When one of my closest (read: most brutally honest) friends visited my apartment, she pointed to a wall of chipping paint and said, “are you going to finish that?” “It is finished,” I assured her, the differences in our styles made painfully clear. I’m drawn to chipping paint, exposed lathe, a hint of original tile and the like. I’m drawn to the layers of stories a building can hold and the stories we should protect. So I’m easily drawn to the place Jebediah “Jeb” Feldman has chosen to call home. Both the building that houses him, and the community in which it sits, are rich in history and worth protecting.
To meet Jeb is to see the many paths and influences he has had. He grew up in Santa Fe, NM, moved to Madison, WI for college, lived in San Francisco and then in Pittsburgh for graduate school at Carnegie Mellon University. While earning his masters, he became very involved with then Mayor-Elect John Fetterman (whose house I showed you here) of Braddock, PA, a borough on the outskirts of Pittsburgh. There was something that drew Jeb to Braddock for the long haul.
“Braddock was unlike any place I’d ever experienced. It felt like it was slipping away and crumbling around the few people and activities that still occupied it. Yet, it was beautiful and historic and important, and very deserving of attention and investment. Many folks living here were proud and warm. After this place lost 90% of everything it once was, it still seemed full of opportunity.” After a few years of living in Pittsburgh, Jeb decided on the Braddock building that would make him a member of the community: an old, abandoned Catholic school. He would come to use this space as a home, as the UnSmoke Systems Art Space, and as studio spaces for artists.
The school building was originally completed in 1904 by a Hungarian-American architect named Titus de Bobula, who Jeb describes as “a very strange and interesting man.” The many years of occupants, disconnected plumbing, accumulated junk, old windows, carpeting, and water damage made for more projects than the average home. Jeb still has many ambitious projects on the horizon, but after nine years of living in a building that was never meant to be a home in the first place, he at least has a unique place to hang his hat, and a place in a community he loves.
Jeb reflects, “The community has grown and improved so much over the last 10 years, and it has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve done in my life to help drive and be a part of that change. I feel lucky that I found this community and the home I have, and I’m excited to see what the future brings here.” —Quelcy
Image Above: Jeb Feldman, in an original Eames chair inherited from his grandfather, flanked by his best furry friends. Liberty “Libby,” the older dog, was named for the Pittsburgh neighborhood of East Liberty, where they lived previously, and little Benigo “Benny” was a recent rescue from a surf spot near Zihuatanejo, Mexico. The dogs, the building, and his community work keep Jeb quite busy.