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Fire Leaves South Side Chamber Of Commerce In 'Terrible Situation'

Jess Scutella
90.5 WESA
A blaze broke out in a building on the 1100 block of East Carson Street on Monday, Feb. 8, 2021.

A 140-year-old building on Pittsburgh’s South Side caught fire and partially collapsed Monday afternoon, leaving tenants with an uncertain future. The fire was on the 1100 block of East Carson Street in a building occupied by a barbershop, the South Side Chamber of Commerce, and six apartment units.

Chamber of Commerce board member Lou Kroeck said the blaze couldn’t have come at a worse time.

“This is a terrible situation for us, this has been a terrible year for the chamber,” Kroeck said. 

The chamber supports the community’s businesses, and Kroeck said a lot of the work they do is under the radar. 

Credit Jess Scutella / 90.5 WESA
90.5 WESA
The remaining side of the snow-covered building is set to be demolished soon.

“Little things, like our executive director Candace [Gonzalez] takes time to organize volunteers to clean up the streets every weekend. That’s something no one ever really notices,” Kroeck said.

Due to the pandemic, Kroeck said the organization doesn’t feel comfortable asking for membership dues from already-struggling South Side bars and restaurants.

Public safety officials say at least nine people sought help from the Red Cross, who were on scene Monday afternoon. Half the building came down around 4:30 p.m., and the other half is scheduled to be demolished.

Traffic on East Carson Street remains closed in front of the building.

The loss of the building, which is historically known as the Second Empire building, was restored in the 1970s. Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation president Arthur Ziegler wrote in a statement that the project was the first such restoration by business partners, Art Silverman and Gerald Lee Pekich. The pair would go on to update several other area structures and inspire the restoration of the South Side.

East Carson Street is on the list of National Register Historic Districts, and was an initial location for preservation in Pittsburgh.

*This story has been updated.

Katie Blackley is a digital editor/producer for 90.5 WESA, where she writes, edits and generates both web and on-air content for features and daily broadcast. She's the producer and host of our Good Question! series and podcast. She also covers history and the LGBTQ community.
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