Preserving Baldwin Borough's history is the main goal of the Baldwin Historical Society, and it accomplishes this goal by turning to the past, the present and the future. To these ends, the society offers free services and public access to its extensive archives, holds public meetings and outings, and continually works to enhance life and knowledge in the Baldwin community.
Turning to the Past
The Baldwin Historical Society was founded in 1997, sparked by community interest in the history of Baldwin Borough. Since that time, its members have worked to compile an extensive archive of information about historical life in the area.
This information that it has collected (and continues to collect) is contained in the scores of binders located in the Glen Rosing Program Room of Baldwin's Wallace Building, adjacent to the main area of the Baldwin Borough Public Library.
The majority of the binders that the society maintains fall into categories like family histories, street research, and tree and land information. Each binder contains relevant photographs, documents and interview material.
The binders are available for public use and research during library hours, or by appointment. Pat Lombardi, co-president of the Baldwin Historical Society, is available for assistance with the binders by appointment.
Additionally, Lombardi maintains regular hours at the library (Tuesdays from 6:30 to 8 p.m. and Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.), during which time she volunteers her skills to help library patrons research their lineage. Some of that research takes advantage of the Baldwin Library's subscription to Ancestry.com, not to mention the many binder references when applicable.
Lombardi explained that most of the information in the binders was collected via firsthand interviews with living residents and extensive research at other area libraries and resource centers.
A good deal of the research and interviews, she said, was conducted by nonmember volunteers, and a lot of the archival material (such as photographs) was obtained through resident donations and contributions.
Indeed, Lombardi praises the Baldwin community for its volunteer efforts and resident donations in helping her society gather much of what it has today. Baldwin residents, and people with ties to Baldwin, have donated photographs, newspaper clippings, land deeds, hand-written letters, legal documents and many other things.
One of the most impressive donations that the society has received is an actual log house.
In 2003, the society received the log house from the Facchino family, who donated it after acquiring the land formerly known as the Shultz family farm on Baldwin's Willett Road. The society moved the log house from its original location and rebuilt it on Baldwin Borough's municipal complex grounds on Churchview Avenue.
The log house is historically dated to 1830 and is believed to have been originally owned by the Willett family. Inside, the house is sparsely decorated with various donated items, such as pots, a ricer and a wood stove.
The log house is open to the public during municipal hours and has been used in public-education activities, such as Boy Scouts meetings and vacation Bible school classes. Guided tours are available upon request and by appointment.
Lombardi explained that the guided tours attempt to illustrate what life was like during the 1830s. Children, she said, are particularly amazed by the tours and by how differently life was lived in the olden days.
Turning to the Present
The members of the Baldwin Historical Society strive to make knowledge of the past present in the present and to help maintain a sense of pride and strength in the Baldwin community. Over the past decade, the society has amassed numerous accomplishments with these ideals in mind.
In 2000, it unveiled the borough's first official flag, designed by member Karen Nath. The flag now flies by the municipal building and adorns the sleeves of the borough's police officers.
In 2001, the society compiled the first Baldwin Borough History Book, a thorough and concise summary of area history, featuring text as well as photographs and other images.
The history book is available for purchase, along with numerous other items. A sampling of available items for sale can be seen in the showcase window at the entrance of the Wallace Building.
Items for sale include postcards featuring old photos, notecards featuring an artist's rendition of the Willett log house, archival photo calendars, a Baldwin cookbook, ornaments of the Baldwin flag and Willett log house, and souvenir pens and key chains made out of scrap wood from the log house. These items can be purchased by contacting Lombardi at 412-882-9986.
The small store of items that the society sells represents not only a way for the not-for-profit organization to make revenue but also to infuse the past into the present while giving purchasers a tangible expression of their Baldwin pride.
According to Lombardi, the society holds its monthly meetings and other outings or field trips open to the public so that anyone who has pride in Baldwin and wants to learn more about the area and its history is welcome to attend.
The society's monthly meetings are held in the Glen Rosing Program Room and often include guest speakers or other people of historical interest.
Historian Larry Gallant will talk about "The History of Southwestern Pennsylvania and its Relation to the Ancient World" at October's meeting. Contact the society for more information.
Turning to the Future
Lombardi's society work is ongoing. She and her fellow officers are always looking toward future projects and ways to ensure the continued success of their organization.
Lombardi foresees part of the society's continued success at the hands of volunteers and contributors. She noted that there are different ways for potential contributors to donate.
The society welcomes and accepts donations of relevant archival materials or historical information.
Contributors can donate materials directly to Lombardi's group. If one does not want to surrender ownership of an item, however, she or he can simply lend the item to the society. A member will then scan, photograph or otherwise make a reproduction or chronicle of the item before returning it to its owner.
Another way to contribute to the society is to become a member. Annual dues are $10 per person or $15 per family.
Currently, the Baldwin Historical Society is working on two projects. Its members and community volunteers are attempting to collect old yearbooks and to conduct research on the history of Baldwin Borough's various neighborhoods.
When it came to discussing those neighborhoods, Lombardi was eager to point out that the Baldwin-Whitehall Patch is not the first or only "Patch" with a presence in Baldwin.
Lombardi explained that there is another "Patch" in Baldwin's Horning neighborhood.
"Horning Patch," Lombardi said, "consisted of a group of houses built for coal miners by the coal-mining company."
Lombardi went on to say that there were other Patches throughout the Pittsburgh region wherever coal-mining was prevalent and that the term "Patch" is still commonly used to refer to these areas today.
That was news to this reporter—which goes to show how even a brief exploration of history can reveal interesting and surprising information.
To see what Lombardi and her colleagues can help you dig up, or to see how you can contribute to their society through membership, donation or volunteerism, contact Lombardi at 412-882-9986 or visit http://baldwinhistoricalsociety.org.