Please help save McKeesport’s historic 1908 roundhouse!

Courtesy of Jenni Dangel, WIP Arts

Courtesy of Jenni Dangel, WIP Arts

UPDATES: Please join the “Save the McKeesport Roundhouse” open Facebook group here! Please sign our Change.org petition asking Mayor Mike Cherepko to help stop the demolition by clicking here!

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News broke last Saturday that the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County intends to demolish a historic building located near the Fifteenth Avenue Bridge in McKeesport, PA – a century-old roundhouse that was originally part of the Municipal Water Softening and Filtration Plant. The demolition was originally scheduled for June 10 – only days after the news was announced.  So far, the building has been spared, but for how long? We are trying to spread the word about this and encourage people in the community to help us convince the MAWC to save this landmark.

The roundhouse has been an important and iconic structure in McKeesport for more than 100 years. As the first facility in the region to provide safe drinking water, the Municipal Water Softening and Filtration Plant significantly impacted the health and welfare of local residents. The building has been designated a local historic landmark by Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation and Matt Bauman, a Liberty Borough native and a teacher in the McKeesport Area School District, has been hoping to nominate the 1908 building to the National Register of Historic Places.

 Yet, the MAWC wants to tear the roundhouse down to build a storage shed!  A cheap, run-of-the-mill storage shed with no intrinsic historic value, no aesthetic worth whatsoever.  I understand it costs money to restore the building to useable condition. But it’s also going to cost money to build the storage shed, which definitely won’t last as long as the current 106-year-old building.  As a municipal water authority this historic water softening plant is the MAWC’s HISTORY.  And they want to destroy a landmark rather than learn from it. Shameful.

I am a local writer and historian who grew up in McKeesport and White Oak.  I am a proud graduate of the McKeesport Area School District.  My family grew up, lived and worked in McKeesport and look back on its prosperous years fondly. It saddens me that the MAWC is going to destroy another piece of this city’s history instead of helping in one way to revitalize it. The city can rally and this is a way to help it do so.

I’m not alone. Many people in the McKeesport community and beyond are trying to save this important structure from oblivion.  Jenni Dangel, of WIP Arts, has been valiantly rallying the troops via social media (Thank you Jenni, for some great thoughts).  Jason Togyer wrote two powerful editorials this week in Tube City Almanac that I think beautifully sum up why we should not only care about saving the roundhouse but also why it’s important to preserve our local history overall. I encourage you to read them by clicking here and here.  You can read more about the history of the roundhouse here.

I implore the MAWC to stop the demolition plans. I implore them to work with local historical organizations and community members to come up with a feasible way to reuse this wonderful landmark.  If you feel the same way, please contact the MAWC immediately at 800-442-6829 or mawc@mawc.org to tell them not to demolish the 1908 roundhouse.