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806 Western Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15233

843 Beech Avenue

843 Beech Avenue (Front Door)

Introduction

843 Beech Avenue is a three story brick and stone house occupying a 70’6″ wide by 137’4.5″ deep lot located in the Allegheny West section of the city of Pittsburgh.

843 Beech Avenue was built by Jacob F. Diffenbacher, publisher of the Pittsburgh city directory, in 1892 or 1893. Jacob Diffenbacher lived at 843 Beech Avenue until his death in 1898, and his wife Susan lived at 843 Beech Avenue until she sold the house in 1903.

Detailed information on the ownership history, age, and first owner of 843 Beech Avenue follows.

Ownership

  • December 18, 1879
  • March 11, 1890
  • March 11, 1890
  • July 11, 1892
  • July 12, 1892
  • May 1, 1893
  • October 28, 1903
  • April 11, 1904
  • December 16, 1908
  • July 7, 1909
  • February 21, 1916
  • April 20, 1928
  • April 20, 1928
  • April 28, 1928
  • April 28, 1928
  • September 15, 1942
  • June 22, 1949
  • August 6, 1949
  • July 2, 1956
  • January 24, 1974
  • April 14, 1975
  • April 18, 1977
  • November 7, 1977
  • March 29, 1979

Partition of the Estate of Elizabeth F. Denny, deceased. Robert McKnight, Esquire, and Rev. William M. Paxton, executors of the last will and testament of Elizabeth F. Denny, late of the city of Pittsburgh, to Mary O’Hara Spring, daughter of Elizabeth F. Denny, Margaret S. Denny, widow, and Henry S. Denny, James O’Hara Denny and Francis H. Denny, children of James O’Hara Denny, deceased, a son of Elizabeth F. Denny, Nancy Denny, widow, and Harmar D. Denny, Elizabeth (called Betty) Denny, and William Denny, children of William Croghan Denny, deceased, a son of Elizabeth F. Denny (St. Clair Denny, another son of William Croghan Denny, having died intestate and without issue before the death of Elizabeth F. Denny), Elizabeth O’Hara McKnight, daughter of Elizabeth F. Denny, Caroline Sophia Paxton, daughter of Elizabeth F. Denny, Amelia Melusina Brereton, daughter of Elizabeth F. Denny, Matilda Wilkins Denny, daughter of Elizabeth F. Denny, and Harmar Denny, son of Elizabeth F. Denny. This 65-page deed conveyed to Elizabeth F. Denny’s heirs many pieces of property in areas now known as Allegheny West, Manchester, Lower Lawrenceville, Polish Hill, the Hill District, the Strip District, Harmar Township and Downtown Pittsburgh.

(Deed Book Volume 401, Page 110)

Harmar D. and Elizabeth B. Denny of the city of Pittsburgh to J.F. Diffenbacher of the borough of Ben Avon, $5,625. This deed conveyed a 22’6″ wide by 137’4.5″ deep lot on the southern side of Beech Avenue, 176’9.75″ east of Grant Avenue (now Galveston Avenue) in the Second Ward of the city of Allegheny. The lot was known as part of Lot 28 in Block 1 in the Denny Estate Plan of Property, recorded in Plan Book Volume 6, Pages 193 and 194. This deed was later re-recorded in DBV 1308, P 154.

(DBV 719 P 39)

Charles W. and Elizabeth F. Sargent of Boston, Massachusetts to J.F. Diffenbacher of the city of Allegheny, $250. This deed conveyed a 1′ wide by 137’4.5″ deep lot on the southern side of Beech Avenue, 199’3.75″ east of Grant Avenue. The lot was known as part of Lot 27 in Block 1 in the Denny Estate Plan of Property.

(DBV 797 P 373)

J.F. and Susan E. Diffenbacher of Ben Avon to John C. Leitch of the city of Allegheny, $6,500. This deed conveyed a 23’6″ wide lot known as part of Lots 27 and 28.

(DBV 797 P 374)

John C. and Ida Leitch of the city of Allegheny to Susan E. Diffenbacher of the borough of Ben Avon, $6500. This deed conveyed a 23’6″ wide lot known as part of Lots 27 and 28.

(DBV 804, P 265)

Mary O’Hara Spring of the city of Pittsburgh, Amelia M. Brereton of Yonkers, New York, Reverend Harmar Denny of New York, New York to Elizabeth F. Sargent of Boston, Massachusetts, $1. This deed conveyed a 47′ wide by 137’4.5″ deep lot on the southern side of Beech Avenue, 239′ west of Ash Alley (now Rope Way) in the Second Ward of the city of Allegheny. The Lot was known as Lots 29 and 30 in Block 1 of the Denny Estate Plan of Property.

(DBV 911 P 508)

Susan E. Diffenbacher, widow, of the city of Allegheny to William McGee of Glenfield, Allegheny County, $14,500. This deed conveyed a 23’6″ wide lot identified as all of Lot 28. All subsequent deeds conveying this lot identified it as all of Lot 28.

(DBV 1293 P 284)

William McGee of the city of Allegheny to Mary Ann McGee and Emma McGee of the city of Allegheny, $1. This deed conveyed Lot 28.

(DBV 1325 P 337)

Mary Ann McGee, unmarried, of the Northside, city of Pittsburgh, to Emma McGee of the Northside, city of Pittsburgh, $1. This deed conveyed the one half interest of Mary Ann McGee in Lot 28 to Emma McGee.

(DBV 1731 P 488)

Emma McGee, unmarried, to Margaret Good, unmarried, $10. This deed conveyed Lot 28.

(DBV 1925 P 128)

Elizabeth F.D. and Addis M. Whitney of Boston, Massachusetts to John Fogarty of the city of Pittsburgh, $5000. This deed conveyed Lots 29 and 30.

(DBV 1849, P 225)

John A. and Margaret Good Fogarty of the city of Pittsburgh to Rachel A. Good, unmarried, of the city of Pittsburgh, $1 and other valuable considerations. This deed conveyed Lot 28.

(DBV 2361 P 222)

Rachel A. Good, unmarried, of the city of Pittsburgh to John A. and Margaret Good Fogarty of the city of Pittsburgh, $1 and other valuable considerations. This deed conveyed Lot 28.

(DBV 2361 P 225)

John A. and Margaret Good Fogarty of the city of Pittsburgh to Rachel A. Good, unmarried, of the city of Pittsburgh, $1 and other valuable considerations. This deed conveyed Lots 29 and 30.

(DBV 2361 P 224)

Rachel A. Good, unmarried, of the city of Pittsburgh to John A. and Margaret Good Fogarty of the city of Pittsburgh, $1 and other valuable considerations. This deed conveyed Lots 29 and 30.

(DBV 2361 P 226)

Margaret Good Fogarty, widow, of the city of Pittsburgh to the Sisters of Mercy, a corporation located in the city of Pittsburgh, $1. John A. Fogarty had died on December 22, 1929. This deed conveyed Lots 28, 29 and 30.

(DBV 2735 P 541)

The Sisters of Mercy, a corporation located in the city of Pittsburgh, to Abbott Sales and Service, Inc., a corporation located in the city of Pittsburgh, $9,000. This deed conveyed Lots 28, 29 and 30.

(DBV 3052 P 198)

Abbott Sales and Service, Inc., a corporation located in the city of Pittsburgh, to Nettie D. Lewis of the city of Pittsburgh, $1 and other valuable considerations. This deed conveyed Lot 28.

(DBV 3058 P 632)

Abbott Sales and Service, Inc., a corporation located in the city of Pittsburgh, to Nettie D. Lewis of the city of Pittsburgh, $5000. This deed conveyed Lots 29 and 30.

(DBV 3643 P 625)

Nettie D. Lewis, widow, of the city of Pittsburgh to Anne Lewis Grosso, in consideration of natural love and affection. This deed was a conveyance from mother to daughter. This deed and all subsequent deeds conveyed Lots 28, 29 and 30.

(DBV 4670 P 748)

Anne Lewis Grosso, widow, of the city of Pittsburgh to Barbara A. Templeton and Robert M. Beck of the city of Pittsburgh, $16,000.

(DBV 5469 P 37)

Barbara A. and R.K. Templeton of the city of Pittsburgh and Robert M. Beck, unmarried, of New York, New York, to John R. Polyak, single, of the borough of Sewickley, $32,000.

(DBV 5761 P 91)

John R. Polyak, single, of Allegheny County to Stephen D. McWhorter of Allegheny County, $42,000.

(DBV 5863 P 759)

Stephen D. McWhorter of the state of California to Robert C. Knaus of Allegheny County, $68,500

(DBV 6086, P 119)

Age of the House

Available information indicates that Jacob F. Diffenbacher had 843 Beech Avenue built in 1892 or 1893, after buying a 22’6″ wide lot on Beech Avenue from members of the Denny family.

The March 1890 sale of a 22’6″ wide by 137’4.5″ deep lot for $5,625, at $1.82 per square foot, was comparable to other sales of undeveloped lots in Allegheny West and Manchester during the 1880’s and 1890’s and indicates that 843 Beech Avenue had not yet been built. The July 1892 sale of the 22’6″ wide lot and adjacent 1′ wide lot for $6500, at $2.01 per square foot, also indicates the house had not been built. Subsequently, the 1894 Pittsburgh city directory listed Jacob F. Diffenbacher at 78 Beech Avenue for the first time.

City of Allegheny building permit dockets, available beginning in 1894, contain no record of issuance of a permit to Jacob F. Diffenbacher for construction of a house on Beech Avenue.

Allegheny County mortgage records show that on March 11, 1890, Jacob F. Diffenbacher borrowed $3500 from Harmar D. Denny against the 22’6″ wide lot on Beech Avenue that Diffenbacher bought from Denny the same day. Allegheny County mortgage records contain no record of any loan to Diffenbacher for construction of 843 Beech Avenue.

Ida Leitch, who with her husband John participated in a transaction that placed 843 Beech Avenue in Susan Diffenbacher’s name in 1892, was a daughter of Jacob F. and Susan Diffenbacher.

The Home Today

Photos by Chris Siewers

Through the Years

Residents

The Diffenbachers

Pittsburgh city directories and U.S. census records provide information on Jacob F. Diffenbacher, who published the Pittsburgh city directory from the late 1870’s until his death in 1898, and his wife Susan.

Learn More

Other Early Occupants

The 1910 manuscript census reported that a family headed by Mary McGee lived at 843 Beech Avenue. Mary McGee, 74, had been born in Pennsylvania and was of Irish descent. The census recorded her occupation as “own income.” She was able to read and write, and owned her home fully.

Living with Mary McGee were her sister Emma, her nieces Rachel A. Good and Margaret Good, a lodger, James B. Jordan, and a servant, Cecelia Pottgiesen.

Emma McGee, 53, was single and had been born in Pennsylvania. Her occupation was also given as “own income.” Rachel A. Good, 41, and Margaret Good, 39, were both single and had no occupation. Both had been born in Pennsylvania.

James B. Jordan, 30, had been born in Ireland and immigrated to the United States in 1880. Jordan was single and attended school.

Cecelia Pottgiesen, 26, had been born in Pennsylvania to parents also born in Pennsylvania. The census indicated that she had not been unemployed during the previous year.

The 1910 manuscript census also reported that all residents of 843 Beech Avenue were able to read and write.

Supplementary Materials

The following materials accompany this report:

  • a copy of an 1872 plat map of part of Allegheny West, including Beech Avenue
  • a copy of a 1910 plat map of part of Allegheny West, including Beech Avenue
  • a copy of the title page of the 1894 Pittsburgh city directory, showing Jacob Diffenbacher as publisher of the directory
  • the obituary of Jacob Diffenbacher, from the April 2, 1898 Pittsburgh Press
  • an article featuring the home as part of the 1982 Christmas tour in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
  • an article featuring the home as part of the 1988 Christmas tour in the Pittsburgh Press

A Researched History
By: Carol J. Peterson

all photos by Chris Siewers, unless otherwise noted

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