Original nursing school at Allegheny Valley Hospital set for demolition

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Demolition of the nearly century-old former administrative building that abuts Allegheny Valley Hospital in Harrison is moving forward.

The facility is expected to be razed in early October.

The cost of the demolition has not yet been determined, said JoAnne Clobus, strategic communications adviser for Allegheny Health Network.

Opened in 1928, the building sits along Carlisle Street and once housed the hospital’s nursing school. Administration used the building until 2019 despite it being without an elevator or central air conditioning.

It has been vacant since.

Clobus said the space will make room for additional parking. The lot is scheduled to be constructed in spring 2023.

With the project still in the design phase, the number of spaces has not been determined.

Crews on Monday hemmed in the facility with fences to prepare for excavation. Work will not require the closure of Carlisle or Alabama streets, but sidewalks are off-limits for the duration of the project.

“There may be periods during the demolition and construction phases when the area may be deemed safe enough for pedestrians to utilize it and the construction fence serving as a barrier will be temporarily removed,” Clobus said.

The 188-bed hospital employs 900 people, including 300 physicians, and has about 165 volunteers.

It has served the Alle-Kiski Valley for more than 110 years since the first patient was admitted in January 1909 at its original location on Second Avenue in Tarentum. The facility moved to Harrison in 1919.

It opened as a 98-bed hospital, and the nursing school and dorm halls were erected nine years later.

In a 2009 Valley News Dispatch story, one person recounted memories of the nursing school, saying it “was very strict.” Students had to wear a dress or a skirt to go to the cafeteria, and freshmen weren’t allowed out past 6 p.m.

Male visitors were barred from the living areas.

Once they graduated and started working at the hospital, nurses received room and board and made about $30 a month.

They worked 12-hour shifts.

Costs for hospital care were worlds different back then.

The hospital had multiple-bed wards and semi-private rooms that housed up to four patients. There also were private rooms.

Wards cost $3 a day, and semi-private rooms were $4. Guests had to shell out $5 a day for a private room.

In the decades since the hospital moved to Harrison, there have been millions of dollars in upgrades and additions to improve patient care.

A $2.6 million wing was added in 1968 and a $2.5 million laboratory in 1974, followed in 1983 by a $26.5 million, four-level addition. A $38.3 million renovation in 1984 included the 450-car parking garage.

In 1990, a $4 million addition was built for the radiation oncology department; in 2008, there was a $13 million renovation and expanded emergency and urgent care project.

The hospital celebrated its centennial in 2009 with the theme “100 Years of Redefining Community Medicine.”

Demolition of the administration building is two years in the making.

It was scheduled to be torn down just before the pandemic hit. Allegheny Health Network officials weighed options for what best would serve the community in its place, Clobus said.

MCF Architects and Gateway Engineering collaborated for the design of the planned parking area.

Pittsburgh-based Rycon Construction will oversee the work.

Today, AVH supports the scholarship program at Citizens School of Nursing. The school, at the Galleria at Pittsburgh Mills, graduates up to 80 students each year.

Tawnya Panizzi is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Yo

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