The Historical Society of Mount Lebanon has moved closer to the $1.1 million needed to purchase, renovate and maintain a new headquarters with a $200,000 grant from the Redevelopment Authority of Allegheny County and a $50,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. The grants, along with proceeds from an ongoing capital campaign, bring the society only about $120,000 short of funds needed to begin Phase One, renovation of the stucco house at 794 Washington Road into a permanent headquarters.
The Spanish-style house, built between 1926 and 1933, was once the home and office of physician Donald McMillan, and later housed the Mt. Lebanon Tax Office and the South Hills Area Council of Governments.
Mt. Lebanon Municipality owns the building. In 2013, the commission voted to give the society the right to negotiate directly with the municipality for the purchase of the building. Last year the society signed a 20-year lease for the property, with an option to buy.
The society’s current headquarters is a small three-room space fronting Lebanon Avenue, in the basement of the house it plans to renovate. The 450 square feet, where Dr. McMillan’s practice was once located, has hosted several exhibits since the society moved in, in 2009.
Plans for the new building include about 1,000 square feet of space for permanent and seasonal exhibits, a 1,000-square-foot multipurpose room for lectures and receptions, a climate-controlled archive space, a library of historical research materials, research and study rooms, and office space for staff and volunteers.
The historical society has retained RSH Architects—a firm with strong ties to Mt. Lebanon and a solid background in restoration work—to draw up plans and cost estimates. Principal in the firm is Joel Cluskey, currently president of Mt. Lebanon’s historic preservation board.
Society president Jim Wojcik is excited about the possibilities the new building can provide, such as having the opportunity to showcase Heinz History Center’s occasional traveling exhibits, currently not possibile because the Heinz exhibitions require at least 500 square feet of exhibit space. “Now that’s something we could do,”Wojcik says, adding, “I’d also like to see us doing more with the school district and with other historical societies. I think we can become a real community asset. ”
To find out more about the society, donate or become a member, visit www.lebohistory.org.