Walking with Mario Noce around the Penn Lincoln Hotel in Wilkinsburg 4½ years ago, I was struck by the beautiful art deco light fixtures, wrought iron railings and the spacious ballroom that once hosted weddings and other affairs.
At the time the 70,000 square foot building had been empty for 13 years, but Noce was undeterred, and was having workers renovate the building’s lower floors. Since then, Noce has sold his stake in the building to Wilkinsburg nonprofit Deliverance, Inc. Under the direction of Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation and with $75,000 in funding from Allegheny County, the three groups are working together on a feasibility study to see what can be done with the historic building.
PHLF has been involved in the effort for about a year and recently selected one consultant for the study, which will be done in about six months, PHLF director Arthur Zeigler said.
The hotel project came out of discussions PHLF has had with borough stakeholders about the town’s various assets, Zeigler said.
The hotel is just one of the projects the foundation is working on in the borough. PHLF is working to revitalize structures along Hamnet Place and also along Holland Avenue in the borough. The hotel building was built in 1927 and hosted the Pitt Panthers football team in the 1950s. Back then, the team would stay at the hotel on Friday evenings before home games.
“It is the largest and one of the most historic buildings along the main street in Wilkinsburg,” Zeigler said, noting that Penn Avenue in that area also was the former Lincoln Highway.
The feasibility study, contracted with PHLF by the county, will include architectural, engineering, environmental and marketing evaluations of the building. It also will determine possible uses for the structure, which Noce previously had hoped to convert to housing for senior citizens.
"This was a nice place," Noce said when I met him at the hotel years ago. "I saw Mike Ditka [as a Panther] coming out of here." Noce's sisters had their wedding receptions in the hotel's 1,600-square-foot ballroom years ago, too.