On April 17th the Borough of Munhall held another council meeting regarding the status of Harden Place. Here is a recap of the meeting including the Open Statement made by foundation President, Jim Deibel.

April 17, 2013 Prepared Statement

Honorable Mayor Bodnar and distinguished members of the Borough Council, once again, my name is Jim Deibel and I live at 6513 Hillswick Drive, Plano, Texas 75093.  Thank you for providing me the opportunity to stand before you again to speak about Harden Place/Hays Mansion and the potential of its future as a place of historic significance, learning and enjoyment for the Hays family and greater Pittsburgh community.

I would like to begin by saying that without the volunteer effort put forth over the past 35 days, our dreams of rescinding the condemnation order previously enacted last November would not be possible. There remains much to be done! With your affirmative vote to rescind the condemnation this evening, the course that has been forged will become a reality.  Thank you to all councilmen and councilwomen who made the effort to stop by and see the progress that has been made.  Having the knowledge of disappointments of the past, we hope that you can acknowledge and appreciate our sincerity and grit to change the course of Harden Place forever.  This is our time!  We have the resolve to see this grass roots movement become a significant force in this community.  We look forward to the opportunity of working closely with the Borough in all aspects of the project as well as local and regional historical societies and charitable foundations.

During 2013, our immediate goal is to save Harden Place! This means purchasing the property and making the necessary repairs to protect it.  Thereafter, we hope that through donations and grants, the process of preservation and restoration can begin in a very predictable and methodical manner.

Our efforts have produced the following statistics:

  • Over 1150 different visitors have come to the website
  • Over 6500 website pages have been viewed
  • Each visitor spends more than 4 minutes on the website
  • Over 250 people have engaged and interacted with the Hays Mansion facebook page

Various quotes from facebook and TribLive are:

  • “Congratulations on saving this important piece of American history--keep up the great work!” Andrew Masich, President & CEO, Senator John Heinz History Center
  • "I find this whole thing very exciting,” Councilman Bernie Shields said. “This is all we wanted, for someone to take care of the place. This is a start.”
  • The history behind the magnificent Hays Mansion is amazing. Its restoration will benefit the entire area." - Robert Zorn, author “Cemetery John”, The untold story of the Mastermind of the Lindbergh Kidnapping
  • Hope this beautiful place can be saved! im in love with the house and the history behind it. fingers are crossed that things will work out!" - Jessica Bobuk, Pittsburgh resident
  • How can this landmark be going to the wrecking ball?? " Nancy Berg Wall
  • Its a wonderful old house that is a piece of Pittsburgh history." Becky Hays Shelton
  • I went to the mansion today and there were some neighbors there checking on it,in hopes it was not demo'd. Some neighbors in the community are upset that demo might or could happen." - Denise Fountaine
  • “It looks nice, but it still needs a lot of work in my honest opinion,” he said. “I think it's savable. I'm a supporter and I see a possibility for it to be something again. Some of council may disagree with me on that. I'd hate to lose it.” Councilman Bob Falce

As I have previously stated, broken promises of past ownership has absolutely nothing to do with where the mansion is today. We have exhibited and adhered to every condition placed upon us in order to rescind the condemnation except for two conditions which will require more extensive repairs than time has allowed for us up to this point.  Angelo Quaranta received a specific list from Dave Cannon on-site after the November 21, 2012 hearing that clearly stated the conditions for rescinding the condemnation order.  They were:

  • Remove all overburden and debris from the exterior of the premises.
  • Removal of all graffiti from the premises
  • Painting of the exterior of the premises
  • Replace gutters and downspouts
  • Replace 10 broken windows

That’s it!  To-date, we have made all required repairs, and much more, except for the replacement of windows which have been boarded up in order to secure the mansion from vandalism which occurred two times after the condemnation sticker went up. The guttering and downspouts have not been repaired or replaced due to the condition of the roof which will require extensive repairs prior to their installation.  We have also painted most of the first floor exterior of the premises and intend to paint the remainder of the premises as weather permits and the necessary roof repairs have been made so as not to spend needless dollars in advance of permanent repairs. We have also cleaned and painted much of the interior of the mansion.  There was never any mention of remitting escrows for reimbursement of the Boroughs arbitration costs with Riverbend Mansion, LLC. That would seem to me to be the current owners issue with the Borough, not ours.  We are under no contractual obligation for taking care of the seller’s prior legal fees. Also, it is my understanding that if demolition grants are issued for a particular property, they can be re-allocated to other properties on the demolition list.

Skin in the game?  We have put our skin in the game to the tune of $16,000 to-date!  Our financial statements will be provided later this month online for all to see.  Please see our revised operating budget for 2013 on the website which only contemplates saving the mansion and operating it until we can get some wind in our sails to pay for soft costs in preparation of seeking grants and additional contributions. No administrative salaries are associated with any operational expenses.  You may also want to ask all of the volunteers in the room here tonight if they have their skin in the game.

We believe that by saving Harden Place, once restored, the entire neighborhood could experience rejuvenation and benefit in increased resale values and overall appreciation of rendition values on Munhall’s tax rolls. Additionally, to the extent that a sustainable legitimate use such as a bed and breakfast is realized, the sales tax revenue to the Borough will far outweigh any property taxes lost as a result of being a tax exempt 501c3 entity.   The eyesore has been cleaned and partially painted and has never looked better in over 13 years.  The views of the Monongahela are spectacular.  Once the hillside is cleaned and trimmed, the views of Harden Place will be remarkable for miles.  We hope that our adjacent neighbor will see the benefits of our work in increased activity for home sales and increased lot values.  Our research shows that the last home sale occurred on October 6, 2011. To my knowledge, there has been nothing built since then.

TribLive-December 18, 2012

  • Munhall officials said they hope the mansion can be salvaged.
  • “We really hope they can make the save,” council vice president Rob Falce said.
  • “I wish them all the luck in the world,” Ballas said. “It's hindering the people up there from building.”

He said the bottom line is council has to see progress.

We hope that you have seen enough progress over the past 35 days to know that we are serious! It has only been 150 days since the property was condemned!

There will be no written commitments from benefactors until the condemnation is rescinded and a meaningful long term business plan can be put in place to restore and maintain Harden Place perpetually.  We need to reach out to the Hays family and greater Munhall/Homestead/Pittsburgh community to seek contributions and membership in the Foundation with a factual and transparent vision that they will support.  Additionally, if there are historic artifacts discovered during the process, The National Trust for Historic Preservation will certainly want to know about it.  Please rescind the condemnation order!  We need to move forward! We have enough momentum to press on and we are eternally grateful for the sacrifice our volunteers have afforded us.

Preservation Pennsylvania's letter to Borough

Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation Support Letter

To read a review of the March 20th Borough meeting, click here.