When the Fifth Avenue Lofts, the site of the former Fifth Avenue High School, located in Pittsburgh’s Uptown neighborhood, first opened in 2012, Vickie Upsher Bey and Joyce Brown Flowers, both 1967 Fifth Avenue High School graduates, called Steiner Realty and asked for a tour of the building. The two were so impressed with the renovated space, as coordinators of the All Class Reunion, they thought it would be a great idea to put a tour of the school on the agenda for the next reunion.
On July 12 that plan came to fruition when more than 85 former FAHS graduates converged on the renovated building where they received their formal education.
The tour, which was from 11 a.m. to noon, included a look inside a couple apartments. Management provided for two apartments to be open for the tour; and one tenant actually opened her apartment to allow several alumni to see.
The former students found that the large Romanesque/gothic building where they received their high school diplomas had been transformed into 65 luxury apartments ranging in prices, from $750 for a studio apartment to $2300 per month for a penthouse loft apartment. And the halls where they once laughed and talked, carried high school romances, and hustled off to classes before the late bell, were now filled with apartments that gleamed with kitchen’s equipped with stainless steel appliances, granite countertops, and maple cabinets; and living rooms with rich laminate floors, designer lighting and exposed steel beams. They found also that the grand foyer which once housed the school office and the glass cases that held athletic memorabilia of the “Mighty Archers,” still maintained the marble floor and looked very much the same as it did during those dynamic years of sports, school dances, chemistry class, gym and shop.
The image in the alumni-filled foyer, made for a sea of red and white—FAHS school colors; and the graduates most of whom are now in their mid 50s to late 60s, were filled with the energy and excitement created by this gathering.
Some of the comments were; “I’m so excited to be returning to my alma mater—Fifth Avenue High School, a unique school that gave me an outstanding education and unique High School experience. And I am thankful and blessed that I carry these memories with me,” said Gladys Pierson-Baskerville.
“My class was 1974, two years before the actually closing of the school, that kind of makes me one of the youngest to be participating here—It is exciting and I consider it an honor to be here, and to be a part of the coordinating committee as well,” said Jeff Dawson, class of 1974.
“I am truly enjoying myself, being back at my alma mater after all these years—it’s different, but I see similarities from the time we were students here,” said Willa Mae Frazier, class of 1969.
While some of the students felt it would have been better had it remained a school, all agreed that it has gone through a beautiful transformation, and that it felt good to be taking this walk down memory lane.
A highlight of this tour was that it was visited by 100 year-old Dorothy Moon Beavers, who graduated in 1954. She said “I am truly, truly blessed to return to my school, and I am proud to be here—I thank God.”
Also present was 80 plus year old Booker T. Williams who related a story that he had actually been put out of FAHS, but still dearly loves the school and identifies with it. Dressed in his school colors of red and white, Williams said “I was most proud of the fact that I was able to return to the school as a teacher.”
The All-Class Reunion would include not only the tour, but a dinner dance and musical review that same night at JT’s in Monroeville; and a catered picnic on July 13 at Riverview Park.
At the end of the two days, Reunion Committee Chairwoman Bey said, “Approximately 30 different classes were represented during the weekend from 1943-1978 (the school closed in 76 but 77 and 78 classes identify with being FAHS grads).”
2010 was the initial rebirth of the FAHS All Classes Reunion which hadn’t been held in decades. The revolving reunion committee members were Bey, Jeff Dawson, Kim Dawson, Lester Ellis, Joyce Brown Flowers, Lorraine Smiley Galloway, Theda Sweetie Jemison and Margaret Smith.
“This tour added a special dimension to our reunion, and we are truly grateful to Mr. Casey (of) Steiner of Steiner Realty in Pittsburgh for granting us permission to tour the school, and to Igor Kraevsky who supervised the tour and the tenants who graciously tolerated our visit,” Bey said.
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