This Art Deco school occupies a prime location right on the town square—or town quarter-circle—in Wilmerding. After Wilmerding joined other municipalities to send its children to East Allegheny High School, this became an elementary school; then it was abandoned and sold. Old Pa Pitt hopes the new owners understand that they possess one of western Pennsylvania’s better Art Deco buildings, one that deserves careful preservation.
Why should the beautiful die?
Westinghouse Memorial High School, Wilmerding
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I was informed recently by a coworker who is on a committee in Wilmerding that looks after the city’s many old, picturesque, and deserted buildings that this one had been sold in the last few months. It was purchased by an architect who is looking to renovate it. Whether for offices and studios for his firm or another purpose, I wasn’t entirely clear. Apparently, he’s holding out for some sort of special tax treatment before starting work.
Wilmerding, one of the many shots at an ideal mill town attempted by Pittsburgh’s industrialists, does have many amazing old buildings. Chief among them, of course, is the Westinghouse Castle.
It’s a pity, but this structure has become a bit of an albatross around the neck of local preservation groups. It’s so big and would cost so much to renovate, that it really can’t serve any profitable function other than as the headquarters of an international manufacturer of railroad braking equipment: a roll that it gave up in 1985. Many attempts to profitably utilize the space have come to naught.
There’s currently talk about turning it into a high-end hotel. Odd as this may seem, the area of Wilmerding around it is actually still quite pleasant and would become more so if a professional firm moved into the school. The town is also very convenient to downtown Pittsburgh via a route that avoids the dangers of the Tunnel Monster under Squirrel Hill.
You might have guessed that, if Father Pitt was standing on the green in Wilmerding, he would have pictures of the Castle, too. He does hope that something can be done with it. Frederick Osterling is one of his favorite Pittsburgh architects, and the building is externally in very good shape, in spite of the internal work it may need.
Unfortunately, your information of Westinghouse Memorial (as the high school is known) is inaccurate. It was not an architectural firm that was to purchase. Regardless, the deal has not been finalized and the fate of the school is still up in the air. As a Borough resident and one whose family has been here since almost the inception in 1890, I pray that something happens soon for both buildings, the school and the Castle (or the G.O. as it is known in the community – for General Offices). These buildings are far too cherished to lose to decay and vandalism.
That’s a pity. I really want to see the school occupied before it has deteriorated too far, as the Castle is in the process of doing. My wife’s grandfather worked there for many years and now works in the plant itself. What a tragedy that was. They went from several thousand workers at ‘The Airbrake’ in Wilmerding, to only upper management and a couple hundred on the floor. Labor disputes just killed the place. They’ve torn down several buildings and those that are left are only partially occupied.
WABTEC is bigger than ever, but its footprint is spread across the country and around the world. Not much of that money flows back to the shores of Turtle Creek.
[…] a kind commenter notes, this is a bit of a white elephant for the little borough: it needs restoration work, but its […]
I grew up in and around Wilmerding and graduated from Westinghouse Memorial High School. At one time this town was a shining example of how old mill towns can survive. This was when we witnessed the decline of once bustling centers of commerce like Braddock and McKeesport. It is sad to realize that Wilmerding now is experiencing the same blight.
I often daydream about how Wilmerding could become a revitalized education center. For example a branch of a college or a specialty education center for the arts or advanced manufacturing. Structures such as the old high school, the Westinghouse “castle” and several apartment buildings could provide the starting infrastructure for this endeavor. However, when I awake from this dream I realize that the costs just to rehabilitate these old buildings are massive.
I will be sending information to the National Trust for Historic Preservation. They often publish pictures and stories on “endangered” buildings. These buildings are a testament to the vision and accomplishments of George Westinghouse. In my mind he is a far greater figure than Carnegie or Frick. George Westinghouse was a generous man during his lifetime contributing equally to his businesses, its employees and community.
A sales agreement is in place for the school as details are being finialized. God willing, he may breath life back into that school.
In case anyone is interested, the new Netflix series I Am Not Okay With This features this building in episode 5 of its first season.
Most of the episode (which seems to be a Breakfast Club tribute) takes place inside a school building as well, but it’s not entirely clear whether the indoor footage was also shot in the Westinghouse building.
In any case a very nice facade indeed; certainly worth preserving if you ask me!