Long before the Senator John Heinz History Center showcased 250 years of Western Pennsylvania history at 1212 Smallman Street, its Strip District building had a much more “chilling” legacy.
Prior to the days of refrigeration, many local residents relied on ice deliveries to keep their food cold. In the late 1800s, the Chautauqua Lake Ice Company’s Smallman Street warehouse stockpiled ice harvested from New York lakes and shipped south to Pittsburgh on railcars. A disastrous fire destroyed the building but by 1898, the seven-story brick structure was back in service supplying blocks of ice to home ice boxes throughout the city.
With the invention of the electric refrigerator, the demand for ice quickly evaporated, forcing the closure of the ice warehouse in 1952. Sold to Adelman Lumber Company, the warehouse was used for storing lumber and millwork until 1991 when the Heinz History Center acquired the building and began construction of a new “warehouse” for our region’s history.
Officially opened in 1996, the History Center features six floors of long-term and changing exhibition space. In 2000, the History Center was named an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, providing unprecedented access to 144 million objects and specimens in the world’s largest museum.
In 2004, the History Center opened a new silver LEED certified, five-story wing featuring expanded exhibition and educational space, as well as the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum. Today, the Senator John Heinz History Center is the largest history museum in Pennsylvania and hosts more than 200,000 visitors from around the world each year.