Pennsylvania Historic Preservation

Blog of the Pennsylvania State Historic Preservation Office



November 30, 2022
by smassey
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Learning about Historic Tax Credits with Homestead’s Bishop Boyle High

The Bishop Boyle High School is another preservation success story for Homestead, a small Pennsylvania borough on the south side of the Monongahela River between Pittsburgh and Braddock.

Following the Homestead Masonic Hall a few years ago, Bishop Boyle High School in the Homestead Historic District has also been rehabilitated into housing with the help of the Pennsylvania Historic Preservation Tax Credit and federal Historic Tax Credit programs.

Brief History

The Bishop Boyle High School, at 120 E. 9th Avenue in Homestead, Allegheny County, was built in 1929, as a new school building for the borough’s Catholic community. Like many school buildings of this era, it is designed in the Gothic Revival style and features a central entrance flanked by bays of large windows to provide amply natural light and fresh air to classrooms and other interior spaces.  

Bishop John J. Wright established the school when the St. Mary Magdalene grade school grew into the Bishop Boyle High School on April 14, 1962, becoming the parish’s first secondary school. One hundred fifty-five ninth graders entered the doors for their first day of school in September of 1962. Within the next two years, the school enrollment grew rapidly with 224 students in 1963 and 534 students in 1964.

Mid-20th century photograph of the Bishop Boyle High School.

The parishes represented in the Bishop Boyle student body were St. Agnes, St. Anne, St. Anthony, St. Mary Magdalene, St. Michael, SS. Peter and Paul, Holy Angels, St. Francis, St. Margaret, St. Rita, Resurrection, and St. Teresa. Initially this transfer of education services was difficult for the new high school due to the lack of educational facilities to fulfill the school’s mission “to develop our minds to carry souls”. Due to this growing necessity, the Bishop Boyle High School was later renovated to include physics, chemistry, and biology labs, library, cafeteria, and new finishes, lighting, and heating systems.

Pre-Rehabilitation

The Bishop Boyle School was very active even after its last year of service in 1987. Though it no longer operated as secondary education center, the school building transitioned into the Bishop Boyle Career Center, which gave opportunities to local individuals with job placement, resume assistance, and telephone access. It also provided low-rent spaces to local community groups such the Fathers Club, Mothers Guild, Catholic Forensic League, and the St. Mary Magdalene Athletic Association.

Entrance before rehabilitation.

The facility closed in 2001 as the population continued to decrease and unemployment remained a concern. In 2002 the Homestead Council approved a plan to convert the building into an educational facility for troubled youth that was an expansion of a headquarters in McKeesport. The building was vacant between 2013 and 2018 until the current owner Fourth Source LLC purchased it in 2019.

Rehabilitation Project

Bishop Boyle High School is a contributing building in the Homestead Historic District (PA-SHARE Resource #1989RE00326) that was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on June 10, 1990. The historic district is significant for its social history and architecturally significant commercial, institutional, and residential buildings that represents the growth and development of the area in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

Bishop Boyle High School, after rehabilitation.

As a contributing building in a listed historic district, the vacant school building was a great candidate for the Federal and State Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit programs, which were a vital component in the overall financing package.

Between 2021-2022, Fourth Source, LLC got underway with a $3.5 million rehabilitation project of the Bishop Boyle High School. The project was also a recipient of a $150,000 PA Historic Preservation Tax Credit from DCED for FY 2021-2022.  

On the exterior, the project included the preservation of all exterior masonry features, the addition of new ADA ramp, replacement of non-historic doors, retention and repair of existing windows, and in-kind repair of the roof, and the with installation of solar panels and mechanical units.

On the interior, the work focused around retain of original historic features such as the double-loaded corridors, classroom openings, stairs, and large volume spaces of the auditorium and gym.

The auditorium was used for a tenant lounge and game center with construction of apartment units under balcony area. The gymnasium was used as a fitness and activity space with insertions of storage units beneath the lower ceiling locations. Both of these historic large volume spaces were retained and were approved with minimal revisions.

Typically, these large volume spaces related to the history of school buildings are very difficult for historic tax credit applicants to align with the needs of the project’s overall feasibility quota, but the project team did a great job adjusting the design of reuse project to meet the expectations of PA SHPO and NPS historic tax credit reviews. 

Along with retaining these historic spaces, a large percentage of original historic finishes such as terrazzo and wood flooring, plaster walls, detailed trim, and chalkboards were preserved while at the same time new compatible finishes were filtered in throughout for the new luxury apartment use.  

The project received Part 3 certification from NPS on the August 30, 2022, as the completed work met the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation.

After Rehabilitation

Now operating as luxury apartments called Bowtie High, the Bishop Boyle High School is once again an active component to the community of Homestead.  This project will benefit the local businesses and bring a spark to the already striving neighborhood and the surrounding areas. 

The Federal and State historic tax credit programs are a great opportunity to support sustainability and preserve the stories of the past.

References

Historic Tax Credit Applicant: Jesse Wig, Fourth Source LLC

Historic Tax Credit Consultant: Sarah Medwig

Project Architect: eos studio arc. llc

Project Photos: Sarah Medwig

Historic Photo: bishopboyle.net and Sarah Medwig

November 23, 2022
by mmcnish
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Retelling the Stories of Existing Resources: Adding New Areas of Significance to National Register Properties

Researching the history of a building can feel like trying to do a jigsaw puzzle from a thrift store without the box. You might get most of the pieces to fit together so that you can tell the story of that place, but some are still missing, leaving gaps in the narrative.

If you’re anything like me, you might find those gaps frustrating, but they’re also opportunities to learn things you never could have imagined about a place.

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Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commision Logo

November 21, 2022
by Shelby Weaver Splain
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Special Announcement! PA SHPO is Hiring a National Register Reviewer

Are you a highly skilled historic preservationist with National Register and GIS experience? The Pennsylvania State Historic Preservation Office (PA SHPO) is seeking an Historic Preservation Specialist to work as a National Register reviewer and triage specialist, focused on historic districts and survey.

APPLY BY 12/10/2022 11:59 PM EST. All applications must be filed online at http://www.employment.pa.gov/.

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Group of people standing outside on a lawn.

November 16, 2022
by Shelby Weaver Splain
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SHPO Staff Explore Lackawanna County

My SHPO colleagues and I, just like the rest of the world, are continuing to emerge from our COVID cocoons. We’ve been getting out and about more each month but still find ourselves wanting to be physically connecting with places in every way we can.

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Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commision Logo

November 14, 2022
by PHMC
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Historical Marker Program Announcement

The Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission (PHMC) is temporarily pausing its Historical Marker Program.

Ongoing supply chain issues, from sourcing raw materials to workforce availability, are impacting all areas of manufacturing, including the production of the iconic, blue-and-gold Pennsylvania Historical Markers.

The company responsible for the fabrication of the markers for Pennsylvania has communicated to PHMC that they are unable to guarantee timely delivery of new markers. This has necessitated rescheduling or cancelling planned marker dedications.

The issues impacting marker fabrication are not limited to Pennsylvania. Across the country, other states are experiencing similar delays affecting their marker programs.

These delays in marker production are exacerbated by the fact that during the pandemic several marker dedications were postponed, resulting in a backlog of approved markers to be fabricated.

Pennsylvanians continue to have great interest in the marker program, and last year the number of marker nominations submitted nearly doubled. PHMC is committed to ensuring that any markers pending review can be manufactured and installed prior to considering new nominations.

With this increase in volume and the uncertainty of the production schedule, PHMC will not be accepting new marker nominations after the current round scheduled for consideration at the December 7, 2022, commission meeting.

Although this is a regrettable situation, PHMC wants to avoid causing a greater backlog until we are certain when production can resume.

During this temporary hiatus, PHMC marker staff will focus on repairing and maintaining damaged markers and will be reviewing the marker program in the interest of continuous improvement.

Thank you for your understanding and continued support of the Pennsylvania Historical Marker Program.
We invite you to visit PHMC online or follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn for the latest news on this and other PHMC programs.

Color postcard of large brick building with landscaping in front.

November 9, 2022
by April Frantz
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Caring for the Country’s Veterans: Pennsylvania’s Butler VA Hospital

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is the steward of a large collection of medical facilities that reflect the evolving care for and needs of our military’s veterans. The VA’s health care system provides diverse care through approximately 170 VA medical centers and outpatient clinics across the country, serving millions of veterans each year. Pennsylvania is home to a wide range of federal facilities offering medical services for veterans.

Western Pennsylvania’s Butler Veterans Administration Hospital recently joined two other current VA hospital properties in Pennsylvania listed in the National Register of Historic Places, recognizing its important and unique role in caring for military veterans.

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November 2, 2022
by Shelby Weaver Splain
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Be a Part of Discovering and Celebrating the Humanities in Pennsylvania

PA Humanities and Drexel University have launched the PA Humanities Discovery Project, an effort to map, network, and celebrate Pennsylvania’s wonderfully rich humanities landscape to build a more expansive and connected statewide community for sharing, learning, and advocacy.

The first step is to collect information from Pennsylvanians like you about what important humanities-centered work you and your organization are doing with an online survey.

Don’t wait to participate! The survey closes on December 5, 2022.

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Metal truss bridge over water and surrounded by trees.

October 26, 2022
by Guest Contributor
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A New Funding Source for Metal Truss Bridges

If you have been following the PA SHPO Blog, then you have probably read about the Metal Truss Bridge Management Plan (Management Plan) and the ongoing effort by PennDOT and the PA SHPO to preserve historic metal truss bridges whenever feasible. Recently, as of 2021, a new federally funded program has been created to support the rehabilitation of these bridges.

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Group of nine people standing in a cemetery.

October 19, 2022
by Casey Hanson
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Community Archaeology at Midland Cemetery

Last fall the State Museum of Pennsylvania hosted their annual workshop in archaeology entitled Hidden Stories: Uncovering African American History through Archaeology and Community Engagement. The theme was born out of the acknowledgement that African Americans are vastly underrepresented in the historic record and the representations that are present are typically unfairly biased.

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October 12, 2022
by Emma Diehl
2 Comments

Have a Barn in Need of Repair? HBFF has a Grant Opportunity for You!

Do you have a barn or agricultural outbuilding that is 50 years or older in need of repairs? Does it retain a significant degree of historic character and materials? Then the Historic Barn and Farm Foundation of Pennsylvania (HBFF) has a grant opportunity for you!

This year marks the inauguration of HBFF’s matching grant program to encourage the maintenance and repair of historic barns and outbuildings throughout Pennsylvania as one way to promote and support the preservation of Pennsylvania’s rural heritage.

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