The June 13 hearing to determine whether the old Buhl Planetarium will be designated a historic landmark has all the timing of condom distribution at a Lamaze class.
It's been more than six months since the Children's Museum celebrated the grand reopening of its facilities after a nearly $20 million expansion -- a project that knocked a giant hole in the former planetarium. Now, facing absolutely no resistance at last, Buhl preservationist Glenn Walsh is steering the designation through the proper channels.
"The designation will now place the exterior façade under the control of the historic-review committee," Walsh says. "Any changes will have to go through them."
But what about the significant changes that have already been made? Museum Executive Director Jane Werner says the facility supports the designation and has long been a proponent of saving historic buildings -- its expansion into both Buhl and the now-connected Allegheny Post Office created nationally recognized, award-winning designs.
But would the museum have supported the designation before the expansion? "It wasn't in the cards at this time," Werner replied.
Walsh didn't try to preserve the building before it was altered, he says, because it would have been a losing battle: The museum's plans to alter the building were already in the works, and the support of council for a designation was nonexistent.
"We figured if we tried it at that time we would have simply been dismissed as obstructionists trying to stop the process," Walsh explains. "They wouldn't have approved it at that time because it had sat empty for so long that they didn't care what went in there or how much change there was."
As Walsh gets ready to accept this small victory, he still plans to continue the fight to put the planetarium's old Zeiss II star projector back into commission. The projector currently sits in storage at the Carnegie Science Center and may be put on display as an artifact, not a working projector.
"We're not giving up that fight; we haven't forgot about that equipment," Walsh says. "The only place that projector can be properly used is in the old Buhl's star theater and I think eventually, museum officials will realize it will be a benefit and move it back."
After all, they came around on historic designation.