My zip code is 15221, this area is Wilkinsburg or some will just call it Regent Square. I first moved to this neighborhood in 2000. Back then Craigslist didn’t exist and you had to browse through the newspaper for apartments. I made an appointment to see one on Whitney Avenue. It was an older, four story home that was painted a pink with a huge porch and a back yard. I applied and got the place! My family seemed concerned about the move to this neighborhood. Me being young, I really didn’t care and I had a good feeling about my new apartment. My landlords lived below me and were very welcoming.
Fast forward to a few years later, I moved away and then when I came back to Pittsburgh, I reconnected with the same landlords, they had an apartment coming up for rent. This time, the apartment was more towards Penn Avenue. I wasn’t sure what I would think but I gave it a shot. Of course it was beautiful with wood floors, working fire place, a sun room and a fenced in back yard. I love my apartment and I love the neighborhood I live in.
People sometimes make the worst assumptions when I tell them where I live, as if it’s crazy or dangerous. Living in a city, you just need to be careful where ever you go. I’m always rooting for Wilkinsburg and see that it has great potential. All the politics and money make everything slow moving when it comes to developing the area. When you drive on certain streets, you pass by a lot of abandoned houses and empty lots. They have started a couple programs where folks can buy up these properties but you need to be willing to put in a lot of work since most of them have been sitting empty for years. There’s also other the challenge of getting loans from the bank when you do decide you want to make the commitment.
When Dee Briggs emailed me about the House of Gold, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. Is this some installation? An art project? The home was built in 1875 and was scheduled to be demolished. As an artist, Briggs felt a responsibility to bring people’s attention to the value of this home’s rich history. How could you draw people’s attention? Paint the house all gold!
I enjoy her approach to this because it draws people in. We are so accustomed to driving by all the abandon homes here in Pittsburgh, that we don’t really stop to think about what’s behind them? I will admit my first thought was “why not revamp it into a livable space?” After reading more about it in the Tribune Review, I understood her reasoning behind this. My favorite quote from this piece is her explaining why she decided to go with gold paint – “Gold because I wanted to emphasize that it still has value. This is not just a vacant house; it’s a place. People grew up here. Everybody in the neighborhood once had a relationship with this house. I want people to identify with it again.”
Briggs’ website explains everything and the house’s timeline. Being a designer, I really enjoyed reading through the history and you can leave comments. If you sit and think about all the homes in Pittsburgh that have been abandoned, they all have a story, and they all had someone that once live inside them. As someone who lives near this place, I don’t know what the solution is to all the abandoned properties. I have ideas just like the next person but sometimes there’s so much redtape that it’s hard to see any progress being made. I hope projects like this can bring more attention to the problem and maybe things can start to move forward in a positive way.