Margaret J. Krauss


Margaret J. Krauss produces 90.5 WESA Celebrates Inventing Pittsburgh, a series that explores the lesser-known history of the city and region.

A freelance multimedia journalist and researcher, Margaret learned the nuts and bolts of radio as a 2013 newsroom volunteer. Before moving back to the nation's most livable city, Margaret worked as an editor for National Geographic KIDS magazine in Washington, DC.

When she isn't geeking out over a good story, Margaret can be found biking the city's streets or swimming its rivers.

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Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

At 2 A.M. on December 17, 1936, Pittsburgh Banana Company employee Peter Auletta reported for work. He flipped on the lights in the banana ripening room and then turned on an electric fan to circulate the air. Reports said a spark from the fan ignited what must have been a gas leak.

Chris Squier / 90.5 WESA

The Pittsburgh Poison Center is located about halfway up “Cardiac Hill” within the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center complex. It’s an unassuming place: a reception desk, a few offices, a conference room and a call center.

Though Pittsburgh is just now beginning to appear on lists of “most-romantic cities” and “romantic weekend destinations,” its soil has long fostered fiery and impetuous love.

A prime example is the 1842 elopement of Mary Schenley. A New York Times editorial called it to the greatest romance of the city’s early history: While attending a boarding school on Staten Island Mary Schenley, nee Croghan, secretly married a British army captain three times her age.

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

Nestled into a hillside not far from the Schenley Bridge, the Bellefield Boiler Plant provides steam heat to most of Oakland’s major institutions.

Built in 1907 to heat the library and museum Andrew Carnegie had recently donated to the city, the plant now services the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Library's main branch, Carnegie Mellon University, Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, the University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh Public Schools’ administrative building and UPMC’s Childrens and Presbyterian hospitals.

On July 6, 1917 the Courier Junior of Ottumwa, Iowa published a short essay from Mary Elizabeth Champney, age seven: 

Now that everybody is talking about war and every little boy and girl loves our flag, the stars and stripes, I want to tell you about the Fort Pitt block house of Pittsburgh, Pa., that was built many years ago in 1764...[The caretaker] said all the people of Pittsburgh loved it and that hundreds of people visited it every year. They loved the name of Washington and that made the block house dear to them. 

What Miss Champney doesn’t mention, and likely didn’t know, is that just ten years earlier, the Block House had only narrowly escaped destruction. That the last surviving remnant of the French and Indian War still stood was due to the Fort Pitt Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

John Tabatchka affectionately pats his horse, Will, and flips the switch on the Electro-Groom. He begins to methodically vacuum Will’s flanks.

“It’s designed to groom show cattle, horses, etc,” Tabatchka said over the roar of the machine. Will shudders his flesh as if shooing a fly. “He’s a little ticklish.”

Tabatchka is the huntsman for the Sewickley Hunt Club, one of two remaining foxhunting clubs in Western Pennsylvania. Instead of chasing a live fox, Sewickley organizes a drag hunt, in which members chase a fox’s scent through the woods. But Tabatchka’s job remains the same.

“My job is to breed, raise, train and then hunt the hounds on a hunting day,” he said.

Foxhunting came west over the Alleghenies with the region’s earliest European settlers and took root in the region. George Washington himself spent as much time as possible on the back of a horse. The sport is a direct link to the past, Tabatchka said.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


The last time Pittsburgh elected a Republican mayor, Charles H. Kline, the World War had yet to be distinguished by a I or II, the stock market had yet to crash and machine politics remained the modus operandi of most large cities.

Kline took office in 1926 and was almost immediately embroiled in controversy for not following the rules of office, said Anne Madarasz, museum division director of the Heinz History Center.

“At the time if you were to purchase something for the city and it was over $500, you had to put it to bid,” she said.

Which is where Kline got into trouble.

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

On a muggy Wednesday morning, before the sun has burned off the morning’s clouds, Lionel Greenawalt drives across his 100-acre Westmoreland County farm to a field of sweet corn.

While Greenawalt and his children pick an average of 400 dozen ears of corn each morning, at the moment, they have more corn than they can sell.

“It was kind of rainy this summer season, and we weren’t able to get into the field to plant every five to seven days,” he said. “So what happens is we have a lot of corn that comes in all together.”

That’s where gleaning comes in.

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

Making music is to Czechs what barbecueing is to Americans, a means of coming together.

This week a traditional Czech folk ensemble is performing throughout Pittsburgh and tapping into the region’s past.

If your idea of folk music is a particularly soulful rendition of “Oh, Susanna,” or perhaps the “Wabash Cannonball,” prepare yourself for a paradigm shift.

Fifty new bike racks will be installed throughout downtown by the end of this month, bringing the total of city-installed bike racks to more than 500.

Stephen Patchan, Pittsburgh’s bicycle-pedestrian coordinator, said adding more bike parking downtown is intended to spur business growth.

“The more bicycle-friendly business districts are, the higher customer capacity they generally have, which equates to more foot traffic for local businesses,” he said.

While the state legislature considers pension reform, the liberal-leaning Keystone Research Center released a brief Thursday meant to demonstrate how public pension benefits paid to state and school employees drive local and regional economies.

Stephen Herzenberg, economist and executive director of the center, said the data was important to consider in the context of the ongoing debate about state pension reform, and in particular, the plan championed by Gov. Tom Corbett.

Carnegie Museum of Natural History

A team of international scientists announced Wednesday the discovery of the oldest-known fossil primate skeleton, Archicebus achilles, uncovered in an ancient lake bed near the modern Yangtze River in China’s Hubei province.

Christopher Beard, curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, said the fossil’s discovery has profound implications for understanding eras of human evolution that remain shrouded in mystery.

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

Look alive, Pittsburgh — two of the year's busiest weeks are upon us.

On Thursday, the Pittsburgh Wow! Partnership, a collaboration between some the city’s most prominent cultural, business and civic entities, announced a two-week bonanza of events meant to highlight and contribute to the city’s vibrancy.

Taking place from June 7 to June 16, events include rededicating the Point State Park fountain, playing host to the Three Rivers Arts Festival, commemorating the completion of the Great Allegheny Passage and cheering on the Pirates at a string of home games.

If 736 chief executive officers had their druthers, they’d rather operate in 41 other states before setting up shop in Pennsylvania.

Each year, Chief Executive magazine asks hundreds of CEOs to evaluate the national business climate on a state-by-state basis. The magazine’s editor-in-chief, J.P. Donlon, said that the annual ranking feature provides a holistic, qualitative view of states’ ability to attract and maintain businesses.


At the turn of the 20th century, bicycling enthusiast and Pittsburgh native, Frank Lenz was an American celebrity. His two wheeled global journey, and eventual disappearance in Turkey, are chronicled in David V. Herlihy's book The Lost Cyclist. Last year Herlihy came to Pittsburgh and Essential Pittsburgh to celebrate Frank Lenz Day. This year, in observation of Lenz's world tour departure, we look at Pittsburgh's place in cycling history with WESA reporter Margaret Krauss.

On May 15, 1892, bookkeeper, amateur photographer and bicycle enthusiast Frank Lenz set off on his bike along rail lines in Pittsburgh. He was headed east to New York City on the first leg of his journey to cycle around the world.

More than a century later, cyclists in Pittsburgh will gather Saturday morning at the Pump House in Homestead. They are not headed for New York but rather Duquesne. And the supplies they will be carrying are food donations destined for the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.  

Air quality in Pittsburgh is getting cleaner, but it continues to negatively affect the health and well-being of city residents.

The Breathe Project and Allegheny General Hospital convened a summit Tuesday — World Asthma Day — to examine the overall effects of poor air quality, from increased instances of asthmatic attacks, higher mortality rates and cancer.

Pondering a Life with Robots

May 2, 2013
Heather McClain / 90.5 WESA

Through recent artistic conceptions, we explore a world of advanced robotics and consider the philosophical questions one might ponder if robots were a part of everyday life. Essential Pittsburgh Production Assistant Rebekah Zook  and WESA reporter Margaret Krauss visited Fraley's Robot Repair Shop in its final week Downtown and we spoke with Japanese contemporary theater Director Oriza Hirata at the Andy Warhol Museum.

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

The Heinz History Center on Tuesday kicked off the Healthy Heritage Cooking Series, a three-month pilot program designed to introduce students to Italian, Syrian and Bulgarian cooking and connect health to history.

Viviana Altieri, who directed an Italian cooking demonstration, is the executive director of Mondo Italiano, a local meet-up organization that promotes Italian language and culture. She said food traditions have always been important to mankind and that the Healthy Heritage series will broaden students’ cultural horizons.

Pittsburgh Urban Initiatives (PUI) has been awarded $35 million in tax credits by the U.S. Department of the Treasury to help spur investments in the city’s low-income communities.

The New Markets Tax Credit Program began in 2000 and allows individual corporations and investors to receive a credit against their federal income tax in exchange for making equity investments in Community Development Entities such as the PUI.

Investors can then receive 39 percent of their total investment in credits over seven years.

Ticks are about as well-loved as invasive dental surgery, so it’s likely a relief to many that 2013 is forecast to be an average or below average tick year, according to the Carey Institute of Ecosystem Studies.

Despite that prediction, it’s still important to be wary of ticks, said Ed Rajotte, a professor of entomology at Penn State.

Wikimedia Commons

All this week, NPR's Morning Edition will be telling the stories behind your morning cup of coffee. If you're anything like us, you take pride in your coffee cup. Show your mugs via Twitter and/or Instagram with #PghCoffee.

If Pittsburgh stopped serving coffee tomorrow, bean aficionados in Brooklyn or Seattle might not gnash their teeth or tear their hair at the loss, but the loyal patrons of this city’s coffeehouses would mount a full-on revolt.

Once a year, the Lawrenceville Corporation organizes the Joy of Cookies shopping tour. This year, 26 businesses set out plates of treats along the Butler Street route, giving neighbors a chance to meet in a very merry setting.

One of the three crystal chandeliers in the William Penn Hotel is lowered to the lobby floor for hand cleaning. Dusting and buffing the 1,754 individual pieces takes a three-person team eight hours to complete.

Take a ride on the Duquesne Incline. Its cars have carted Pittsburghers up and down Mount Washington since 1877. And it sounds like it.

Co-owner of Lawrenceville’s House of the Dead, Chuck Cramer believes Pittsburgh stands little chance of surviving a zombie apocalypse.

Adam Nelson plays games and thinks you should, too. Nelson ruminates on how games can change a city’s landscape and its citizens for the better.

Chelsea Banks

Winner of the 2012 Robert Goulet Memorial Mustached American of the Year award, Adam Paul Causgrove ruminates on the past, present and future of the mustache.

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

A pilot program in Allegheny County seeks to keep families in their homes by lowering their energy bills.

The Energy Efficiency Foreclosure Prevention Initiative (EEFPI) is a partnership between the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA), ACTION-Housing, Inc. and four area utility companies.

Many organizations say to accomplish their goals they take it one step at a time. The American Lung Association (ALA) means that literally.

This Saturday in downtown Pittsburgh 478 participants are expected to climb 897 steps to raise $120,000 for the ALA in the organization’s second annual "Fight For Air Climb."

The numbers don’t stop there.