Project preserves Civil War remains on Mount Washington

by / Sunday, 02 February 2014 / Published in News
Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 

Two tall pine trees mark the borders of what developer Jeffrey Paul proposes as the site for 26 homes and a small park preserving the remains of a Civil War fort.

The subdivision, tentatively named “The Redoubt at Bradley Street,” would create a half-acre of open space near the edge of a Mount Washington hillside. The tract looks down on Saw Mill Run Boulevard and the West End.

Mr. Paul’s plan to preserve most of the area occupied by the 151-year-old earthworks has drawn support from community and historical preservation organizations.

Undeterred by recent bone-chilling temperatures, Mr. Paul was eager to walk the property on a recent afternoon. His architectural drawings for the 3-acre site show it being subdivided into 26 lots along what will become an extension of Bradley Street. The proposed park would be at the southern end of the tract.

Remains of the earth walls of the circular redoubt remained visible under the blanket of snow. The redoubt, a smaller supporting entrenchment, was one of 19 defensive emplacements dug in a few frantic weeks in the summer of 1863. That was when Pittsburgh residents feared their city might be invaded by Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army. Few traces remain of those fortifications, which were built on high ground all around the city and its suburbs.

About half the wall of the Bradley Street redoubt still stands. The remains have been given the informal name of “Fort Shultz” by neighbors who live on nearby Fingal Street. A hand-drawn wooden plaque describing the redoubt’s history has been attached to one of the trees.

Mr. Paul’s proposal calls for replacing that sign with a monument in the center of the proposed park. While design details remain to be worked out, that memorial stone might be engraved with a map showing the locations of all the city’s Civil War forts.

The Bradley Street property adjoins Pittsburgh’s Emerald View Park. Mr. Paul has proposed constructing a new trail through the park that would link a parking lot on Greenleaf Street to the planned Civil War memorial. Funds for the new trail, the memorial stone and park construction would be borne by Mr. Paul’s real estate company, Pomo Development Inc.

The plan has drawn praise from the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation, a nonprofit organization that backs preservation of historic buildings and neighborhoods. “We are glad that the developer has chosen to create and preserve the Landmarks site, and we look forward to working with Mr. Paul in the coming future on this project,” foundation President Arthur P. Ziegler Jr. wrote.

Civil War historian and re-enactor Michael Kraus also had praise for the plan. “What I came away with from our meeting was that you are taking responsible steps to identify, survey and preserve what you can of the [redoubt] site,” he wrote. Mr. Kraus said that he was expressing his personal views and not speaking as curator for Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall.

“This has been a great opportunity to work with a developer who thinks long term,” said Ilyssa Manspeizer, director of park development and conservation for the Mount Washington Community Development Corp. She described Mr. Paul as someone who strived to work well with neighbors, holding three courtesy meetings with residents to keep them informed about the proposal.

Mr. Paul, 34, has been a residential real estate developer for a decade. The bulk of that work has involved projects on Mount Washington.

The company’s largest development is Sweetbriar Village, a 22-unit neighborhood of single and multi-family homes. Built on a site formerly occupied by a grocery store, the property is in the 400 block of Sweetbriar Street. Sales price for those units, which are customized according to the buyers’ wishes, are between $325,000 and $500,000, Mr. Paul said.

The design of the Bradley Street project combines aspects of city and suburban living, Mr. Paul said.

“Each house will have a porch, giving the neighborhood a city feel,” he said. “The surrounding parkland and open space at the rear will make area seem like the suburbs.”

He predicted that the neighborhood would be popular both with young couples and with empty nesters who are eager to move back into the city for its cultural amenities.

The landscape architecture firm of LaQuatra Bonci Associates prepared the concept plan. It calls for integral two-car garages for all 26 units as well as two off-street parking spots for each home. Entrance to almost all the garages will be via the rear of the units.

Plans call for each three-bedroom home to be about 2,600 square feet. Like the residents of Sweetbriar Village, buyers will be able to customize their units. Homes will be priced from $400,000 to $425,000.

The project is on a fast track. Mr. Paul is expecting subdivision approval and issuance of building permits by April or May with at least one model home completed by September or October.