Last updated: March 4, 2014
Events are held on the second Tuesday of each month,
FREE at 7:30 p.m.,
The Church of the Redeemer,
located at 5700 Forbes Avenue
If you have any suggestions or ideas for speakers or topics to put on our agenda, please email us at email@example.com.
March 11, 2014(Tuesday)
"The History of Tree of Life* Or L'Simcha Congregation"
Speaker: DAVID DINKIN
Information from Heinz History Center:
In 1864, Pittsburgh’s earliest Jewish congregation, Rodef Shalom, formally adopted the reformed American minhag (custom) for its religious services. That same year, several members of the congregation, who were opposed to the reformed services left Rodef Shalom and formed the Etz Hayyim (Tree of Life) Congregation. Chartered in 1865, the small, Orthodox congregation met for several years in temporary spaces, including the home of Gustavus Grafner, the congregation’s first president. A small piece of land in Sharpsburg, Pa., to be used as a cemetery, was acquired by the congregation during its first year. In 1882, the congregation purchased a former Lutheran Church on Fourth and Ross Streets, in Pittsburgh’s downtown, for use as a synagogue. The congregation began to use the English name, Tree of Life.
In 1886, the Tree of Life Congregation joined the Jewish Theological Seminary Association, aligning itself with the Conservative Jewish movement. In 1906, the growing congregation laid the cornerstone for a new, larger synagogue on Craft Avenue in Pittsburgh’s Oakland neighborhood. The new synagogue opened in 1907 with seating for 750.
Members of the Tree of Life Congregation were active volunteers and supported many Jewish social service efforts. Alexander Fink (1818-1892), president of Tree of Life from 1873 to 1892, founded the Hebrew Benevolent Society and later served as president of the United Hebrew Relief Association. The Tree of Life Sisterhood, founded in 1906, began an volunteer sewing group, donating linens and clothing to local organizations including Montefiore Hospital, where the sewing group was headquartered in later years. Beginning in 1910, the synagogue hosted the meetings and activities of the Young Men’s Hebrew Association, until the group moved to a rented space in the Dispatch Building, downtown, in 1912.
At the end of World War II, Pittsburgh’s Jewish community was largely centered in the city’s East End neighborhoods. The congregation began construction for a new synagogue on the corner of Shady and Wilkins Avenues in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood where many of its members were now living. In 1946, Charles J. Rosenbloom, president of Tree of Life, donated the land for the synagogue and supplied the cornerstone, made of limestone from Palestine, for the new building. The congregation’s former synagogue on Craft Avenue was purchased by the Pittsburgh Playhouse theater company and renovated into a live theater auditorium, which continues today as the performing arts center of Point Park University.
In more recent years, membership to the Tree of Life Congregation has declined due to aging members and growing Jewish suburban communities. Or L’Simcha, a small Conservative congregation, organized about 2007 by a group of people who had previously belonged to Beth Shalom Congregation, began holding religious services in a room in the synagogue. The two congregations merged in 2010 and are now known as the Tree of Life-Or L’Simcha Congregation. The congregation continues to rent unused space in the large synagogue. Currently, Dor Hadash Congregation, a Reconstructionist congregation, holds its religious services and activities there.
April 8, 2014(Tuesday)
History of the Nationality Rooms of the University of Pittsburgh
Speaker: MICHAEL WALTER,
Nationality Rooms Tour Coordinator
From the Website: Nationality Rooms
The rooms were designed to represent the culture of various ethnic groups that settled in Allegheny County and are supported by these cultural groups and governments..... A steady stream of people -- often families of three generations -- come to see the world-famous rooms, which evoke pride in their own heritage and warm appreciation of other cultures.
The Nationality Rooms are a collection of 29 classrooms in the University of Pittsburgh's Cathedral of Learning depicting and donated by the ethnic groups that helped build the city of Pittsburgh. The rooms are designated as a Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation historical landmark and are located on the 1st and 3rd floors of the Cathedral of Learning, itself a national historic landmark, on the University of Pittsburgh's main campus in the Oakland neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Although of museum caliber, twenty-seven of the 29 rooms are in almost constant use as functional classrooms and utilized daily by University of Pittsburgh faculty and students, while the other two (the Early American and Syrian-Lebanon) are display rooms which can be explored only via guided tour.
The Nationality Rooms also serve in a vigorous program of intercultural involvement and exchange in which the original organizing committees for the individual rooms remain as participants and includes a program of annual student scholarship to facilitate study abroad. In addition, the Nationality Rooms inspire lectures, seminars, concerts exhibitions, and social events which focus on the various heritages and traditions of the nations represented.
May 13, 2014(Tuesday)
"History of Randall's Toyes and Giftes"
Speaker: JACK COHEN, owner of Randall's Toyes and Giftes
S.W. Randall Toyes and Giftes is Pittsburgh's largest specialty toy and gift store. They are a family run chain and are currently celebrating their 43rd year in business. Their headquarters is located in the heart of downtown Pittsburgh.
Jack Cohen says he opened the store in Squirrel Hill 25 years ago and it has remained at this same location. With three Pittsburgh locations and an online store, you are sure to find the perfect toy for any age at SW Randall. KDKA staffers say SW Randall is “what an old-fashioned toy store should be.”
The stores website says they are Pittsburgh’s largest specialty toy and gift store with over 20,000 items in stock. From dinosaurs to dolls, there seems to be something for everyone. “You’ll find a UNIQUE selection of toys – things you’d never find anywhere else,” said another staff member. SW Randall also says they chose their products for their safety, quality, and play value, so items purchased here are sure to bring years of enjoyment.
June 7, 2014 (Saturday)
"Walking Tour: HOMEWOOD CEMETERY"
Date: Saturday, June 7, 2014
Time: 10:00 am to Noon
Offices inside Homewood Cemetery Gates at 1599 South Dallas Ave.
(cross streets: Aylesboro Ave. and Dalzell Pl.)
Cost: $ 3 for members
$5 for non-members
(maximum group 25 people)
Tour requires significant walking on and off road and is NOT handicap accessible.
Reservation form -- print and mail in with your check.
Note; This is a pdf file --
open with Acrobat Reader
Homewood cemetery website:
"Almost 135 years ago, part of the same virgin forest that is now Frick Park was purchased for an equally special purpose: as The Homewood Cemetery..... The Cemetery Association purchased 178 acres of land with the intent of implementing a Lawn Park style Cemetery. At the time of the Cemetery's foundation, the East End was already home to some of Pittsburgh's most wealthy and influential families--as well as the many people who worked for these families. .... The Homewood Cemetery is currently undertaking a major restoration effort to maintain the Lawn Park intention of the cemetery's design."
June 10, 2014(Tuesday)
"The Civil War in Pennsylvania: Stories Through Photographs"
Speaker: MICHAEL KRAUS,
Curator of Collections at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum
Michael Kraus, Curator of Collections at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum and author of "The Civil War in Pennsylvania:A Photographic History", will present a moving portrayal of the personal side of the Civil War by telling the stories of the soldiers’ experiences through photographs taken during the conflict.
Info on Michael G. Kraus from:"National Civil War Museum" website
Michael Kraus’s interest with history began when he was ten with the discovery of a 3000 year old Native-American stone ax which he found in the dirt while playing behind his parent’s home in Western Pennsylvania. From that moment the question of who was here before us and what happened to them awakened Michael to a lifelong affinity for historical artifacts and the background stories they hold.
Kraus’s interest expanded over the years to focus on military history particularly the American Civil War. In a recent Pittsburgh newspaper interview, a reporter referred to him as the “go to” person for all things Civil War as Michael is recognized in the field not only as an authority on historical artifacts, but also as a long time re-enactor, who attended his first re-enactment event in 1966. He continues to enjoy re-enacting holding the rank of captain of the 116th Pa. Volunteer Infantry, Company “I” Irish Brigade. Capitalizing on is living history expertise Kraus was tapped by several film companies as an on location historical consultant. Michael has worked on, and appeared in, “Gettysburg” in 1993 and “Cold Mountain” in 2003. Other media credits include being the co-writer of a nationally distributed documentary DVD series titled: “Civil War Minutes” (recently broadcast on PBS) and as military antiques appraiser for “Pittsburgh’s Hidden Treasures” an antique road show type program on KDKA Television.
Michael Kraus graduated from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania with a degree in Fine Art and in 2009 was recognized by the university as a distinguished alumnus. For nearly 20 years Michael has worked as a sculptor combining artistic talent with a passion for history. Kraus has been commissioned to create at least six large public bronze monuments with historical themes.
Currently, Mr. Kraus is the Curator of Collections at Soldiers and Sailors Memorial and Museum in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Info on Soldiers and Sailors National Military Museum and Memorial from "National Military Museum" website
Soldiers and Sailors National Military Museum and Memorial is a National Register of Historic Places landmark in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It is the largest memorial in the United States dedicated solely to honoring all branches of military veterans and service personnel. It was conceived by the Grand Army of the Republic in the 1890s as a way for Pittsburgh and Allegheny County to honor the dwindling ranks of its American Civil War veterans. The Memorial today represents all branches of the service and honors both career and citizen soldiers who have served the United States throughout its history.
Architect Henry Hornbostel designed the memorial in 1907. Dedicated in 1910, the building is in the Beaux-Arts style and is heroic in scale. It is located in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh and adjacent to the University of Pittsburgh campus and its Cathedral of Learning.
The Memorial houses rare and one-of-a-kind exhibits that span the eras from the Civil War to the present day conflicts. Since 1963, it has operated the “Hall of Valor” to honor individual veterans from the region who went above and beyond the call of duty. Today the hall has over 600 honorees, and among them are the Medal of Honor, The Kearny Cross, Distinguished Service Cross, Navy Cross, Air Force Cross, Silver Star and Distinguished Flying Cross winners.
For more information, visit website Soldiers & Sailors Memorial
July 8, 2014(Tuesday)
"Retail in Pittsburgh""
Speaker: DAVID GRINNELL,
Chief Archivist, Heinz History Center
David Grinnell last spoke to the Sq.Hill Historical Society in October 2011 on "The Thaws of Pittsburgh" This meeting he will provide us with the look at the long history of retail in Pittsburgh.
No Meeting -- Have a great summer month !!
September 9, 2014 (Tuesday)
"Some Observations on 20th Century Architecture in Pittsburgh"
Speaker: AL TANNLER,
Pgh. History & Landmarks, Historical Collections Director
Mr. Tannler will explore interesting discoveries made about Pittsburgh's buildings, architects, craftsman, and clients, as well as some historical, economic, and environmental factors that influenced and shaped building and design in the twentieth century.
Albert M. Tannler, historical collections director, joined PHLF on January 2, 1991. He researches and writes architectural history and oversees the James D. Van Trump Library and the Frank B. Fairbanks Rail Transportation Archive. Prior to joining PHLF, Al worked as an archivist and editor in Chicago. He began researching and writing about architecture in the Department of Special Collections at the University of Chicago Library.
October 14, 2014 (Tuesday)
"August Wilson, A Pittsburgh Life"
Speaker: CHRIS RAWSON,
Senior Theater Critic, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
August Wilson was a prolific playwright who eloquently chronicled African American life. A Pittsburgh native, his most celebrated achievement is a 10-play cycle often referred to as the Pittsburgh Cycle, where each play is set in a different decade of the 20th century. All but one of the plays is set in Pittsburgh's Hill District neighborhood, where Wilson was raised. Each play depicts the love, lives, comedies, triumphs and tragedies of the African American experience.
Wilson was the first African American to have two plays running simultaneously on Broadway and is one of seven American playwrights to win two Pulitzer Prizes.
Book: "August Wilson: Pittsburgh Places in His Life and Plays" by Laurence A. Glaswco and Christopher Rawson
A guide to historic sites and places that figure in the life and plays of August Wilson. Most of these are set in the Hill District, where Wilson was born and grew up. The book includes photographs of the sites as well as fold-out maps for self-conducted walking tours.
About Chris Rawson:
Rawson's main discipline is as a theater critic. From 1983 to 2009, he was full-time theater critic and theater editor at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, covering theater not just in Pittsburgh but also as much as possible in New York, London and the Canadian theater festivals. In 1984, he started the annual Post-Gazette Performer of the Year Award, now (2013) in its 30th year. In 2009, he semi-retired, continuing as that paper's part-time senior theater critic. He also appears as the weekly critic for KDKA-TV.
November 11, 2014 (Tuesday)
Originally scheduled for Jan. 2014, but had to cancel
"Squirrel Hill's Mansions"
Speaker: MELANIE LINN GUTOWSKI
Writer, Researcher, Historian
Melanie Linn Gutowski is a writer, researcher and historian originally from Stanton Heights. Her history writing has appeared in Pittsburgh Quarterly magazine and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, among other local and national publications. She holds a bachelor's degree in history of art and architecture from the University of Pittsburgh and a master's in Professional Writing from Chatham University. Melanie currently works as a docent at Clayton, the Henry Clay Frick estate in Point Breeze.
from Arcadia Publishing -- book by Melanie Gutowski
In the 19th century, the positioning of Pittsburgh as a major manufacturing center and the subsequent rise of the areas steel industry created a wave of prosperity that prompted the beneficiaries of that wealth to construct extravagant residences. Wealthy enclaves sprang up in the citys East End, across the river in neighboring Allegheny City, and into the countryside. Pittsburghs Mansions explores the stately homes of the areas prominent residents from the 1830s through the 1920s. Businessmen such as H.J. Heinz, Henry Clay Frick, and members of the Mellon family commissioned elaborate homes from the preeminent architects of their day. Firms such as Alden & Harlow, Janssen & Abbott, and Rutan & Russell left their marks on the citys landscape, often contributing iconic public buildings as well as expansive private homes. Though many of the residences have since been lost, Pittsburgh's Mansions offers a look back at the peak of the citys prominence.
Also, see post-gazette article August 24, 2013 "Pittsburgh's Mansion details grand
homes of the past and present"
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