What Do You Do with a Historic Atom Smasher?

With the Westinghouse headquarters now located in Cranberry, the company's former site at the Forest Hills/Chalfant border has been sold to a developer. The atom smasher sitting on the property now needs a new use—or a new home.

The iconic blue "W" within a circle that was the Westinghouse logo is a bit faded. The odd, pear-shaped metal structure a bit weathered. And its future uncertain at best.

It was on the hill above Ardmore Boulevard, nestled between Chalfant and the "lettered" avenues plan in Forest Hills, where the world's first industrial Van de Graaff atom smasher made history in 1937—and Westinghouse Electric and the nation became a dominant force in nuclear energy.

The Forest Hills landmark, which smashed its last atom in 1958, is one of 50 historical "milestones" listed by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. In 2000, the atom smasher was designated historically significant by the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation. That provides no legal protection, though.

About 10 years ago, when Viacom ended up owning the Forest Hills property after a series of corporate changes that dismantled the former Westinghouse Electric, the future of the atom smasher structure was placed in jeopardy. The Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C., the Sen. John Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History Center and the Carnegie Science Center all declined to accept the atom smasher as is at that time.

Gary Silversmith, a Washington developer, just bought the former Westinghouse property—about 11 acres and the atom smasher—from CBS. He's considering building apartments at the site, according to Post-Gazette columnist Brian O'Neill, and realizes the atom smasher might not be the best marketing tool.

Fortunately, Silversmith also recognizes the importance of the structure. He suggested to O'Neill that, perhaps a high-tech company led by people who recognize the importance of the artifact could use it as public art.

Do you have any suggestions of places to relocate the historic atom smasher or a possible use for the several-story structure? Do you think it should be moved to Westinghouse's current headquarters in Cranberry? Tell us in the comments section.

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