Archives for November 2019

Dewey Road Bridge

Preservation Watch List

0.5 Miles South of Wheelertown Road

The Dewey Road Bridge over French Creek was built by the Wrought Iron Bridge Company in 1889. It has a 3-ton load limit and is 13’-0” wide and has 9’-0” of vertical clearance, which allows for one lane of two-directional traffic over French Creek. The bridge is owned by LeBoeuf Township and was closed to traffic in July 2013.

The Wrought Iron Bridge Company of Canton, OH was one of the most prolific bridge companies in the U.S. prior to 1900 when it merged with the American Bridge Company. The company specialized in the fabrication of metal truss bridges like this one.

An evaluation of the Dewey Road Bridge conducted in June 2016 by Gannett Fleming and TranSystems on behalf of PennDOT concluded that the bridge is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

This is a unique, one-of-a-kind bridge with many distinct features. Significant features of the bridge include the truss form, method of connection, top and bottom chords, vertical and diagonal members, portal bracing, and upper lateral struts. The bridge also features a plague that reads “1889, Wrought Iron Bridge Co. Builders, Canton Ohio,” which is the original bridge plague.

The bridge was closed due to structural deficiencies.

Options for rehabilitation include dismantling the entire bridge and storing it for future use, relocating and rehabilitating the bridge for vehicles and pedestrians at another location, or maintaining the bridge at its current location and improving the structure to make it accessible to and safe for public use.

Without action, the bridge will continue to deteriorate.

Higby Building

Preservation Watch List

23-25 S. Main Street, Union City

Photograph captured from Google Maps.

The Higby Building, which was built in 1889, is located within Union City Borough’s commercial corridor and the National Register listed Union City Historic District. On May 28, 2013 a tornado developed near Edinboro, PA and traveled 18 miles to Union City, PA with wind speeds of 100-105 mph per the National Weather Service. The two story brick veneer structure at 23 S. Main Street was significantly damaged by the storm: most of the brick and sheathing was pulled off the second story of the front façade and the roof was significantly damaged. The building was repaired by putting on a temporary roof, and framing a new wall with vinyl siding over a portion of the second floor. In the ensuing years, the roof has leaked significantly, and the interior framing has deteriorated.

In 2018, and in conjunction with Union City Downtown Development, Union City Pride sought proposals from individuals or entities willing to accept free-of-charge and redevelop the Higby Building. Even though proposals were received, no viable option for the property was identified. As a result, the property remains vacant and continues to incur damage from the elements.

A report prepared by consulting firm City Studio in 2020 states that, “While the building is not a danger to life and property at this time, it is not fit for occupancy and should remain secured against entry. Because of the historic value of the block, it may be desirable to preserve the building without investing what it would take to make the building ready for occupancy. It seems likely that it would be possible to address issues with the center bearing wall, shore up the roof, and not address the issues in the first and second floor framing but stabilize the building. All exterior wall issues could be addressed from the exterior without affecting the interior floors. This way the building and its historic value would be preserved, and the costs of interior fit out could be deferred until such a time that there is a buyer or tenant. Regardless of the chosen course of action, partial interior demolition of finishes to expose framing would be a necessary first step. From there, an appropriate scope of repair and stabilization could be developed.”

Shannon House

Preservation Watch List

203 W. 6th Street, Erie

The Shannon House, which is currently owned by Gannon University, has been vacant for more than three years. The home was built in the 1840’s and remodeled in the 1880’s, giving it its Queen Anne style. It is located within the National Register listed W. 6th Street Historic District.

The current condition of the building has been brought on by years of deferred maintenance that goes beyond the period of time the building has been vacant.

The Shannon House is being threatened by development pressures as Gannon University looks to expand.

Roosevelt School

Preservation Watch List

2300 Cranberry Street, Erie

Roosevelt Middle School, built in 1922 and named in honor of President Theodore Roosevelt, is owned by Erie’s Public Schools. The district closed the school in 2007 because of on-going maintenance and safety concerns. It is a large property, consisting of a 99,000 sq. ft. building on 8.5 acres of land. The school is adjacent to historic Ainsworth Field, a district owned baseball field that twice hosted baseball legend Babe Ruth.

School buildings generally need major renovations every 20 to 30 years. Roosevelt was last renovated in 1975.

With the cooperation of the Erie School District and district architect Bob Marz, a design charrette was conducted on May 30, 2008, by Preservation Pennsylvania, the Commonwealth’s only statewide private, non-profit historic preservation organization. Preservation Erie helped make the arrangements and participated in the charrette.

Experienced architects from Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, and Erie toured Roosevelt Middle School, reviewed the school’s architectural plans, and studied educational specifications by the school district, which envisioned using Roosevelt as a K-8 elementary/middle school for 700 students. At that time, all three architects believed the school was an excellent candidate for continued service as a school and recommended repairs, such as new windows, doors, electrical, plumbing, and mechanical systems, and restoration of the building envelope including a new roof.

In 2017, Erie’s Public Schools received approval from the School Board to market its vacant buildings. Of the six buildings available for sale, Roosevelt was the only candidate for demolition if a buyer could not be found.

Update (May 2020): Erie’s Public Schools announced earlier in the month that demolition of Roosevelt School will begin in June/July 2020 with the removal of asbestos. The district has also confirmed that the tile panels depicting the life of Teddy Roosevelt around the fountains and other significant architectural features and artwork from Roosevelt were removed from the building in 2015 and are in storage at one of the district’s storage facilities.