Posted: October 26, 2023 4:24 pm
The Young Preservationists Association (YPA) of Pittsburgh has recognized Richard Burkert, former president and CEO of JAHA, with its Preservationist of the Year Award!
“Richard Burkert recently stepped down as President and CEO of the Johnstown Area Heritage Association after 44 years of incredible successes saving the historic assets of the Johnstown area, including the Johnstown Flood Museum, that will be enjoyed by many for generations for years to come. YPA is proud to announce that Richard is this year’s Preservationist of the Year,” the YPA’s statement reads.
In addition, the Johnstown Train Station was named #1 in the YPA’s Top Ten Preservation Opportunities for 2023. The entire list, as well as YPA’s justification for each, is as follows:
“1. Johnstown Train Station: The Johnstown Train Station has served as a gateway to the city since it opened in 1916. It is a key element of Heritage Tourism for the City, but has fallen into disrepair in the last few decades. Currently, a Johnstown stop is part of The Pennsylvanian Route connecting Pittsburgh and New York City. With the recent signing of a Norfolk Southern & PennDOT agreement, a second train will be running this route in 2026. The station was donated to Johnstown Area Heritage Association (JAHA) in December 2010, with the intention that it would become a visitors center for Johnstown. Since the early 1990s, JAHA has played a role in rescuing, maintainingand restoring this long-neglected building.
2. GC Murphy Building, Latrobe: Due to a generous grant by the Katherine Mabis McKenna Foundation, Latrobe Community Revitalization Program (LRCP) has recently purchased the 27,000 sq. ft., three story 810 Ligonier Street building. Known by some as the historic “G.C. Murphy” it is also known more recently by many as the former Dollar General store. The building is in need of significant rehabilitation. With the help of many local talented masons, carpenters, electricians, roofers, preservationists, architects, and contractors, LCRP is positioning this building to bring much more needed night life to Downtown Latrobe.
3. St. Raphael School, Morningside: St. Raphael School could be a poster child of how important story telling is for historic preservation; sometimes you have to learn more about a building before you want to save it. The school, built in 1914, is handsome enough but when you learn that movie star Gene Kelly learned to sing and dance there when he was a student and that the school was used during the Spanish Flu for patients from 1918 to 1920, then its historic significance magnifies.
4. Roebling’s Workshop, Saxonburg: Not only was John Roebling one of the founders of Saxonburg, he was also the genius who designed and built the Brooklyn Bridge. Saving his workshop for others to explore his contributions and legacy is essential.
5. Warden’s Residence, Northside: There are a lot of questions about what to do with the old Western Pennsylvania Penitentiary, but preservationists are certain that the Warden’s Residence definitely deserves to be saved for future use. It’s an impressive building and needs some love and attention.
6. McKeesport Roundhouse: Part of the old National Tube in McKeesport, the Roundhouse was recently sold to developers who have big plans for the site. YPA is working with the City of McKeesport and the Redevelopment Authority on two projects: the Penn McKee Hotel and an Assessment Planning Grant; we’re confident that the Roundhouse can be an active part of “McKeesport Rising.”
7. Greater Pittsburgh Coliseum, Homewood: Part of the old National Tube in McKeesport, the Roundhouse was recently sold to developers who have big plans for the site. YPA is working with the City of McKeesport and the Redevelopment Authority on two projects: the Penn McKee Hotel and an Assessment Planning Grant; we’re confident that the Roundhouse can be an active part of “McKeesport Rising.”
8. Union Station, Brownsville: Keen followers of YPA’s Top Ten will notice that the Union Station building in Brownsville has made our list for a few years now, and that’s because we’re serious! As the entrance way into the beautiful downtown district this neglected and blighted building misleads visitors into what they can expect when they enter. The first impression is not a good one. So much good work has lifted Brownsville into becoming a very charming place to visit, live, work, and play. This is an important piece to finish the picture. YPA throws our full support behind all of those trying to make this good work happen. Let’s get it done.
9. Historic Churches: Saving sacred spaces has been part of our core work from the beginning. These
important elements of our built environment anchor our towns and neighborhoods throughout the region and the country. They are the place where we gather for the important transitions in our lives and where we come to worship, celebrate, mourn, and gather. Finding a meaningful purpose for these sites that were built to be of service to their communities will take creativity and hard work so that they may
continue to be of service in a myriad of different ways.
10. Urban Baseball Fields: “These aren’t buildings,” you may protest. No, but they are part of the built environment. And consider this: in last year’s World Series (2022) there was not one African-American player on either team. Not one. There were Latin ballplayers, but no Black Americans. Let’s fix up the fields and let the kids play.”
This year’s list was released publicly for the first time in partnership with AIA Pittsburgh at their Design Pittsburgh event on October 12, 2023 as part of Architecture Week.
The Young Preservationists Association represents and promotes younger voices in historic preservation to combat community deterioration in Southwestern Pennsylvania and other economically distressed areas of Pennsylvania. The organization focuses on advocacy, consulting, and education to fulfill its mission of renewing the past to serve the future. For more about the YPA, visit www.youngpreservationists.org.