Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation | Mar 03, 2022
Albert ‘Al’ Tannler, an architectural historian and author of significant books on the history and architectural heritage of Pittsburgh, died at St. Clair Hospital on February 24. He was 81.
A consummate researcher, editor, and archivist, Al was the director of the historical collections for the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation for 28 years, overseeing two libraries in addition to his scholarly interests.
For many years, he profiled more than 120 architects whose work defined the architectural landscape of our city and region through his writing, lectures, and specialized tours. He joined our organization in 1991and retired in 2019.
In that time, he authored and co-authored books, guidebooks, pamphlets, and many essays on various aspects of the built environment. His articles appeared regularly in the Pittsburgh Tribune Review’s Focus section from 1994 to 2004.
His Pittsburgh Architecture in the Twentieth Century: Notable Modern Buildings and Their Architects, was published by PHLF in 2013, and is the first guidebook devoted solely to the twentieth-century buildings in the Pittsburgh area.
Al was also the author of Charles J. Connick: His Education and His Windows in and near Pittsburgh, which he wrote after more than a decade of research into architectural glass and the discovery that buildings in Pittsburgh had some of the most inspired glass to be found anywhere. Published by PHLF, the book was selected by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette selected one of the best books of 2008.
Al was incredibly fascinated by the lives and stories of the architects and their clients, who built America, and the significance of their work in establishing an aesthetic that continues to define and impact how we appreciate the built environment. He established meaningful connections with architectural scholars and organizations in Pittsburgh, throughout the United States, and overseas.
In a tribute to Al upon his retirement, Peter Cormack, the distinguished British author, and expert on stained glass noted that Al’s “meticulous research, always so liberally shared with others,” and his devotion to the built heritage, truly made him “Pittsburgh’s priceless Civic Treasure.”
Al also authored a guidebook on H.H. Richardson’s Allegheny County Courthouse and Jail, published by PHLF in 2016, and he served as a co-editor of several other architectural guidebooks and publications.
In addition to his scholarly work, Al distinguished himself as a tour guide who relished the prospect of helping visitors appreciate the exceptional quality of Pittsburgh’s historic built environment. Over the years, he gave tours for assorted groups and organizations including the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, Heinz Architectural Center, Friends of the Gamble House, the American Museum and Gardens in Britain, and the Society of Architectural Historians, Chicago Chapter, among many others.
A native of northeastern Pennsylvania, Al received Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Divinity degrees at Franklin & Marshall College (Lancaster, Pennsylvania) and the University of Chicago, respectively.
He lived in Chicago for more than 25 years, working as an archive research specialist for the University of Chicago Library and as a proposal coordinator in the marketing department of Sargent & Lundy, an architecture and engineering services firm, before moving to Pittsburgh in 1991.
Al’s extensive work in documenting our region’s architectural heritage will be accessible to the public through our organization’s James D. Van Trump Library, where we are in the process of creating the Albert M. Tannler Collection.
Our organization is establishing the Al Tannler Memorial Fund to underwrite various preservation efforts in memory of him. Click here to donate to this fund. Mark your contribution in memory of Al Tannler.
You may also send a check to PHLF marked in memory of Al or contact Karamagi Rujumba: email@example.com or 412-471-5808 ext. 547 for more information on ways to support this fund.
Mr. Tannler joined SAH initially in 2005, as he contributed to arrangements for the 2005 SAH Annual Conference in Pittsburgh that year.