BEAVER, PA – Sept. 11, 2017 – For the second time in less than a year, the Beaver Station Cultural & Event Center in Beaver has received a statewide historic preservation award, the 2017 “Construction Project” of the year bestowed by Preservation Pennsylvania, the commonwealth’s only private statewide historic preservation non-profit organization.
Supported by more 350 donors, more than half from outside Beaver County, the Beaver Area Heritage Foundation completed this $2.85 million adaptive reuse of a vacant and deteriorating 120-year old former Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Railroad passenger station. Beaver Station officials representing the Heritage Foundation will receive the award in a ceremony in Harrisburg on Oct. 12, 2017 at the State Museum of Pennsylvania.
Last year, Beaver Station received a community revitalization award for “creating economic vitality” presented by the Harrisburg-based Pennsylvania Downtown Center. The “Townie Award,” in the category of asset enhancement.
“Beaver Station is one of just eight high quality projects from all of Pennsylvania to be honored this year by Preservation Pennsylvania,” said David O’Leary, chair of Beaver Station and a board director of the Heritage Foundation. “It was only possible by long-term, hard-working volunteers who have turned a potentially blighted property into a county-wide showcase for education, performing arts and historical celebrations, fundraisers and public and family gatherings. Beaver Station is enhancing the quality of life right now at a time when Beaver County has never been in a brighter national public spotlight.”
Located within a National Historic District, the 8,500-sq. ft. Beaver Station is part of two professionally landscaped acres within a fully restored, functioning bustling campus. Since 2016, nearly 17,000 visitors have attended a wide range of events at the Richardsonian styled, Romanesque facility, averaging 13 per month, with proceeds allowing the Station to be self-sustaining and benefitting the Beaver Area Heritage Foundation. Beaver Station’s sister project, the Beaver Area Heritage Museum, recently hosted a Smithsonian-quality, traveling World War II exhibition courtesy of the Heinz History Center of Pittsburgh.
After a nearly 85-year life as a passenger station of the Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Railroad, the Beaver Station property became the County’s Emergency Services 911 Center for almost 25 years until operations were relocated in 2010. Left vacant and vulnerable for a three years, the lot size and commercial zoning, high traffic count and visibility and accelerating deterioration, made it an all but certain demolition target for redevelopment.
Citizens, governmental agencies and private foundations stepped forward with a belief in the Heritage Foundation’s visionary value proposition and track record of successfully redeveloping the nationally renowned P&LE freight station into the best local history museum of 1999 as awarded by the prestigious American Association for State and Local History.
Beaver Station is more than a faithful restoration of an iconic community landmark for antiquity sake. Its space includes the Heritage Museum’s Collection & Research Center, the Beaver County Genealogy & History Center and a branch campus of Sewickley’s highly-respected Sweetwater Center for the Arts.
The Station’s 2017 corporate friends include UPMC Health Plan, Heritage Valley Health System and the Spanos Group of Raymond James.
Project Background – Beaver Station is a forward-thinking historic preservation rehabilitation project planned and executed to enhance long term quality of life, boost community and economic vitality, and advance culture and arts education in Beaver County. The project transformed the formerly vacant and rapidly deteriorating passenger station into an attractive, multipurpose meeting and event space that is used for art classes, creative and performing art displays and performances, nonprofit fundraisers, corporate meetings and cultural events or any manner of appropriate public and private gatherings. This project filled a local area void with a community service project that is sustainable in a high quality and distinctive manner, preserves the past and enriches the future. The non-profit Heritage Foundation has achieved local, statewide and national recognition for its dedication to historic preservation and educational activities, promoting local history awareness and other charitable activities on behalf of Beaver County residents.
Beaver Station is a creative adaptive reuse of an 8,500 sq. ft. National Historic District contributing resource – the 1897 Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Railroad passenger station – as a multi-use cultural & event facility. Additionally, the rehabilitation project undertook repurposing of a 2,200 sq. ft. formerly deteriorated passenger platform area into a beautifully hardscaped/landscaped area to enhance further building use and functionality. The 10,700 sq. ft. project “preserves the past” not only by a faithful restoration and adaptive re-use of this important iconic community building, but also by housing both the Beaver County Genealogy & History Center and the Heritage Foundation’s own History Collection & Research Center on its lower level. The project “enriches the future” by hosting a branch campus for the highly-respected Sweetwater Center for the Arts (SCA) for year-round educational programming.
Additionally, the Heritage Foundation internally generates “Station Signature Events” featuring wide ranging quality of life enhancing music and entertainment offerings that take place in an authentically restored passenger waiting room, now serving as a 2,500 sq. ft. Event Room and on the three-acre Heritage campus. Beaver Station provides a diverse array of key cultural and community activities for all ages, becoming a go-to destination in the regional market. With carefully planned adaptive reuse enhancements, Beaver Station rehabilitated facility now provides Beaver County with a compelling platform from which educational and entertaining programming will keep our region’s significant heritage alive for generations to come.
The Heritage Foundation mission is “To enhance the celebration of the people, places, culture and events of the Beaver Area”. BAHF was founded in 1967 and is led by an active 16-member volunteer Board of Directors elected annually by the Heritage Foundation’s 450 dues paying members. Taking on a project like Beaver Station was not new to the Heritage Foundation. Twenty years ago, it successfully adapted the adjacent, totally dilapidated RR freight station and with nearly $500,000 in local and business donations and transformed it to what would be later named as “America’s Best Local History Museum” by The American Association of State and Local History. The Heritage Foundation has achieved local, statewide and national recognition for its dedication to historic preservation and educational activities, promoting local history awareness and other charitable activities on behalf of Beaver County residents by enhancing local quality of life with outstanding high quality cultural, entertainment events and educational programs.
More project specific aspirations of Beaver Station are reflected in its mission statement: “Foster inclusive community participation and enrichment by establishing Beaver Station venue as a unique, first rate and sustainable event and cultural facility that promotes education, culture, arts, family celebrations, business/civic activity and locally impactful charitable initiatives.” Supporting goals and strategies to further this undertaking include:
- Pursuing Sustainability – by attracting a balance of income producing external events and hosting diverse internal programming, doing so with practices that reduce waste or reuse resources;
- Make Productive Use of Human Resources – by increasing volunteer engagement, targeting those with specialized experienced and talents well-suited to the Mission Statement and re-energize vigorous board participation on working committees;
- Support Cultural Service – by promoting community enrichment through programming with emphasis on education, cultural events, performing, creative and visual arts; and
- Encourage Public Service Partnerships – by providing local nonprofit organizations and schools discounted venue opportunities for fund raising, community building, community service and education; and Foster feelings of “Community” – by engaging the a larger community, encourage venue use for holiday events, public meetings, family events, recognition ceremonies and public celebrations.
The Heritage Foundation entered into this project with comprehensive forethought. Project cost, fundraising feasibility, sustainability and operations were individually and professionally studied and verified before the property was purchased and the first dollar solicited as follows:
- Pfaffmann & Associates, a highly-regarded Pittsburgh architectural firm with strong historic preservation credentials, prepared an historically respectful, adaptive re-use rehabilitation plan with detailed cost estimates.
- Hyatt-Fennell, a professional fundraising firm, conducted a detailed community in person interviewing study and determined that this project was indeed supported by the community and a fundraising goal was set accordingly.
- BAHF hired 4Ward Planning Consultants to prepare an economic sustainability study addressing competitive marketing analysis, operational expense/income issues and a financial pro forma report. According the 4Ward study, the facility and planned uses would address an unfilled facility and use market niche in the County
- BAHF engaged a Pittsburgh based event planning firm to consult, verify and make recommendations on rent structure, expense/fee estimates, operational policies, job descriptions and compensation, fee sources and contract protocol with vendors.
Notable Rehabilitation Components:
- Stabilized the vacant structure walls, add new slate roof rehabilitation avoiding further water infiltration followed by remediation of black mold/mildew, radon/asbestos. Restored original copper downspouts/gutters, ridge caps & decorative roof finials
- Replaced antiquated electrical/plumbing HV/AC systems, addressed ADA rules by installing platform stair lift, four new ADA compliant bathrooms and redesign/repaving all exterior paving providing at-grade access. Complete reconfiguration and new paving for 55 car parking space lot with raised grade flush with first floor entrances, new curbing with dedicated ADA spaces and ramps
- Exterior historic rehab to recapture the façade’s and interior beauty tainted over the years by vandalism and long term neglect (masonry cleaning, repointing, replacing rotted soffit and fascia, replacing modern with authentic replica soffit “pan” and interior schoolhouse lighting fixtures, and rehabilitate all exterior door and windows.
- Converted former baggage room as a fully equipped catering kitchen and converting the highly-deteriorated trackside platform into an attractively landscaped and courtyard space with appropriate vintage fencing replacing missing or rusted chain link.
- Total rehab of the mosaic tiling flooring, 19 stained glass 4 bottle glass roof eyebrow windows and adding attic insulation
- Complete gutting and construction of two flex space/classrooms and the BAHF museum archiving/accessioning facilities in the lower level for the Beaver County Genealogy and History Center.
- Installed extensive landscaping and other hardscape projects to enhance user experience.
- Reconstruction of missing decorative box beam ceiling detailing (25%) in event room and replacing florescent fixtures with 12 replica gas/electric fixtures copied to exact detail from vintage P&LE interior photos.
- Reconstructed the original porte-cochère removed in 1933 using original P&LE drawings and replicating the red sandstone hand shaped by stone mason artisans.
- Installed a professionally planned site-wide landscaping plan with Beaver County’s Penn-State Mater Gardeners volunteer assistance.
Next month, in collaboration with the Beaver County History and Landmarks Foundation, Beaver Station will commemorate a walking trail featuring 12 chronological interpretive panel displays portraying 36 seminal Beaver County historical eras, events and impactful local figures.