Clio Logo

With two levels, a bar, a large kitchen, and outdoor stage, the North Park Lodge has witnessed countless weddings, reunions, conventions, and other gatherings since its completion in 1936. The Lodge was constructed with Federal Aid through the Works Progress Administration, a New Deal agency established in May 1935.

A nearly identical Lodge in South Park unfortunately succumbed to an arsonist in 1981. “It’s funny,” Kenneth Saylor, architect of both park Lodges said, upon hearing of the South Park Lodge fire, “Buildings are just like people. They only seem important after they’re gone.”1 The North Park Lodge continues to prove its importance, as it remains one of the most popular rental facilities in the county parks.

North Park Lodge, July 25, 1938

North Park Lodge, July 25, 1938

Pine Residents at North Park

Pine Residents at North Park

Architect's Sketch of Picnic Lodges in County Parks

Black and white sketch of a two story building.

President Roosevelt established what would become the largest of the New Deal programs, the Works Progress Administration (WPA), on May 6, 1935. The WPA awarded federal funds for public works projects that were proposed by local governments. The workers on these projects were taken from the unemployed in the surrounding communities and directly employed by the WPA. In most cases the local government had to provide partial funding for the project to be considered for WPA funds. Allegheny County applied, and was granted, funding for projects across the county, including many within North and South Parks.


On July 26, 1935 Allegheny County submitted 14 projects to be considered for WPA funding. Tied for the third largest requests were the “recreational Lodge” projects in North and South Parks. The county was to contribute $41,224 ($832,270.43 in 2021 dollars) to the North Park Lodge, and the federal government was asked to cover $31,405 ($634,034.86 in 2021 dollars).2 Approval was granted, and construction began in late October 1935. Designing the park lodges was the first assignment given to Kenneth Saylor, who also designed the Tennis Club House around the same time. The original oak furniture within the Lodge was included in the WPA funds.

           “I wanted to create the most magnificent building in the park. It had to be durable, because I envisioned all the different kinds of people who would be using it. And it had to be rustic, to fit in with the landscape. Above all else, it had to be the kind of place people would want to go and have fun.”3 -Kenneth Saylor, architect

Six weeks after construction began, a group of farmers from the North Park area lodged a petition asking for the county to reconsider such a large expenditure. Robert G. Jackson, of Babcock Boulevard, spoke on behalf of the farmers to the local press. Jackson singled out the lodge as the most objectionable of expenditures, asking “Why do they have to build a lot of private clubhouses? Maybe the golfers need one and maybe the tennis players need one, too, but what is the lodge for?”4

The following month, in January 1936, newly appointed Parks Director Henry Hornbostel also questioned the need for an expensive lodge, golf clubhouse, and pool. Hornbostel’s early hesitancy did not stop him from celebrating the lodge in the 1937 Annual Report:

“Two large Park lodges opened in the summer of 1936 have taken on the character of country clubhouses for the general public. They are used almost daily both summer and winter by groups numbering 124 or more. This unique free privilege is in constant demand and has been much appreciated by the public.”5

Nor did it stop him from performing the role of Santa Claus at the Lodge in December of 1937. He later highlighted the lodges as a positive example of federal investments in the County Parks, writing in August 1938:

“Federal assistance has allowed the Allegheny County Commissioners to proceed with many desirable improvements at little cost. Most of these would have been denied to the people of Allegheny County for years to come if funds had not been made available by the Federal Government. Good examples of how much these Federal funds have meant are the North and South Park Lodges. These buildings are really clubhouses for the working people, built at a cost to the County less than the normal cost of the most ordinary of park structures.”6

The WPA was also responsible for the labor involved with grading and paving the three mile stretch of North Ridge Drive that connect the Lodge to Pearce Mill Road from the east. The project planned to use more than 17,000 feet of drain pipe and install 12 catch basins. The county would provide $51,000 for materials, while the WPA would cover the $39,000 labor cost. According to James E. Kesner, WPA district director; “The $90,000 county-WPA project for the improvement of North Ridge Drive, North Park, will make the recreational centers of the park available at all times and reduce maintenance costs.”7

  1. Noreen Heckmann, “South Park Lodge Builder Mourns Loss of History,” Pittsburgh Press, April 23, 1981.
  2. “County Seeks U.S. Funds for New Projects,” Pittsburgh Press, July 26, 1935.
  3. Noreen Heckmann, “South Park Lodge Builder Mourns Loss of History,” Pittsburgh Press, April 23, 1981.
  4. “Building of Palatial Lodges In County Parks Assailed,” Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph, December 8, 1935.
  5. Henry Hornbostel, "Department of Parks and Aviation," in 1937 Annual Report of Allegheny County (Pittsburgh: Board of County Commissioners, 1937), 483.
  6. Major Henry Hornbostel, “Parks Provide Varied Recreational Facilities,” Pittsburgh Press, August 31, 1938.
  7. “North Park Work Seen as Economy,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, March 3, 1938.
Image Sources(Click to expand)

Pittsburgh Press. Newspaper Clipping. December 8, 1935.