Thursday, October 11, 2012

Brashear House & Factory: Nomination to National Register of Historic Places



Sarah Quinn
Historic Preservation Planner
Department of City Planning
City of Pittsburgh
200 Ross Street, 4th Floor
Pittsburgh, Pa 15219
Phone: (412)255-2243
Fax: (412)255-2561
Electronic Mail: < >

Carol Lee
National Register and Survey
Bureau for Historic Preservation
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
Commonwealth Keystone Building, 2nd Floor
400 North Street
Harrisburg, Pa 17120.
Electronic Mail: < >


Glenn A. Walsh, Project Director
Friends of the Zeiss

P.O. Box 1041
Pittsburgh PA 15230-1041 U.S.A.
Electronic Mail: < >

Subject: Nomination to National Register of Historic Places: John A. Brashear House & Factory

Date: 2012 October 11

Transmitted by Electronic Mail

I wish to strongly support the nomination, to the National Register of Historic Places, of the house and factory of John A. Brashear, located on the North Side of Pittsburgh. I created, and since 1999 June 26 have maintained, an Internet web site on the life of John A. Brashear, one of the oldest web sites on the Internet: >

Thanks to the largese of Pittsburgh philanthropist and Pennsylvania Railroad Vice President William Thaw, Sr., John Brashear lived and worked in these buildings for a large percentage of his life. Mr. Thaw provided the land, buildings, and machinery for no charge, in May of 1886. John Brashear was provided the use of the properties free-of-rent, with the lease terminable by Mr. Brashear's death or disability. Mr. Thaw considered this his contribution to the progress of science!

John Brashear created telescopes, astronomical equipment, and precision scientific apparatus in the factory building, while he and his family lived in the house on the adjoining property. The John A. Brashear Company was one of the world's leading producers of such instrumentation, during the latter part of the nineteenth century and the first part of the twentieth century. These properties were also adjacent to the-then campus of the Western University of Pennsylvania and the original Allegheny Observatory building.

At times John Brashear served as Acting Director of the Allegheny Observatory, Acting Chancellor of the Western University of Pennsylvania (now known as the University of Pittsburgh), Chairman of the University's Observatory Committee, and, at Andrew Carnegie's invitation, he served on a three-man committee that planned and designed the Carnegie Technical Schools (now known as Carnegie Mellon University).

John Brashear, almost single-handedly, raised the funds for the new, three-dome, Allegheny Observatory building, located in the North Side's Riverview Park, the largest astronomical observatory within the city limits of a major American city!

He always wished to ensure that the new Allegheny Observatory would serve the public directly, in addition to providing a facility for state-of-the-art research  He wanted the new Allegheny Observatory to inspire the next generation of professional astronomers and amateur astronomer enthusiasts, as he was inspired by a traveling astronomer with a telescope when he was in child.

He secured a site for this new observatory complex on the second highest hill in Western Pennsylvania, in a new Allegheny City park which would be used by many city residents. This site was located only one block from a major city streetcar line, and today is located only one block from a major city bus line: 8 Perrysville bus route (formerly route 11D). John Brashear wanted to be sure that the general public could easily reach the new observatory.

When designing the new observatory structure, he insisted that a public lecture hall be included in the building. He wanted this lecture hall to ensure that the new Allegheny Observatory would provide astronomy and science educational programs to the public.

Once the building was built, John Brashear convinced industrialist and philanthropist Henry Clay Frick to commit to fund a regular schedule of weekly tours and astronomy programs, to be offered to the public free-of-charge. This commitment by the Henry Clay Frick Educational Commission, of which Mr. Frick chose Mr. Brashear as the first director, continued until the Commission was dissolved in 1993.

Much of the planning and design, as well as the fund-raising, for the new Allegheny Observatory took place in the two buildings now nominated to the National Register of Historic Places.

I strongly urge that Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and Federal officials approve the nomination of the home and factory of John A. Brashear to the National Register of Historic Places.


Related Blog Posts --

Historic Nomination: John Brashear House & Factory, Pittsburgh (2012 September 13):

Link >>>

Centennial: New Allegheny Observatory Dedication (2012 August 28): 

Link >>>


Pittsburgh's Allegheny Observatory History Video Now Available (2012 July 25):

Link >>> 

Pittsburgh's Allegheny Observatory: New History Film (2012 April 19) : 
Link >>>

History of Astronomer, Educator, Optician John A. Brashear:


Glenn A. Walsh, Project Director,
Friends of the Zeiss < >
Electronic Mail - < >
< >
Twitter: < >
Facebook: < >
Blog: < >
Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
* Buhl Planetarium, Pittsburgh:
< >
* Adler Planetarium, Chicago:
< >
* Astronomer, Educator, Optician John A. Brashear:
< >
* Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries:
< >
* Civil War Museum of Andrew Carnegie Free Library:
< >
* Duquesne Incline cable-car railway, Pittsburgh:
< >
* Public Transit:
< >


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