Preservation Magazine, Fall 2017

Pittsburgh Athletic Association Faces an Uncertain Future

Exterior of Pittsburgh Athletic Association building

photo by: Wally Gobetz/Flickr

In each Transitions section of Preservation magazine, we highlight places of local and national importance that have recently been restored, are currently threatened, have been saved from demolition or neglect, or have been lost. Here's one from Fall 2017.

When celebrated Pittsburgh architect Benno Janssen designed a building to house the nascent Pittsburgh Athletic Association (PAA), he used a Venetian palace as a prototype. The structure was completed in 1911, and has been home to the athletic and social club ever since. As Matthew Falcone of Preservation Pittsburgh explains, the PAA’s construction in the city’s Oakland neighborhood was in line with the larger City Beautiful movement popular with America’s architects and urban planners at the time.

In more recent years, however, the PAA has faced mounting debt due to declining membership. In April of 2017, the organization managed to avoid a sheriff’s sale of its furniture, paintings, liquor license, and kitchen appliances by paying $55,000 toward money it owed for the county’s 7 percent drink and hotel occupancy taxes. In the same month, the city shut off the building’s water supply because of unpaid bills. Although it is offered some protections by virtue of its location in a larger local historic district, Preservation Pittsburgh is concerned about the building’s continued upkeep and maintenance in the face of the PAA’s financial difficulties. As of press time, the athletic club was working with outside partners to try and find a way to remain within a smaller footprint in the building.

Katherine Flynn is a former assistant editor at Preservation magazine. She enjoys coffee, record stores, and uncovering the stories behind historic places.


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