Skip to main content

North Hills Monthly

North Allegheny Museum to Have New Home Near North Park

Jul 30, 2015 01:32PM ● By Hilary Daninhirsch
It’s like falling through a time warp. Eight-track tape players. Manual typewriters. A 1950s jukebox. Antique dolls. Vintage soldiers’ uniforms. Baseball mitts. Wind-up toys. A pinball machine. Rotary phones. A 1937 Silvertone radio. Every North Allegheny yearbook through 2015.

All of these items and countless more will have a new home in the summer of 2016 when the McCandless Museum opens its doors. And Joe Bullick, collector extraordinaire, will finally have peace of mind, knowing that the items he’s collected over the years will have a permanent home.

“People brought these items to me; I didn’t seek any items out,” said the 84-year-old Bullick. “I just didn’t turn anything away. It’s a flea market of history.”

Bullick is a retired North Allegheny School District custodial supervisor. About 17 years ago, people started giving him their North Allegheny collectables and other memorabilia for safekeeping, which resulted in the North Allegheny Museum.

After moving to a few locations in various schools within the district, the museum ended up at McKnight Elementary. But next year, the collection will move to a brand new building designed to look like a one-room schoolhouse adjacent to Ingomar Road on the way into North Park. The building is modeled after the original Peebles and Ingomar one-room schoolhouses; the official name has yet to be determined.

When McKnight Elementary needed to free up the space currently housing the artifacts, Bullick approached McCandless Town Manager Toby Cordek for help. Cordek promised to bring it to the attention of the Town Council, which gave the project overwhelming support.

After considering a few other locations, the town decided that the 1,800 square foot museum would be built on property adjacent to the Town Hall on a grassy area between the McCandless Ambulance Authority and the town soccer complex on Pumphouse Lane. “The collection needed a home—a permanent place for what Joe has done for all of us by collecting so many interesting things,” said Cordek.

If the current collection is any indication, the new museum will be greatly appreciated by history buffs. During a tour of the McKnight space, Bullick rattles off dates of the items in the collection and facts about North Allegheny as easily as if he is reading it from a book. “You never know what you’ll find when you open drawers,” said Bullick, revealing a drawer full of vintage Archie comic books and Sears & Roebuck catalogues.

The museum will feature rotating displays, and provide storage for items not on display and those that may be donated in the future. “That is the point; to have local items, keepsakes, memorabilia,” said Cordek, who adds that the museum is in the process of affiliating with the Heinz History Center. “The focus will be on North Allegheny and McCandless, but certainly we will be glad to house anything anyone wants to place there after evaluating its historical relevance.”

The museum has had tremendous support from those working on the property, including an outpouring of donations from various contractors of about $200,000. And not only is the museum a gift for the entire McCandless and North Allegheny community, but construction of the building has also benefited the A.W. Beattie Career Center, which has about 30 students studying carpentry, construction and HVAC working on the actual construction of the building.

“We have a great working relationship with the Town of McCandless; they approached us, and our instructors and students were very enthusiastic about doing this,” said A.W. Beattie Career Center Executive Director Eric Heasley.

The students constructed some of the sections of the school at the career center, which were then transported for final assembly. “It provides the hands-on component to what we do at the career center, and the students have had a great time doing the project,” said Heasley, adding that next year’s crop of students will also have the opportunity to work on the building.

Once the museum is open, Bullick will still play an important role in maintaining the area’s history. “I’ll be part of the institution; I’ll be there some days, I’ll talk to people,” he said. “I still want to stay involved.”

The museum will be free to the public, and Cordek hopes that schools will consider making field trips. “I hope that visitors come away with a greater sense of community and connection to our past here,” he said.