George Westinghouse worked on inventions inside castle
Geraldine Homitz grew up admiring the large stone mansion at the intersection of Marguerite and Bluff streets in Wilmerding.
She recalled limousines pulling up to its entrance, men in suits and women in dresses and white gloves who shuffled in and out, and the clock tower to which residents would set their watches.
“I grew up in the shadow of ‘The Castle,’ ” Homitz said, using the name locals use for the four-story, former Westinghouse Air Brake Company General Office Building.” My heart is in this building.”
On Friday and Saturday, the annual George Westinghouse Days celebration will be held inside the 59-room, 55,000-square-foot building. The festival will feature bingo, a craft show, a classic car show, activities for children, historical presentations, tours of the castle and its popular model train display, and live music by Two for the Road and Southside Jerry Mellix & Friends.
It’s the first year that all events on both days will be held on the grounds and inside the castle. The festival formerly was held in Wilmerding Park.
“It’s much cheaper to do it this way,” said Homitz, the former Wilmerding mayor and current operations manager for Wilmerding Renewed, a nonprofit organization that raises money for the town. “Now we don’t have to worry about getting rained on and our tents blowing over.”
Built in 1890 and modeled after a medieval Scottish castle, the building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and designated by the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation as a historic Allegheny County building.
The interior has the original marble floors and corridors, and brass fixtures and oak woodwork throughout. The four-face clock tower — which was added to the main building when workers rebuilt The Castle in 1897 following a fire — chimes on the half-hour.
George Westinghouse, an inventor, engineer, businessman and humanitarian, lived in Homewood but toiled away on his inventions at The Castle in Wilmerding, a Mon Valley community of about 2,100 people 14 miles east of Pittsburgh.
Wilmerding Renewed bought the building in 2006 for $750,000 from Virginia-based APICS Educational and Research Foundation, which had owned the building since 1985.
The festival brings hundreds of people into town and gives residents a sense of pride for their community, said Wilmerding Mayor Dominic Parisi.
“It’s two days that people look forward to,” said Parisi, 89, a lifelong Wilmerding resident.
Although the building is for sale — heating bills run $30,000 for the winter and maintaining it is too costly for the nonprofit — Homitz said she wants to see it “evolve into something good.”
“We’re doing the best we can until we can find somebody to buy it,” she said. “If somebody buys it, I wouldn’t even care. But it has to be somebody who’s going to take care of it.”
The Castle houses the George Westinghouse Museum, which hosts about 100 visitors in a typical summer.