Sunday will be Pittsburgh’s banner day

June 26, 2008
Tribune Review

If Pittsburghers don’t know why their city has a street named Boulevard of the Allies, they should after Sunday afternoon.

More than 1,000 active-duty servicemen and women, color guard members, foreign dignitaries and of course, veterans are expected to turn out for the rededication of the 86-year-old boulevard. Complete with bagpipers, a C-130 flyover by the 911th Airlift Wing and a 21-gun salute by the Pennsylvania National Guard’s 107th Field Artillery, the 1 p.m. ceremony aims to honor all veterans but especially those who served in what many had thought would be “The War to End All Wars.”

“The Boulevard of the Allies was dedicated to the millions of men and women in more than two dozen countries who fought and died to stop international aggression in World War I,” said Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Forest Hills. “We thought this event would be a good way to let the current generation of heroes, as well as the surviving members of the previous generations, know that we are grateful for their service and their sacrifice.”

Art Institute of Pittsburgh student Michael Kuzin designed the banners representing 29 Allied nations and the United States that are being hung this week. Finding images of flags for nations from 1919 posed a bit of a challenge.

“I tried to honor the original flags as much as I could,” said Kuzin, 21, of Delmont. “Some of these countries don’t exist in the same form any more.”

The rededication was the brainchild of Romel Nicholas, an attorney with Gaitens Tucceri and Nicholas. In 2000, he helped to bring the Legends of Pittsburgh baseball mural — also being spruced up and rededicated Sunday — to the wall beneath the boulevard at Ross Street.

A board member of the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, Nicholas said he initiated discussions last year about hanging American flags along the boulevard during the city’s 250th anniversary. As he learned more about the history of the street, he realized something more grand might be in order.

Once known as Monongahela Boulevard, the city in August 1921 renamed the street as part of a widening project that a year later extended the $2 million artery to Oakland, according to newspaper articles from the period.

Nicholas estimated that local enterprises and groups have donated about $250,000 in in-kind donations of materials and manpower to stage the event.

“It was a perfect storm of people coming together,” he said. “Everyone was very eager to showcase our military veterans.”

Dignitaries from nations including Greece, Guatemala, Montenegro, Serbia, New Zealand and South Africa — both formerly part of the British Empire — will be on hand for the ceremony. It was planned to coincide with the final day of the Tour of Pennsylvania bicycle race, which features several international cycling teams and concludes Downtown early Sunday evening.