mayor Richard S. Caliguiri was
concerned about what would happen to the Buhl Planetarium building,
once the new Science Center opened. Consequently, there was, what
could be termed, a "gentleman's agreement" between the city
and The Carnegie that The Carnegie would continue operating the Buhl
Planetarium building once the new Science Center opened.
the new Science Center building was designed without classroom space.
Science and computer classes, as well as professional
development programs for teachers, were part of the
newly-rechristened "Carnegie Science Center, Allegheny Square
Tragically, Mayor Caliguiri came to be the first
of three major Pennsylvania
public officials to die of amyloidosis, a rare and serious protein
disorder. He died in office on 1988 May 6. The other two politicians
to die of this affliction, around the same time, were long-time Erie
Mayor Louis Tulallio and Pennsylvania Governor Robert P. Casey.
remember meeting Mayor Caliguiri after he attended a meeting of the
Buhl Board of Directors, which had been held in the Wherrett Memorial
Classroom. Although I offered to let him hold one of the baby chicks
from the BioCorner exhibit, he would only agree to pet the
Since The Carnegie Science Center was designed without
classroom space, the Buhl Planetarium building became tne Allegheny
Square Annex tutorial center as planned, in September of 1991.
However, with the death of Mayor Caliguiri, the "gentleman's
agreement" between the city and The Carnegie was soon
conveniently forgotten. And, The Carnegie completely abandoned the
Buhl Planetarium building in February of 1994.
A. Walsh, Project Director,
Friends of the Zeiss <
Electronic Mail - < email@example.com
SPACE & SCIENCE
NEWS, ASTRONOMICAL CALENDAR:
Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
* Adler Planetarium, Chicago:
* Astronomer, Educator, Optician John A. Brashear:
* Andrew Carnegie
& Carnegie Libraries:
* Duquesne Incline
cable-car railway, Pittsburgh:
* Public Transit: