Local historical records indicate that Thomas M. and Nancy R. Lyons commissioned construction of 858 Beech Avenue in 1867 or 1868. The house was built inan urban version of the Italianate style, the most popular architectural style in the Pittsburgh area between the early 1860s and about 1885. Italianate features of 858 Beech Avenue include the brackets below the box gutter and within the side gable facing Galveston Avenue and the prominent window hoods and front door surround.
The house at 858 Beech Avenue was one of the first houses to be built on that street. The lot on which the house stands was part of property in Allegheny West that Elizabeth F. Denny had subdivided in the 1850s or 1860s, after receiving the property in an inheritance.
Thomas M. Lyons was a self-employed tailor while he lived at 858 Beech Avenue. Lyons owned and operated a tailor shop on Federal Street near the Allegheny River during most of the time that he lived in the house. His firm, Elliott & Lyons, produced $15,000 worth of goods annually around the time that 858 Beech Avenue was built.
Thomas M. and Nancy R. Lyons were both bom in Ohio. The couple had five children, all of whom lived at 858 Beech Avenue. Census records also show that the Lyons family employed a servant who lived in their home.
The Lyons family lived at 858 Beech Avenue until 1884. In that year, Thomas M. Lyons died and Nancy R. Lyons and her children left Pittsburgh. The Lyons family owned 858 Beech Avenue until 1902, using the house as a rental property. Their tenants included Thomas P. Roberts, an engineer.
The former Lyons house at 858 Beech Avenue has now had a total of nine owners. Detailed information on the history of 858 Beech Avenue is contained in the following report.
- August 18, 1870
- February 22, 1884
- November 4, 1902
- September 21, 1909
- October 29, 1909
- May 26, 1921
- September 22, 1934
- December 14, 1938
- August 16, 1968
- March 13, 1970
- October 27, 1978
- April 17, 1981
- July 8, 1987
- January 29, 1999
Elizabeth F. Denny of Pittsburgh conveyed the lot on which 858 Beech Avenue now stands to Thomas M. Lyons of Allegheny City (now the North Side) for $1100. The lot was described as being located at the northeastern comer of Beech Street (now Beech Avenue) and Grant Street (now Galveston Avenue) in Allegheny City and measuring 20′ wide by 100′ deep. The lot was known as Lot 1 in Block 3 in Mrs. Elizabeth F. Denny’s Plan of Lots (Allegheny County Plan Book Volume 6, Page 193).
(Deed Book Volume 264, Page 545)
Thomas M. Lyons died on February 22, 1884. He was survived by his widow, Nancy R. Lyons, and their children.
Nancy R. Lyons, Cora D. Lyons and Maurice E. Lyons, all of Cincinnati, Ohio, conveyed 858 Beech Avenue to Dennis Hayes of Avalon for $5500.
(DBV 1203 P 576)
The South Side Trust Company, trustee in bankruptcy for Dennis Hayes, conveyed 858 Beech Avenue to Una E. Newell of Willock, Allegheny County, for $4600.
(Deed Book 1656 P 186)
Joseph R. and Una E. Newell conveyed 858 Beech Avenue to Frances Rose Hayes of Pittsburgh, wife of Dennis Hayes, for $5187.50.
(DBV 1656 P 190)
Title to 858 Beech Avenue was placed in the names of Dennis and Frances Rose Hayes.
Frances Rose Hayes died on October 16, 1929.
(Deed Book 2074 P 47,48)
Dennis Hayes of Pittsburgh conveyed 858 Beech Avenue to Anna Werner and Edward A. and Elizabeth Werner for $1.
(DBV 2490 P 521)
Anna Werner conveyed her interest in 858 Beech Avenue to Edward A. and Elizabeth Werner.
(DBV 2611 P 367)
Edward A. and Elizabeth Werner of Pittsburgh conveyed 858 Beech Avenue to Edward R. and Gay L. Hilderhoff of Pittsburgh for $8000.
(DBV 4592 P 581)
Edward R. and Gay L. Hilderhoff of Bellevue conveyed 858 Beech Avenue to Thomas J. Lapinski of Pittsburgh for $11,000.
(DBV 4824 P 41)
Thomas J. Lapinski of Allegheny County conveyed 858 Beech Avenue to James R. Harvey for $29,500.
(DBV 6025 P 867)
James R. Harvey conveyed 858 Beech Avenue to Joseph A. Buongiomo for $47,500.
(DBV 6363 P 858)
Title to 858 Beech Avenue was placed in the names of Joseph A. and Pamela D. Buongiomo.
(DBV 7593 P 134)
John C. McDanel purchased 858 Beech Avenue from Joseph A. and Pamela D. Buongiomo on January 29, 1999.
(DBV 10397 P 5)
Age of the House
Thomas M. Lyons purchased the lot on which 858 Beech Avenue now stands from Elizabeth F. Denny on August 18, 1870. Lyons paid $1100 for the lot, measuring 20’ wide along Beech Avenue by 100′ deep along Galveston Avenue. This purchase, at 55 cents per square foot, was slightly lower than prices paid for other undeveloped lots on Beech Avenue at the time.
In urban neighborhoods like Allegheny West, where high land costs discouraged construction of homes with more than about 25′ frontage,Italianate house exteriors were characterized primarily by side-gabled roofs, arched door and window openings, prominent or projecting door and window hoods, and decorative brackets supporting box gutters.
Interior details of Italianate homes often included flared newel posts and spindles, marble or wood mantels with arched openings, four-panel doors with porcelain knobs and ornamented cast iron hinges, and non-symmetrical door and window trim with diagonally mitered comers.
The Italianate style and the related Second Empire style were the most popular architectural styles for homes and commercial buildings constructed in the Pittsburgh area between the early 1860s and about 1885.
Available records do not identify an architect who is credited with design of 858 Beech Avenue.
Review of early sales of lots on Beech Avenue by Elizabeth F. Denny between 1866 and 1872 and city directory listings suggests that 858 Beech Avenue is among at least three houses on the street that were built before their owners acquired title to the lots on which they stand. Other houses that are known to have been built in this way are 908 Beech Avenue, occupied beginning in 1867-1868 by real estate agent John Sterritt, who bought the lot on which the house stands for $2200 in 1872, and 922 Beech Avenue, occupied beginning in 1868-1869 by James Hamilton, a jeweler who bought the lot for $2900 in 1871.
In addition to construction of rows of rental houses, the Denny family is known to have leased land to manufacturers who built factories on their land in the Strip District. It appears likely that Elizabeth F. Denny was following real estate practices pursued by other members of her family when she permitted pre-purchase construction on some of her Beech Avenue lots. She probably also realized that construction of substantial houses on a few of the lots would increase the value of the remaining lots that she hoped to sell on Beech Avenue.
Pittsburgh city directories, U.S. population and manufacturing census records, and Allegheny County land records provide information on Thomas M. and Nancy R. Lyons, the first owners of 858 Beech Avenue.
In 1887, the first year that he was listed at 858 (then 63) Beech Avenue, Roberts was the chief engineer of the Pittsburgh East End Railroad Company. He and his family had lived on Logan Street in the lower Hill District (on or near the present site of the Mellon Arena) before they moved to 858 Beech Avenue.
The Roberts family moved from 858 Beech Avenue to North Craig Street near Centre Avenue in Oakland in 1891-1892.
The 1900 Census
The first apartment at 858 Beech Avenue was rented to Eliza McCracken. McCracken was 69 years old and had no occupation. She was single and lived alone. She had been born in Ohio to parents bom in Ireland and Pennsylvania.
Residential development of Allegheny West began by the middle of the nineteenth century. An 1852 map shows that a number of houses stood on both sides of present Western Avenue between Brighton Road and Allegheny Avenue. A few buildings had been constructed along Brighton Road between Ridge and Western Avenues, on what was then the grounds of the Rope Walk.
The following materials accompany this report:
- a copy of part of an 1852 map depicting Allegheny City
- a copy of part of an 1872 plat map of the area around 858 Beech Avenue
- copies of parts of fire insurance maps of the area around 851 Beech Avenue, published in 1884, 1893, 1906 and the 1925 map, updated by the publisher to 1950
- information on Thomas P. Roberts, from Century Cyclopedia of History and Biography, Pennsylvania (1910)
- a copy of a photograph of Thomas P. Roberts, from Notable Men of Pittsburgh and the Vicinity (1901)
A Researched History
By: Carol J. Peterson
all photos by Nick Smerker, unless otherwise notedTags: n lincoln avenue