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YPA Secures Black Opera Company House

More than 20 volunteers spent three hours cleaning up the abandoned house on Apple Street in Pittsburgh's Homewood neighborhood, better known as the first home of the National Negro Opera Company, on Saturday, November 29, 2008. YPA teamed up with RenewPittsburgh to board up and clean up the 7,000 square-foot Victorian.  The board-up/clean-up effort was an important step toward the restoration of the historic house. In addition to RenewPittsburgh, YPA is grateful to PA State Senator Jim Ferlo and Operation Better Block. Built in 1894, the house on Apple Street was first purchased by Pittsburgh numbers king Woogie Harris, in 1930.  Woogie Harris was the brother of famed photographer Teenie Harris.  The house served as the home of the first black opera company in the United States.  The NNOC was started by Homestead native Mary Cardwell Dawson in 1941.  The NNOC grew to include a number of chapters around the country.  First Lady Elanor Roosevelt and Marian Anderson were honorary board chairs.  Among the people who came through the house include Ahmad Jamal and Lena Horne.  The house also hosted a number of Steelers, including Roy Jefferson, John Nesby, and Marvin Woodson, as well as Roberto Clemente. YPA coordinated the replacement of a state historical marker in 2007 (the original one had been ripped down).  That same day, both the Mayor of Pittsburgh and City Council issued proclamations honoring the National Negro Opera Company.  The house became a City Historic Landmark in spring 2008 and is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. A condemnation notice was issued on November 7, 2008, which inspired YPA to take action to ameliorate the condition.  YPA has also established a separate fund for the house's restoration.  Donations can be directed to the YPA NNOC Fund and sent to our Homestead headquarters: Young Preservationists Association of Pittsburgh 110 East Eighth Avenue Homestead, PA  15120 Inquiries can be directed to youngpreservationist@gmail.com

Wheeling Through History A Great Success

YPA's Wheeling Through History, held on Saturday, September 20, 2008, was a great success for all who attended.  YPA's core tour, the North Side Tour, was supplemented with two new tours, South Side and Strip District-Lawrenceville.   Cyclists joined YPA, Venture Outdoors, and Rivers of Steel as they embarked on a journey through history on information-age bikes on a sunny, warm Saturday, from 9:00 a.m. to noon.  Visitors were afforded a contemporary view of Pittsburgh's most historic neighborhoods by neighborhood residents, such as the Neighbors in the Strip, Lawrenceville Historical Society, Rivers of Steel, Mexican War Streets Society, Pittsburgh Children's Museum, and the Manchester Historical Society.   Among the responses from tour participants was, "I had no idea!  There's so much history I didn't know about, and it was so fun to learn."  Another participant said, "I had SUCH a good time!  Thanks for putting it together!  Would love to bring some folks to take the Wheeling Through History tour... now that I know how absolutely cool it is!" YPA is grateful to Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield for sponsoring the tours.  Support also came from City Councilman Patrick Dowd, the Heinz History Center, Rivers of Steel, and the Urban Redevelopment Authority.  YPA thanks all those who volunteered their time to make the three tours a great success.

City Council Honors YPA

Dan Holland, John Burgess, and Councilman Patrick DowdSeptember 16, 2008.  Today, Pittsburgh City Council honored the Young Preservationists Association of Pittsburgh with a Proclamation supporting YPA's Youth Heritage Festival and Wheeling Through History Bike Tours to be held this fall. The Proclamation was sponsored by Councilman Patrick Dowd.  The Proclamation commends YPA for its "important work in shaping informed, responsible, and active future leaders." Accepting the Proclamation on behalf of YPA was YPA's CEO Dan Holland and intern John Burgess.  YPA is grateful to Councilman Dowd, as well as his staff, Elaine Zelmanov and Sean Capperis, who was a YPA intern in 2004 and served on the YPA Board.

YPA-Sponsored Students Visit Fallingwater

The generosity of Board and Advisory Committee members of the Young Preservationists Association of Pittsburgh enabled 9 college students to attend the world-famous house in Fayette County, Fallingwater, on Friday, September 5, 2008, free of charge.   The students represented the following schools:  California University of Pennsylvania, Geneva College, Robert Morris University, and the University of Pittsburgh. The Frank Lloyd Wright-designed masterpiece is a central attraction for rural southwestern Pennsylvania, but few young people get to experience it in this detail.   YPA held a Behind-the-Scenes Tour of Fallingwater during an enchanted late summer evening.  Guests shared wine, cheese, and good food, as well as a calm dusk tour of the popular house.  For this special occasion, photos were allowed inside the house.   YPA invited guest speaker, the Pittsburgh architect, Jerry Morosco, to provide a brief overview of his experience at Wright's Taliesin.  Morosco is the immediate past chairman of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation and an accomplished South Side-based preservation architect. Student Colleen Schmidt of California University of Pennsylvania had this to say about the experience: "Because of [YPA's] generosity, I was able to experience a truly unforgettable evening at Frank Lloyd Wright's famous Fallingwater location." YPA is grateful to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy for co-hosting the event. More photos here:  #mce_temp_url#

2008 Top Ten Report

YPA released its latest report, "Top Ten Best Preservation Opportunities in the Pittsburgh Area."  The report highlights historic properties in the Pittsburgh region that are good candidates for preservation and reuse.  The Top Ten report is released annually.  This is the sixth edition. Read the report here: 2008 Top Ten Report How the sites are selected YPA receives nominations from the public and then scores them according to five criteria: 1) is it 50 years old or older? 2) historic and architectural significance; 3) threats to the site; 4) community input; and 5) feasibility of the solution.  YPA places more emphasis on criteria 4 and 5.  YPA also adds bonus points for sites located outside of the City of Pittsburgh, located outside Allegheny County, and sites that are in low- and moderate-income or minority communities. YPA seeks nominations to its 2009 list.  Nominations are due on March 20, 2009.  Download a nomination form here: 2009 Top Ten Nomination Form

YPA Meets With National Secretary of the National Negro Opera Company

Barbara Edwards Lee with YPA admirersYPA CEO, Dan Holland, along with interns John Burgess, a Coro Fellow, and Dawn Webb Turner, today met with the former National Secretary of the National Negro Opera Company, Barbara Edwards Lee.  The NNOC, founded in 1941 by Mary Cardwell Dawson, was a nationally-renowned black opera company.  Their first headquarters was at 7101 Apple Street, in Pittsburgh's Lincoln-Lemington/Homewood neighborhood.   Ms. Lee was Dawson's niece and served as the National Secretary for the company, which traveled all over the United States.  "Madame" Mary Cardwell Dawson, as she was known, taught a number of nationally-famous musicians, including Ahmad Jamal and Robert McFerrin, Sr. (the father of Bobby McFerrin).  Her National Negro Opera Company was the first all-black opera company in the United States.  The company folded in 1962, upon the death of Ms. Dawson.   The house at 7101 Apple Street is now a protected City of Pittsburgh historic landmark, thanks to the efforts of the Young Preservationists Association.  YPA also re-dedicated a PHMC historical marker outside the house, which had been ripped down in early 2007.