Why Does WESA Say 'Broadcasting From Pittsburgh's Historic South Side'?

Jan 5, 2018

"Broadcasting from Pittsburgh’s historic South Side, this is 90.5 WESA, Pittsburgh’s NPR news station."

Since 90.5 WESA moved to its home in Bedford Square in 2012, on-air hosts will occasionally sign off their newscast with this phrase. It was introduced around the time WDUQ was sold to Essential Public Media and became 90.5 WESA.  

A sketch by WESA Weekend Edition host and reporter Noah Brode hangs on the wall of the on-air studio at the Pittsburgh Community Broadcasting Company.
Credit Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Management who helped with the transition said they aren’t sure of the exact reasoning behind the tag, but they imagine it was a way for 90.5 WESA, the new kids on the block, to show it was in the community, still present in the city, just over on the other side of the Monongahela. It was a branding strategy. 

It’s been about five years since the big move, and 90.5 WESA Good Question listener Richard David Fahrner wondered why the station stuck with the expression.

This is part of our Good Question! series where we investigate what you've always wondered about Pittsburgh, its people and its culture.

“Is not Pittsburgh, in its entirety, historic?” he asked.

Yes, Pittsburgh, founded in 1758, is an absolutely historic place. For decades, the people who lived here contributed their ideas, inventions and talents to the country, solidifying the city’s significance in many different areas.

Pittsburgh is also home to 86 City Historic Designation sites (look for the rectangular plaque with the gold outline) and 12 City Historic Districts, including, East Carson Street on the South Side Flats.

Arthur Ziegler, president and co-founder of Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation, which submits sites for approval to Pittsburgh City Council to receive the historic designation, said the South Side was a like a guinea pig location for preservation in the city.

The Historic Review Commission of Pittsburgh has laid out design guidelines for the East Carson Street Historic District that include rules on storefronts, new construction and demolition.
Credit Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

“Our goal was to work with the people there,” Ziegler said. “They decide what their neighborhood should be and how it should be done, rather than someone from a planning office.”

East Carson Street became one of the first Great American Main Streets grant recipients in 1996, meaning the business owners, residents and community developers had proven a commitment to historic preservation.

PHLF President Michael Sriprasert said the facades along East Carson Street were restored in the subsequent years, and laws set by the city of Pittsburgh lay out guidelines for rehabilitation and alteration of certain facilities.

“The reception, overall, has been really wonderful,” Sriprasert said. “It captures a lot of what people remember in Pittsburgh’s history. In the context of the city, I think they’re so pleased to see the treasures that we all have today.”

The building housing Carson City Saloon was constructed in 1896 in American Renaissance style. It used to be the German Savings Deposit Bank.
Credit Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

The other 11 historic districts include Allegheny West, Alpha Terrace, Deutschtown, Manchester, Market Square, Mexican War Streets, Murray Hill Avenue, Oakland Civic Center, Penn-Liberty and Schenley Farms.

So yes, much of Pittsburgh is historic and is recognized as such both locally and nationally. 90.5 WESA doesn’t assume that the South Side is any more historic than any other community, but here, tucked behind the 103-year-old South Side Market House, it’s always nice to remind people of the historical significance of this neighborhood.  

... and sometimes hosts need to fill a few extra seconds on-air, so adding "Pittsburgh's historic South Side" adds a little cushion.