Monday, February 18, 2008

August Wilson Home Closer to Historic Preservation

Playwright August Wilson won acclaim for his Pittsburgh Cycle, set partly in his childhood home in Pittsburgh's Hill District. Wilson passed away in 2005, and his nephew Paul Ellis, Jr. now owns the structure. The process Ellis began to have the building designated a historic structure is nearing its close, despite delays in Pittsburgh City Council.
In a public hearing today, family, fans, and community members all spoke in support of preserving the artist's home. The city's Historic Review Commission recommended approval because of its ties with regional and national cultural development. Ellis wants to use the now-vacant home as a retreat for writers. Wilson's sister Frieda Ellis says the house is important to the life and future of the Hill. The Young Preservationists Association and Preservation Pittsburgh also gave their support.
Some speakers used part of their allotted 3 minutes to chastise Council members for dragging their feet in getting the nomination to a vote. According to the city code, the nomination expired in early February, but council will proceed with a vote next week because it wasn't Ellis' fault. Marimba Millones of the Hill Community Development Corporation asked the Council to look into the matter and report its findings. Councilwoman Tonya Payne represents the Hill and chaired the Planning, Zoning, and Land Use Committee at the time. She says she doesn't think an investigation is necessary.
Councilman Ricky Burgess recently introduced a measure to extend Council's time to vote on historic nominations, with a provision that if they're recommended by the Historic Review Commission, they automatically pass even if council takes no action.
Councilman Bill Peduto said they will begin addressing this and other procedure problems tomorrow in Council.

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