March 20, 2013

Pittsburgh non-profit to open a literary center next year


This one-time Masonic temple in Pittsburgh will soon be home to a literary center operated by non-profit City of Asylum.

The non-profit organization City of Asylum in Pittsburgh announced on Monday that it plans to open a literary center on the city’s North Side, which will include a bookstore, performance/event space, and café. Dedicated to creating a “sanctuary to endangered literary writers, so that they can continue to write and their voices are not silenced,” per its mission statement, City of Asylum offers residencies to international and exiled writers who are persecuted in their home countries. It also holds monthly readings and providing other resources to help writers build a new life as part of a community.

Jeremy Boden reported in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that the Alphabet City Literary Center will open in a one-time Masonic temple, and that it’s part of an effort to revitalize the neighborhood. Pittsburgh’s Urban Redevelopment Authority (UDA) is working with the Zukin Realty of Philadelphia and Collaborative Ventures of Pittsburgh to reinvigorate a block of dilapidated buildings. City of Asylum had initially planned to open Alphabet City at another location, but when a zoning issue blocked them from proceeding, they moved on to the former Masonic temple, for which they signed a lease in the past week.

Diana Nelson-Jones at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes that City of Asylum founder Henry Reese and his wife Diane Samuels have been hosting the organization’s readings at their home, on the same street where their writers-in-residence live in cool houses like these:

Four “House Publications,” renovated homes where City of Asylum puts up exiled writers: House Poem, House Permutation, Pittsburgh-Burma House, and Jazz House.

When the new 5,000-square-foot space is up and running, City of Asylum will be able to accommodate 150 people in a venue that will also have facilities for recording and broadcasting. Reese says of their plans for the new literary center, “In addition to presenting our own programs, which have an international focus, we plan for Alphabet City to be a hub for Pittsburgh authors, musicians and community groups.”

Alphabet City Literary Center is due to open its doors in the spring of 2014.


Nick Davies was a publicist at Melville House.