Wilkinsburg Station Restoration Project Receives State Recognition

The restoration of the 106-year-old downtown Wilkinsburg train station brought recognition to the Wilkinsburg Community Development Corp.

This week, the Pennsylvania State Historic Preservation Office announced that CDC Wilkinsburg received a 2021 Community Initiative Award. The organization is one of only three statewide recipients. He will receive a plaque and a time capsule.

Built in 1916 as a station for the Pennsylvania Railroad, the Beaux-Arts Building was designed by architect Walter H. Cookson.

It closed in the mid-1970s as passenger rail service declined. The station has remained vacant and has deteriorated considerably in the half-century since.

But in 2015, the Wilkinsburg CDC, led by executive director Tracey Evans, embarked on an ambitious project to save the resort and restore it to its original beauty. Historic elements such as Italian marble have been preserved in some areas of the building and replaced in others. Construction started in 2017.

“Every piece of marble was removed from the walls of the building,” Evans said. “Some were salvageable and just cleaned and polished, but many had to be replaced. We got marble from Italy from the original quarries and then it had to be shipped. The marble alone took about a year.

Evans said the project, which cost $6.5 million, was important to many people in Wilkinsburg.

“It was a grand, luxurious station and so many people wrote to us and donated to the project,” she said. “We had donors who came from almost every state in the country. So many people wanted to be part of this.

Anne Elise Morris, president of the Wilkinsburg Historical Society, helped raise money for the station.

“It was an iconic building. It was downtown,” Morris said. “For over 50 years it was the hub of Wilkinsburg. So people had an emotional attachment to it. Everyone cared about this building. To see something like this that was in such poor condition being beautifully restored tells people that Wilkinsburg is booming.

Trains no longer run through Wilkinsburg, so now the question is: what will the building be used for?

“We are in the process of looking for tenants,” Evans said. “We think it would be ideal for a restaurant.”

Meanwhile, the station will host a series of free community gatherings this summer featuring local artists and organizations.

Paul Guggenheimer is a staff writer for Tribune-Review. You can contact Paul at 724-226-7706 or [email protected]

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James H. Wright