info@alleghenywest.org
806 Western Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15233

843 Western Avenue

843 Western Avenue (Front Door)

Introduction

843 Western Avenue was constructed no later than 1860, and probably as early as about 1850. The house was designed in a transitional architectural style that incorporated elements of the Greek Revival and Italianate styles.

The Irwin family, who owned property on Western Avenue between Brighton Road and Allegheny Avenue, was responsible for construction of 843 Western Avenue. The Irwins had the house built on the site of a rope walk, or factory, where members of the family supervised the production of rope between 1813 and 1858. The Irwin family then lived in a mansion facing Brighton Road, and never occupied 843 Western Avenue. It is possible, however, that 843 Western Avenue, which was probably built while the rope walk was still in operation, originally housed upper-level rope walk employees.

In 1860, the Irwin family sold 843 Western Avenue for $3000. The purchaser, George Elliott, did not live in the house, but used it as a rental property. His tenants included the family of Benjamin Oppenheimer, a merchant tailor.

843 Western Avenue has now had a total of 17 owners.

Detailed information on the history of 843 Western Avenue is contained in the following report.

Ownership

  • March 17, 1790
  • November 2, 1813
  • March 9, 1816
  • March 5, 1858
  • May 10, 1860
  • January 26, 1901
  • August 10. 1903
  • September 2, 1903
  • September 11, 1903
  • June 15, 1906
  • December 5. 1916
  • May 29, 1925
  • August 31, 1936
  • October 20, 1937
  • June 10, 1947
  • June 3, 1950
  • June 22, 1950
  • August 4, 1950
  • August 18, 1951
  • March 19, 1953
  • December 19, 1961
  • October 16, 1980

Charles Wilkins, merchant, of the town of Pittsburgh conveyed property that included the present site of 843 Western Avenue to John Irwin, esquire, of the town of Pittsburgh for 30 pounds. This deed conveyed Out Lot 276 in the Reserve Tract opposite Pittsburgh, and Lot 69 in the town of Allegheny. Out Lot 276 was a 10-acre tract situated on the western side of land laid out for a common, and bounded by what are now Brighton Road, Ridge Avenue, Galveston Avenue and Western Avenue. Out Lot 276 included the present site of 843 Western Avenue. Lot 69 in the Town of Allegheny was a 60′ wide by 240′ deep lot at the comer of Ohio Street and Sandusky Street, measuring 60′ wide on Ohio Street and 240′ deep along Sandusky Street to Strawberry Alley.

(Deed Book Volume 2, Page 97)

William F. Irwin of the borough of Pittsburgh, one of the sons and heirs of John Irwin, rope maker, conveyed property that included the site of 843 Western Avenue to John Irwin of the borough of Pittsburgh, another of the sons and heir s of John Irwin, rope maker, for $1,772. This deed conveyed Out Lots 276, 263 and 168 in the Reserve Tract, containing 10 acres each, and property on Liberty Street in the borough of Pittsburgh. John Irwin had died intestate and was survived by his widow Mary and four children, Margaret, John, William, and Elizabeth.

(DBV 19 P 127)

John and Hannah Irwin of the town of Allegheny conveyed property that included the present site of 843 Western Avenue to Elizabeth Irwin and Margaret Irwin of the town of Allegheny. This deed conveyed Out Lot 276 in the Reserve Tract and other property in the borough of Pittsburgh. This deed was an amicable and full and equal deed of partition of the estate of John Irwin.

(DBV 22 P 189)

John and Abigail Irwin of Allegheny City conveyed property on Western Avenue to John Irwin Jr. of Sewickley for $8,000. This deed conveyed property on the southern side of what is now the 800 block of Western Avenue (then Water Lane), measuring 349′ wide along Western Avenue by 125′ deep to an alley (later Manilla Alley, now Maolis Way). The property was known as Lots 23 through 38 in a plan of lots laid out by John Irwin (later recorded in Allegheny County Plan Book 2: 173).

(DBV 131 P 495)

Martha Mary and John Irwin Jr. of Sewickley conveyed 843 Western Avenue to George Elliott of Beaver County for $3,000. The house occupied the lot on which it now stands, measuring 27.5′ wide along Western Avenue by 125′ deep to an alley. The lot was known as parts of Lots 34 and 35 in a plan of lots laid out by John Irwin. This deed stated that the property that was conveyed contained a two-story brick dwelling house.

(DBV 143 P 484)

The heirs of George Elliott, deceased, conveyed their interest in 843 Western Avenue to Andrew A. Adams, also an heir of George Elliott, for $10,000. Grantors named in this deed were Andrew A. Adams, unmarried; John and Emma B. Adams; Thomas E. and Hattie Adams; Christiana and John Q. Adams; Nancy E. and Iredell B. Rush, all of Whitley County, Indiana; Andrew Adams Jr., unmarried, of El Paso County, Colorado; John Elliott, unmarried, of Jackson County, Missouri; Laura Elliott, widow, of Centre County, Pennsylvania; George M. Elliott, unmarried, of Marion County, Missouri; William W. Elliott, unmarried, of San Francisco, California; Joseph W. and May V. Elliott of Clinton County, Pennsylvania; John H. and Blanche W. Elliott of Grayson County, Texas; and Jane and James H. Doherty and Margaret Elliott, unmarried, of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania.

(DBV 1112 P 365)

Andrew A. and Lois A. Adams of Columbia, Indiana, conveyed part-interest in 843 Western Avenue to John H. and Margaret G. Dailey of Allegheny City for $5,000.

(DBV 1298 P 214)

James Harris of Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, guardian of the person and estate of Elliott Vandeventer, a minor child of Kate Vandeventer and heir of George Elliott, conveyed the remaining part-interest in 843 Western Avenue to John H. Dailey of Allegheny City for $166.66.

(DBV 1288 P 217)

John H. and Margaret G. Dailey of Allegheny City conveyed 843 Western Avenue to Mary J. Armstrong for $5,500.

(DBV 1288 P 212)

Mary J. Armstrong of Pittsburgh conveyed 843 Western Avenue to George C. Lecky of Allegheny City for $5,850. George C. Lecky died in October 1913.

(DBV 1451 P 594)

Catherine Dallas Lecky, widow, of Pittsburgh conveyed 843 Western Avenue to the Home Mutual Building & Loan Association of Allegheny City, Pennsylvania, for $1 and other good and valuable considerations.

(DBV 1854 P 523)

The Home Mutual Building & Loan Association of Allegheny City, Pennsylvania conveyed 843 Western Avenue to Anna C. Lecky of Pittsburgh for $6,350. Anna C. Lecky died on December 18, 1933.

(DBV 2253 P 274)

W.C. and Jane C. Lecky Bender, Nielsen Lecky Smith, Trevanion and Adelia R.P. Lecky, all of Pittsburgh, conveyed 843 Western Avenue to John S. Phipps, Henry C. Phipps and Howard Phipps, as trustees under the Phipps Pennsylvania Land Trust, for $1 (tax stamps suggest a price of $5,000).

(DBV 2638 P 350)

John S. Phipps, Henry C. Phipps and Howard Phipps, as trustees under the Phipps Pennsylvania Land Trust, conveyed 843 Western Avenue to D.C. and Agnes Mae Greene of Pittsburgh for S3,000.

(DBV 2577 P 192)

D.C. and Agnes Mae Greene of Pittsburgh conveyed 843 Western Avenue to Stephen Kovacs of Pittsburgh for $1 and other good and valuable considerations (tax stamps suggest a price of $5,000).

(DBV 2945 P 655)

Stephen Kovacs of Pittsburgh conveyed 843 Western Avenue to James P. Casey of Pittsburgh for $1 and other good and valuable considerations (tax stamps suggest a price of $6,500).

(DBV 3100 P 22)

James P. and Marie W. Casey of Pittsburgh conveyed 843 Western Avenue to Patrick B. and E. Blanche Hart of Pittsburgh for $1 and other good and valuable considerations (tax stamps suggest a price of $7,500).

(DBV 3091 P 721)

Patrick B. and E. Blanche Hart of Pittsburgh conveyed 843 Western Avenue to Walter F. Johnson of Pittsburgh for $1 and other good and valuable considerations.

(DBV 3101 P 554)

Walter F. Johnson of Pittsburgh conveyed 843 Western Avenue to Joan and David Burrows Jr. of Crafton for $1 and other good and valuable considerations (tax stamps suggest a price of $7,500).

(DBV 3158 P 230)

Joan and David Burrows Jr. of Crafton conveyed 843 Western Avenue to Greeta L. Harbaugh of Pittsburgh for $13,000.

(DBV 3249 P 608)

Albert E. and Greeta L. Harbaugh Boyer of Pinellas County, Florida conveyed 843 Western Avenue to McClurg H. and Frances A. Shelton of Allegheny County for $10,500. McClurg H. Shelton died on April 15, 1970.

(DBV 3924 P 660)

Francis John Schmitt Jr. purchased 843 Western Avenue from Frances A. Shelton, widow.

(DBV 6309 P 954)

Age of the House

Construction

All available information indicates that members of the Irwin family had 843 Western Avenue built no later than 1860, and possibly as early as about 1850.

Maitha Mary and John Irwin Jr. of Sewickley conveyed 843 Western Avenue to George Elliott on May 10, 1860. This deed stated that the lot that was conveyed contained a two-story brick house. Exterior architectural features of 843 Western Avenue are consistent with construction in or before 1860, and indicate that the present house is the same that was conveyed by the 1860 deed. The purchase price of S3 000 is also consistent with the size, brick construction, and location of 843 Western Avenue.
An 1852 map that includes Allegheny City is the earliest map of the area that depicts structures. The map shows a structure in the approximate location of 843-845 Western Avenue. An 1858 plan of lots on the former rope walk site (Allegheny County Plan Book Volume 2, Page 173) also depicts double houses on the southern side of the 800 block of Western Avenue. It should be noted that the westernmost double house in the 1858 plan of lots is not depicted as occupying the lots on which 843-845 Western Avenue stand. However, as it is unlikely that the Irwins demolished and rebuilt the double houses between 1858 and 1860, it appears likely that 843-845 Western Avenue was the structure depicted in the 1852 map and 1858 subdivision plan.

Architectural style

843 Western Avenue was built with elements of the Italianate and Greek Revival styles.

Italianate features of 843 Western Avenue include the house’s side-gabled shape with rear shed-roof ell and its wood brackets. The house, as an early example of this style, does not display the arched, projecting window hoods that were common in Italianate homes built after the Civil War. The pediment that joins the front door entablatures of 843 and 845 Western Avenue is a Greek Revival feature, and supports the likelihood that 843-845 Western Avenue was built closer to 1850 than to 1860.
The Greek Revival style was used in construction of houses and commercial and institutional buildings in the Pittsburgh area between about 1830 and the 1850’s. The Italianate style was the prevailing architectural style for homes and commercial and institutional buildings constructed in the Pittsburgh area between about 1860 and 1885.

Available records do not identify an architect who is credited with design of 843 Western Avenue.

Owners & Residents

The Elliotts

George Elliott purchased 843 Western Avenue from John Irwin Jr. and his wife, Martha Mary Irwin, on May 10, 1860. The 1860 census, taken on June 15 of that year in Allegheny West, enumerated George Elliott and his family in the Second Ward of Allegheny City, indicating the family did not live at 843 Western Avenue. Western Avenue was the boundary between Allegheny City’s First and Second Wards, with the First Ward located to the south and the Second Ward to the north.
George Elliott was listed in the 1861 Pittsburgh directory for the first time in 1861. Elliott was listed as a gent living on Western Avenue near the lead works in 1861, and as a gent living on Western Avenue near the West Commons in 1862. Neither he or other members of his family appeared in directories published in 1863 and in later years.

George Elliott and his heirs owned 843 Western Avenue until 1903.

1875 and Earlier

Pittsburgh city directories provide the only means of identifying residents of 843 Western Avenue before 1875, the year that the family of Benjamin Oppenheimer is known to have rented the house. Directories listed nearly all residents of Pittsburgh and Allegheny City alphabetically, making it necessary to read directories to determine occupancy of 843 Western Avenue and other houses that were occupied by tenants.
Homes on the 800 block of Western Avenue were assigned numbers in about 1867. Identification of tenents before this time is probably impossible.

1876-1880

The 1880 census enumerated Benjamin Oppenheimer and his family at 43 (now 843) Western Avenue. Benjamin Oppenheimer, 46, was enumerated as a merchant tailor. He had been bom in Germany and his wife, Eva, had been bom in Poland.

Benjamin and Eva Oppenheimer had three children who lived with them at 43 Western Avenue: Jacob, 21, and Samuel, 17, both store clerks, and Nora, 11.
The Oppenheimer family employed one servant who lived at 43 Western Avenue. Julia Kier, 23, had been bom in Pennsylvania to German immigrant parents.

Pittsburgh city directories show that the Oppenheimer family lived at 843 Western Avenue between 1876 and 1880. Benjamin Oppenheimer’s shop was located on Market Street, Downtown.

Neighborhood Development

843 Western Avenue was built over a decade before the Allegheny West area began to develop as a genteel alternative to sections of Allegheny City like the east and south commons and the Anderson Street area, which were crowded and contained mixed residential, commercial and industrial uses by the end of the Civil War. While Ridge Avenue and Brighton Road became the home of some of the wealthiest residents of the Pittsburgh area, and Beech Avenue homes were built for middle-class families, Western Avenue developed as a somewhat unlikely mixture of mansions, homes of middle-class and working-class families, and small industrial sites. North Lincoln Avenue was developed with a mixture of mansions and middle-class housing.

Learn More

Rope Walk

835 North Lincoln Avenue occupies part of the site of a rope walk, or factory, that was operated by members of the Irwin family until 1858.

Learn More

Supplementary Materials

The following materials accompany this report:


A Researched History
By: Carol J. Peterson

all photos by Chris Siewers, unless otherwise noted

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