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The Point: The Exposition Passes into History


From The Gazette Times, March 1919.
Famous 'Expo' Here Passes into History: Society Votes at Meeting to Sell Holdings to City for $360,000. Existed 33 Years.
The Pittsburgh Exposition has passed. The society yesterday voted to accept $360,000 from the city and give up the remaining 17 years of its 50-year lease of the city ground on which the buildings are located. In 17 years the buildings with the lease would revert to the city anyhow, but the sale will enable the Society to pay its debts, and there will be something left over to divide among the men who invested their money in the institution without any expectation of financial reward.
The buildings are machinery hall, the main exposition structure and the music hall. It is the idea of Mayor E. V. Babcock, who has been negotiating for the purchase of the Society's rights, to lease the main buildings for a union trolley freight station, and to use machinery hall for a city garage and machine shop, while the music hall can be used for conventions and mass meetings.
The city has taken no definite action toward acquiring the Society's holdings, but the mayor has kept council informed of the negotiations and that body is presumed to favor the scheme, the money to be raised by a people's bond issue. The final transaction by the society was made yesterday, when the life managers and members of the society met in the auditorium of the Chamber of Commerce and unanimously decided to sell the holdings to the city for no less than 360,000.

A Unanimous Vote.
Fifty members were present and 600 stockholders voted by proxy. The meeting formally executed the will expressed unanimously at a meeting [of the] members of the society some [time] ago. J. B. Shea, treasurer, presided at yesterday's session.
The Pittsburgh Exposition Society was organized 33 years ago. That was in the days of international expositions, state and county fairs and municipal expositions. The society was of the non-profit-sharing kind, having been established by public-spirited citizens for the benefit of the community. For years the annual exhibitions were the most successful in the country. Gradually other cities that had been holding them dropped out of the field, but the Pittsburgh Exposition Society held on. Even while during the last decade, public interest in such affairs was declining, the society secured large attendance every year by amplifying the musical attractions, engaging the greatest orchestras and bands of the country.
Many Pittsburghers still remember when Lillian B. Norton, who was afterward the celebrated Madame Nordica, sang at the annual exposition in the late 70s. She was then the soprano soloist with Arbuckle's Band, Arbuckle himself being a cornetist, the rival of the famous Levy. That was in the days of the earlier exposition, which held forth in Exposition Park, on the North Side, afterward the baseball park until the establishment of Forbes Field. In fact, the Pittsburgh Exposition Society was an outgrowth of the association that conducted the earlier expositions on the North Side.

Killed by the War.
The last exposition was held in the fall of 1916. On this occasion, the receipts fell off from the average of about $30,000, and the returns did not pay the expenses of the season. This was largely due to the prevalence of infantile paralysis. The disease prevailed that year during almost the entire time the exposition was in progress.
The following two years were years of war and this made the success of any exposition a practical impossibility, so no attempt was made to hold it. The buildings have been used at comparatively rare intervals during the last two years, the latest occasion of importance being the display of the war exposition several months ago.
The late Francis J. Torrance was president of the Exposition Society for 22 years. H. J. Heinz was elected to the position a few weeks ago. T. J. Fitzpatrick was manager for many years.


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