Rachel Carson Homestead to Undergo Historic Renovation

By Parrish, Tory N | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, September 22, 2011 | Go to article overview

Rachel Carson Homestead to Undergo Historic Renovation


Parrish, Tory N, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


The Rachel Carson Homestead Association has slated the Springdale property of the late famed ecologist and biologist for a $2 million restoration. Phase one, a $150,000 project that will include stabilizing the building and removing an addition, is scheduled to begin in the next few weeks.

Future visitors to Rachel Carson's former home will get a more historically accurate presentation of the life of the late famed ecologist and biologist, stewards of the Springdale property say.

Stylistic and structural changes made over the decades have left the house built in 1857 substantially altered.

After the family left the home, subsequent owners put on additions in the 1930s and '40s. And between 1975, when the Rachel Carson Homestead Association took over the property, and 2009, antiques were added that were meant to evoke a bygone era, but weren't historically accurate to the time when Carson would have lived there, said Joy Braunstein, executive director of the association.

"So the vision of the homestead is to take the house, the structure, back to the time period when Rachel's family was there," Braunstein said.

In June, the association closed the homestead -- which opened as museum in the 1980s -- in preparation for a $2 million restoration, which also will boost its role as a destination for environmental education and tourism. Plans are to expand exhibits and programming with interactive activities based on Carson's writing, and the association is about to begin a fundraising campaign as it readies to start phase one of the project.

The job will include removing the two additions to convert the building back to the original four-room house configuration. Workers will add a porch and stabilize the exterior shell with environmentally friendly insulation, paint, wood and siding. They'll also landscape, which will include installing benches where visitors can reflect, and sculptured gardens, Braunstein said.

Museum-quality exhibits also will be added, she said.

Most of the antiques in the house when it closed were sold at an auction in June, raising $10,000 for the project, she said.

Construction bids are being sought for phase one, which will involve stabilizing the building, removing a small addition off the northwest corner and exhibit planning. The work, which will begin this fall and be done by May, will be funded using $150,000 from state Community Infrastructure & Tourism Fund and Department of Community and Economic Development grants.

The Carson house is built in a style similar to a Pennsylvania German farmhouse, said Rob Pfaffmann, founder of Downtown architectural firm Pfaffmann & Associates and a homestead association board member. …

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