Upcoming Events

All evening programs are open to the public and held at the Church of the Redeemer, 5700 Forbes Avenue, and begin at 7:30 pm.

Due to COVID-19, our programs at the Church of Redeemer, 5700 Forbes Avenue, have been temporarily suspended.

If you have any suggestions or ideas for future speakers or topics to put on our agenda, please email us at sqhillhist@shhsoc.org.


January 12, 2021: Zoom Program, 7:30 p.m (Tuesday)
“Writing the Book about The Homewood Cemetery”
Speaker: Lisa Speranza
Lisa Speranza, Director of Development for The Homewood Cemetery Historical Fund, was born and raised in Pittsburgh’s Lawrenceville neighborhood. She has been visiting Allegheny Cemetery her entire life. Her family has been part of the grounds since the 1940s. In 2014, she joined Allegheny Cemetery as a volunteer historian. Along with Nancy Foley, she co-authored Images of America:  Allegheny Cemetery in 2016. In 2017, she expanded her volunteer work to include The Homewood Cemetery. Touched by the many wonderful stories there were to share within those grounds, she authored Images of America: The Homewood Cemetery, which was published in December 2019.  During both of these efforts, she was fortunate to work with many wonderful individuals from the cemeteries’ Board of Directors, local historical organizations, and kind individuals from the local community who understood the importance of sharing those tales.

Early in 2020, Ms. Speranza was selected as the Director of Development for both cemeteries. In this role, she feels it is her honor to continue to tell the stories of those who came before, while preserving their legacies for future generations. The Allegheny and Homewood Cemeteries offer many wonderful resources, and they are continually evolving to incorporate new community outreach programs. Lisa looks forward to sharing them with you, as both cemeteries continue to build upon their foundations, started centuries ago.

January Interactive Activity:
“What’s in Your Basement?”
Do you have something odd, historic, or unusual in your house’s basement? Send us your story! You don’t have to identify your house. In the course of working on the House History Project, we came across a house with a room behind a disguised door in the basement where bootleggers cooked mash to make moonshine during the Depression, and one that had a bomb shelter during the Cold War. And we’ve heard about “slag humps” but have never seen one. Send us your stories! We’ll publish them in this newsletter. Email us at sqhillhist@shhsoc.org or click on “Contact us” on the SHHS website….. 

February 9, 2021 (Tuesday)
“Engineering Pittsburgh: Bridges”
Speaker: Todd Wilson, P.E.
Have you ever thought about how the Pittsburgh area became the City of Bridges? If you were starting over, would you build the city’s bridges where they are now? And what types would you build? Located at the confluence of three rivers instead of along the coast and being one of America’s earliest frontier cities west of the Appalachian Mountains, bridge engineering in the greater Pittsburgh area experienced a lot of unprecedented engineering challenges. This resulted in many advances in bridge engineering and the development of unique engineering solutions. Join local engineer and historian Todd Wilson to tell the story of how bridge engineering developed in western Pennsylvania through highlighting the various innovative structures that were built.

In 2018, the American Society of Civil Engineers Pittsburgh Section celebrated its 100th Anniversary by releasing the book, Engineering Pittsburgh: A History of Roads, Rails, Canals, Bridges & More. Todd was one of two Squirrel Hill residents on a three-person committee that oversaw putting the multi-author book together. This presentation will be based on the bridge chapter he wrote.

About the Speaker: Todd Wilson is an award-winning transportation engineer in Pittsburgh and a noted researcher on bridges. He has photographed bridges in all 50 states and in more than 25 countries and has presented at conferences in five states. He is a past presenter at the Squirrel Hill Historical Society and is a Squirrel Hill resident. Wilson holds engineering degrees from Carnegie Mellon University and an MBA from Point Park’s Rowland School of Business. He serves as a trustee of Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation and as History & Heritage Chair for the Pittsburgh Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers. Publications include coauthoring Images of America: Pittsburgh’s Bridges and Engineering Pittsburgh: A History of Roads, Rails, Canals, Bridges & More.

March 9, 2021 (Tuesday)
“Pittsburgh Pirates Go to the Movies”
Speaker: Ron Backer, Attorney & Author
Ron Backer is an attorney who is an avid fan of movies and baseball. He has written five books on film, his most recent being Baseball Goes to the Movies, published in 2017 by Applause Theatre & Cinema Books. His talk explores films with scenes featuring the Pittsburgh Pirates. As part of his presentation, Ron will show short clips from eight movies. In addition to discussing the films, Ron’s talk will use several of the films to highlight important events in local baseball history, including the struggles of the 1950s Pirates, Roberto Clemente’s 3,000th hit and Babe Ruth’s last great day in baseball, which occurred at Forbes Field in 1935.

About the Speaker: Ron Backer practices in the Real Estate and Commercial & Business Litigation Departments of Rothman Gordon. He specializes in transactional work, such as negotiating commercial leases and real estate purchases and sales, He also represents clients in real estate tax assessment appeals. Ron received his law and undergraduate degrees from the University of Pittsburgh. 

April 13, 2021 (Tuesday)
“The Mystery of Liberty Township”
Speakers: Jim Wudarczyk & Tom Powers, Lawrenceville Historical Society
Jim Wudarczyk and Tom Powers of the Lawrenceville Historical Society will discuss the short-lived Liberty Township. Its boundaries incorporated East Liberty below Penn Avenue, Friendship, Shadyside, and parts of Bloomfield, Point Breeze, Regent Square, and Squirrel Hill. Formed from Peebles Township in 1864, the boundaries were readjusted in 1866 when James Murdoch and others petitioned the Commonwealth because their farms were partly in Peebles and partly in Liberty. The petition requested that their landholdings be included in Liberty Township. On April 6, 1867, the City of Pittsburgh annexed the surrounding municipalities of Collins, Liberty, Peebles, Pitt, Oakland, and Lawrenceville.

About the Speakers:
Jim Wudarczyk is retired after 40 years in the forest products industry. He is a Civil War buff, author, and Lawrenceville tour guide who knows his local history. Like the fact that some well-known paintings of Pittsburgh’s Stephen Foster were done by early 20th century magazine illustrator Howard Chandler Christy.

Tom Powers is president of the Lawrenceville Historical Society. He is an author, historian and researcher, as well as a former editor of the Society’s newsletter.

May 11, 2021 (Tuesday)
Expert Analysis of Zone 4 Crimes”
Speaker:  Officer David Shifren, Pittsburgh Bureau of Police
Officer David Shifren, a community resources officer at the Pittsburgh Police Department’s Zone 4 Station on Northumberland Street, will review recent crime statistics in Squirrel Hill and provide insights to those numbers based on his 20+ years of experience as a police officer. He will also expand on the themes of some of his Squirrel Hill Magazine columns.

About the Speaker: Officer Shifren is a Brooklyn native who began his career as a high school teacher and came to Pittsburgh in 1989 to enroll in the University of Pittsburgh’s Master of Fine Arts Program. Besides mentoring other writers, he has taught creative writing at Pitt and has offered a popular film-appreciation course through Pitt’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute for older adults.

Because of the quality of his written reports, fellow officers have nicknamed him The Professor. 
While doing research for one of his books more than 20 years ago, Officer Shifren convinced police to let him ride along with Pittsburgh detectives on the job. That prompted him, at age 44, to embark on a career in law enforcement, first with a suburban force and then with the City of Pittsburgh.

He has been recognized by Mayor Peduto for creating the Pittsburgh Police Junior Chess Club, which has expanded throughout the city and serves as a mentoring program for children. Officer Shifren founded the Club because he taught chess in Hoboken, NJ, years ago and believes that playing the game improves children’s classroom performance and makes them better citizens.

June 8, 2021 (Tuesday)
“Deciphering Presidential Scribbles”
Speaker: Michelle Dresbold
Michelle Dresbold is an internationally renowned handwriting expert, personality profiler, author, speaker, and artist, and Squirrel Hill resident. She will explain what the signatures and other handwritings of our nation’s commanders-in-chief tell us about their personalities.

About the Speaker: As the only civilian graduate of the United States Secret Service’s Advanced Document Examination Program, Michelle has been providing expert services to prosecutors, private attorneys, and police departments throughout the United States for more than 20 years. She has been consulted in cases ranging from embezzlement, fraud, and forgery to arson, stalking, and murder. Her testimony has been cited as a key factor in many of these trials, solidifying her reputation as one of the nation’s top handwriting analysis experts.

Michelle holds an undergraduate degree in psychology from the University of Michigan.

July 13, 2021 (Tuesday)
Changes in Squirrel Hill’s Political Borders
Speaker: Helen Wilson
Have you ever wondered how Squirrel Hill became Squirrel Hill? Who decided on its borders? Why are its borders where they are? These and other questions will be answered in this presentation by Helen Wilson, SHHS Vice-President, who has been studying Squirrel Hill’s history in depth for 15 years. She found that the process of the neighborhood’s development was convoluted, changing from primeval forest to rival land claims by Virginia and Pennsylvania, to increasingly smaller subdivisions as the population grew. This presentation will trace the path of development that created the Squirrel Hill we know today.

About the Speaker: Helen Wilson is Vice-President of the Squirrel Hill Historical Society (SHHS). She edited and contributed to the SHHS Book Squirrel Hill, a Neighborhood History. She has been researching and writing about Squirrel Hill’s History since she retired in 2006 from the Pittsburgh Board of Public Education, where she taught art and worked in the Division of Curriculum Development as a writer, editor, graphic designer, and illustrator.
Ron Baraff, Rivers of Steel — “The Story of Carrie Furnace”

August 2021

September 14, 2021 (Tuesday)
“The Story of Carrie Furnace”
Speaker: Ron Baraff, Rivers of Steel

October 12, 2021 (Tuesday)
Beth Kissileff — “Reflections on the Tree of Life Shootings: Three Years Later”


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