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806 Western Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15233

935 Beech Avenue

935 Beech Avenue (Front)

Photo by Jim Parrish

Introduction

Joseph Klee and his wife, Rosa Klee, had the row of houses at 927-935 Beech Avenue built in 1884-1885. The houses, now known as Klee Row, were constructed on property that Joseph Klee had purchased from members of the Denny family for $13,125 in December 1883. Klee Row was built in the Second Empire style, as shown in its mansard roof. The houses’ smooth-cut stone sills and lintels and brick corbels are typical of late Second Empire houses, built in Pittsburgh beginning in the mid-1880s. The houses display the secondary influence of the Queen Anne style in their dormers, with steep roofs and ornamented vergeboards, and in their fishscale roof shingles.

Joseph and Rosa Klee were both Prussian immigrants. Joseph Klee was a clothing manufacturer and wholesaler in Allegheny City (now the Northside) and Pittsburgh between the 1850s and the 1880s.

Joseph and Rosa Klee lived at 927 Beech Avenue, in Klee Row’s easternmost house, and rented other houses in the row to tenants, some of whom were family members. The first occupants of 935 Beech Avenue were Max Klein, a wholesale liquor dealer, and his family. Pittsburgh city directories listed Max Klein at 28 (now 935) Beech Avenue between 1885 and 1891. Klein, who was bom in Bavaria, was also a Civil War veteran.

Isaac G. and Amanda Klee Trauerman lived at 935 Beech Avenue between 1892 and 1897. The couple were married in 1889-1890, and lived with the Klee family at 927 Beech Avenue before they moved to 935 Beech Avenue. Isaac G. Trauerman was a partner in a family-owned business, B.S. Trautman & Company, livestock dealers, while he and his family resided at 935 Beech Avenue.

In the early 20th century, 935 Beech Avenue housed some of the pastors of Calvary United Methodist Church at Beech and Allegheny avenues. The Rev. George W. Izer lived at 935 Beech Avenue at the time of the 1900 census. The house was occupied by the families of the Rev. James M. Thobum in 1910 and the Rev. William Baumgartner in 1920.

The house at 935 Beech Avenue has now had a total of 12 owners.

Detailed information on the history of 935 Beech Avenue is contained in the following report.

Ownership

  • December 24, 1883
  • March 28, 1884
  • September 24, 1884
  • December 11, 1889
  • October 14, 1907
  • May 13, 1908
  • June 18, 1908
  • March 1, 1919
  • May 28, 1919
  • May 28, 1919
  • October 29, 1943
  • February 7, 1975
  • July 15, 1977
  • October 15, 1980
  • March 8, 1983
  • July 30, 1984

Margaret S. Denny, Henry S. and Irene A. Denny, Janies O’Hara Denny and Francis H. Denny, all of Pittsburgh, conveyed property containing the present site of 927-935 Beech Avenue to Joseph Klee of Allegheny City (now the Northside) for $13,125. The property that was conveyed was described as being located on the southern side of Beech Avenue, 256′ east of Allegheny Avenue, and measuring 105′ wide along Beech Avenue by 137’4.5″ deep to Pasture Alley. The property was known as Lots 38, 39, 40 and 41 and part of Lot 37 in Block 2 of Elizabeth F. Denny’s Plan of Lots, located in the Second Ward of Allegheny City (Plan Book Volume 6, Page 193).

(Deed Book Volume 452, Page 653)

Joseph and Rosa Klee of Allegheny City conveyed 935 Beech Avenue or the lot on which the house stands to Tillie Herzog of Allegheny City, their daughter and the wife of Henry Herzog, for $2,500. The lot that was conveyed was described as being located on the southern side of Beech Avenue, 256′ east of Allegheny Avenue, and measuring 20′ wide along Beech Avenue by 137’4.5″ deep to Pasture Alley.

(DBV 477 P 594)

Henry and Tillie Herzog of Allegheny City conveyed 935 Beech Avenue or the lot on which the house stands to Joseph Klee of Allegheny City for $2,500. The lot that was conveyed was described as being located on the southern side of Beech Avenue, 256′ east of Allegheny Avenue, and measuring 20′ wide along Beech Avenue by 137’4.5″ deep to Pasture Alley.

(DBV 505 P 157)

Joseph Klee died on December 11, 1889.

Rosa Klee, widow, of Allegheny City conveyed the row of houses at 927-935 Beech Avenue and property on Wightman Street in Squirrel Hill to Annie McCutcheon, widow, of Pittsburgh for $65,000. The row at 927-935 Beech Avenue occupied a parcel measuring 108′ wide by 137’4″ deep.

(DBV 1553 P 425)

Annie McCutcheon, widow, of Pittsburgh conveyed 927-935 Beech Avenue to the Penn Realty Company for $1 and other considerations.

(DBV 1605 P 144)

The Penn Realty Company conveyed 927-935 Beech Avenue to Emily A. Arthur, widow, of Bellevue, for $40,000.

(DBV 1607 P 183)

The estate of Emily A. Arthur conveyed 927-935 Beech Avenue to Arthur F. Schmidt, Herbert W. Schmidt, Julius W. Schmidt and Philipp E. Schmidt, all of Pittsburgh, for $23,700.

(DBV 1930 P 568)

Arthur F. Schmidt, Herbert W. Schmidt, Julius W. Schmidt and Philipp E. Schmidt, all of Pittsburgh, conveyed 935 Beech Avenue to Michael and Catherine Gavan of Pittsburgh for $6,250. This deed and subsequent deeds conveyed the lot on which the house now stands, measuring 20.29’ wide along Beech Avenue by 137.38′ deep.

(DBV 1979 P 111)

Michael Gavan died on March 15, 1933. He was survived by Catherine Gavan, who died on February 27, 1934. Catherine Gavan was survived by three children: Katharine, John J. and James Gavan. James Gavan died on August 26, 1942.

John J. and Ellen Gavan and Katharine Gavan, all of Pittsburgh, conveyed 935 Beech Avenue to Wilbert C. and Mary Miller of Pittsburgh for $1 and other considerations (tax stamps indicate a price of $4,000).

Wilbert C. Miller died on October 16, 1958.

(DBV 2788 P 16)

Mary Miller, widow, of Pittsburgh conveyed 935 Beech Avenue to King North Development Company for $15,000.

(DBV 5400 P 67)

King North Development Company conveyed 935 Beech Avenue to John L. DeSantis of Pittsburgh for $20,000.

(DBV 5805 P 653)

John L. DeSantis of Pittsburgh conveyed 935 Beech Avenue to Pierce R. and Carol H. Smith for $57,500.

(DBV 6309 P 220)

Pierce R. and Carol A. Smith conveyed 935 Beech Avenue to Charles S. Lenzner, Dwight E. Lenzner and Marion E. Lenzner, sons and mother, for $123,300.

(DBV 6643 P 607)

James E. Parrish purchased 935 Beech Avenue from Charles S. Lenzner and Dwight E. Lenzner on July 30, 1984. Title to the property was placed in the names of James E. Parrish and Christiane Siewers on November 12, 1998 (DBV 10345 P 558).

DBV 694 P 375)

Age of the House

Construction

Joseph and Rosa Klee had the row of houses at 927-935 Beech Avenue constructed between 1884 and 1885.

Plat maps published in 1872 and 1882 show that 927-935 Beech Avenue had not yet been built. Joseph Klee purchased property containing the site of the five houses on December 24, 1883. Klee paid $13,125 for the lot, which measured 105′ wide along Beech Avenue by 137.38′ deep. This purchase, at 91 cents per square foot, was comparable to prices paid for other undeveloped lots in Allegheny West at the time, and indicates that 927-935 Beech Avenue had not yet been built.
An 1884 fire insurance map shows that 927-935 Beech Avenue had not yet been built. The 1885 Pittsburgh city directory listed Joseph Klee as living at 36 (now 927) Beech Avenue for the first time. The 1885 directory also listed Max Klein at 28 (935) Beech Avenue for the first time. An 1890 plat map confirms that 927-935 Beech Avenue had been built.

Architectural Style

Joseph and Rosa Klee had the row of houses at 927-935 Beech Avenue built in a late version of the Second Empire style.

In urban neighborhoods like Allegheny West, where high land costs discouraged construction of houses with more than about 22′ frontage, Second Empire house exteriors were characterized primarily by mansard front roofs, arched door and window openings, prominent or projecting door and window hoods, and decorative brackets supporting box gutters. Second Empire homes in suburban and rural settings were built with full mansard roofs, and sometimes with centered wings or towers. Most local Second Empire homes featured two-over-two double hung windows, although some later or larger examples were constructed with one-over-one double-hung windows.

In the late version of the Second Empire style, shown at 927-935 Beech Avenue, smooth-cut stone window hoods with little or no ornamentation replaced the earlier arched and/or projecting hoods, and brick corbels replaced wood brackets. The row at 927-935 Beech Avenue is also among many late Second Empire houses that show the secondary influence of the Queen Anne style, which was popular locally between about 1885 and the late 1890s. At 927-935 Beech Avenue, the Queen Anne style is shown in the houses’ dormers, both in the steepness of the dormer roofs and in the ornamentation of the vergeboard, and in the fishscale roof shingles.
The Second Empire style and the related Italianate style were the prevailing architectural styles for homes and small commercial buildings constructed in the Pittsburgh area between the late 1860s and about 1885. The late Second Empire style was used between approximately 1885 and the late 1890s. The 1884-1885 construction of 927-935 Beech Avenue, among the earliest late Second Empire houses in Pittsburgh, together with the large size of the houses, suggests that the row was architect-designed. Known records, however, do not identify an architect who is credited with design of 927-935 Beech Avenue.

Residents

The Klees

Pittsburgh city directories, U.S. census records, and a book, The Jewish Experience in Western Pennsylvania by Jacob Feldman, provide information on Joseph and Rosa Klee, the first owners of 927-935 Beech Avenue.

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Max Klein

Max Klein was listed in Pittsburgh directories as living at 28 (935) Beech Avenue between 1885 and 1891.

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The Trauermans

Pittsburgh directories listed Isaac G. Trauerman at 28 (935) Beech Avenue for six consecutive years beginning in 1892.

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The 1900 Census

Records of the 1900 census are the earliest surviving census records that provide information on occupants of 935 Beech Avenue. The 1900 census was taken not long after Calvary Methodist Episcopal Church (now Calvary United Methodist Church) at Beech and Allegheny avenues began using the house as a residence for its ministers, in addition to its rectory at 939 Beech Avenue.
In 1900, 935 Beech Avenue was occupied by the Rev. George W. Izer, 50, and his wife Emma F. Izer, 46. The Reverend Izer was a native of Maryland; Emma F. Izer 46, had been born in Pennsylvania. The couple, married for 20 years, had no children, and were the only residents of the house.

The 1910 Census

The Reverend James M. and Emma F. Thoburn and their children lived at 935 Beech Avenue at the time of the 1910 census. James M. Thoburn, 53, had been bom in Ohio, and Emma F. Thoburn, 50, had been born in Pennsylvania. The couple had had four children, three of whom were living: Ruth, 26, Jean, 22, both with no occupation, and Margaret, 13.
Census records indicate that Jean Thoburn was bom in India, while her father was engaged in missionary work there; Ruth Thobum was born in New York state, and Margaret in Michigan.

The 1920 Census

The Rev. William Baumgartner, 38, and his wife, Elizabeth H., 37, were the only occupants of 935 Beech Avenue when the 1920 census was taken.
William Baumgartner had been born in Ohio, to parents born in Maryland and Pennsylvania; Elizabeth H. Baumgartner was born in Delaware to Irish immigrant parents.

The 1930 Census

Michael and Catherine Gavan, who had purchased 935 Beech Avenue in 1919, were enumerated in the house with their children in the 1930 census.

Michael Gavan, 69, was a foreman in a gas works. He and Catherine Gavan, 68, had both come to the United States from Ireland in 1880. The couple, married in or about 1891, had three unmarried children who lived with them at 935 Beech Avenue: Katharine, 38, employed as a social secretary in a private home, John J., 35, a moving van driver and James J., 32, a clerk working for a drug company.
Records of the 1930 census also indicate that 935 Beech Avenue had an estimated value of $10,000, and that the Gavan family owned a “radio set.”

The 1930 census is the most recent census that provides detailed information on occupants of 935 Beech Avenue. Manuscript census records are withheld from the public for 72 years, to protect the privacy of persons enumerated.

Neighborhood Development

Klee Row, at 927-935 Beech Avenue, was built as Beech Avenue and nearby streets 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 1870. Most of the original residents of the houses of the type that line Beech Avenue were merchants who previously lived in older sections of Allegheny City. Many had moved to Allegheny City from Downtown Pittsburgh around the time of the Civil War.

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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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