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

939 Western Avenue

939 Western Avenue (Front)

Introduction

939 Western Avenue is a three story red brick house occupying a 135′ wide by 125′ deep lot located in the Allegheny West section of Pittsburgh.

939 Western Avenue was constructed in three stages between the mid- to late 1860’s and 1901 by Joshua Rhodes and members of his family. Rhodes, who was a railroad builder and president, brewer, tube works president, and bank president, lived at 939 Western Avenue until his death in 1909. Members of Rhodes’ family occupied 939 Western Avenue through 1933.

Detailed information on the ownership history, age, and first owner of 939 Western Avenue follows.

Ownership

  • June 30, 1864
  • February 27, 1875
  • September 27, 1888
  • February 27, 1901
  • April 10, 1902
  • May 23, 1933
  • April 12, 1990
  • August 4, 2005

George W. and Hannah E. Berger of Allegheny County to Mrs. Lucy Rhodes and Mrs. Elizabeth Williams, $3,500. This deed conveyed a lot of ground on the southern side of Western Avenue, otherwise known as Water Lane. The lot was known as Lots 18 and 19 in John Irwin’s Plan of the Subdivision of Out Lot 275 in the Reserve Tract Opposite Pittsburgh, recorded in Plan Book Volume 2, Page 173.

(Deed Book Volume 173, Page 592)

Mrs. Elizabeth Williams, widow, of Allegheny County, to Mrs. Eliza J. Rhodes, wife of Joshua Rhodes of Allegheny County, $1. This deed conveyed Lots 18 and 19 in John Irwin’s Plan.

(DBV 842 P 343)

Jonathan Neely of the city of Pittsburgh to Eliza Jane Rhodes, wife of Joshua Rhodes, $5,500. This deed conveyed a 22’6″ wide lot known as Lot 20 in John Irwin’s Plan.

(DBV 614 P 245)

Alfred and Hannah M. Campbell and Holland M. and Sarah A. Fletcher of the city of Allegheny to Eliza Jane Rhodes of the city of Allegheny, $8,500. This deed conveyed a 45′ wide lot known as Lots 16 and 17 in John Irwin’s Plan.

(DBV 1102 P 561)

John H. and Kathryn Carroll of the city of Pittsburgh to Eliza Jane Rhodes of the city of Allegheny, $3,800. This deed conveyed a 22’6″ wide lot known as 21 in John Irwin’s Plan.

(DBV 1175 P 480)

Mary Rhodes Van Voorhis, widow, of Sewickley Heights, to the Allegheny Columbian Association, $20,000. This deed conveyed a 135′ wide by 125′ deep lot located on the southern side of Western Avenue, 158’1.625′ east of Allegheny Avenue. The lot was known as Lots 16, 17, 18, 19, 20 and 21 in John Irwin’s Plan. Eliza Jane Rhodes had died on September 6, 1912 and by her last will and testament, recorded in Will Book Volume 116, Page 415, devised her entire estate to her children Mary H. Rhodes, Annie J. Rhodes and William B. Rhodes, to be equally divided between them. By a codicil dated March 20, 1909, Eliza Jane Rhodes directed that the name of her daughter Annie J. Rhodes be omitted from articles 12 and 13 of her will with the same force and effect as if she had not been mentioned. William Rhodes died testate on October 20, 1922, and by his last will and testament, dated October 10, 1921, recorded in Will Book Volume 175, Page 439, left his estate to his sister Mary R. Van Voorhis, who married Harvey N. Van Voorhis and died on June 12, 1932.

(DBV 2480 P 690)

The Allegheny Columbian Association, a non-profit corporation, to Benard and Joedda McClain Sampson, $140,000.

(DBV 8226 P 200)

Joedda McClain Sampson sold 939 Western Avenue to Ed Menzer, proprietor of The Parador Inn, a bed and breakfast that now occupies the property.

Age of the House

All available information indicates 939 Western Avenue was built in three stages between the mid to late 1860’s and 1901.

Mrs. Lucy Rhodes and Mrs. Elizabeth Williams apparently had the oldest section of 939 Western Avenue built between 1864 and 1868. The June 1864 purchase of a 5625 square foot lot for $3,500, at 62 cents per square foot, was comparable to sales of other undeveloped lots in the area and suggests that the lot had not been improved. An 1872 plat map of Allegheny’s First Ward shows that a house occupying more than half the width of the 45′ wide lot conveyed had been built on. the lot.

Mrs. Lucy Rhodes was listed in the Pittsburgh city directory at 210 Western Avenue beginning in 1868 and continuing through 1871. Joshua Rhodes was listed at 210 Western Avenue beginning in 1871, and the 1870 manuscript census reported that Joshua and Eliza Rhodes were members of the same household. By 1876, Joshua Rhodes’ address was given as 95 Western Avenue.

Lucy Rhodes was listed at 214 Western Avenue in 1866 and at 19 Western Avenue in 1867. This suggests the possibility that 939 Western Avenue could have been built before 1868, with incorrect street numbers in the city directory or Western Avenue subsequently being re-numbered.

Joshua and Eliza Rhodes apparently had an addition to their home constructed after purchasing an adjacent 22’6″ wide lot in September 1888. An 1890 plat map of Allegheny shows that 939 Western Avenue had expanded beyond the two lots originally purchased by Lucy Rhodes and Elizabeth Williams in 1864.

Joshua and Eliza Rhodes again added to 939 Western Avenue in 1901, shortly after purchasing three more adjacent lots. City of Allegheny building permit dockets, available between 1894 and 1907, show that on May 13, 1901, Joshua Rhodes received a permit to erect a one-story addition to 939 Western Avenue. The addition, which was a library, measured 16’5″ wide by 30′ deep and had a construction cost of $2,000.

Rhodes hired G.A. Cochrane to build the addition. City directories of the early 1900’s show that Cochrane was a contractor whose business was located at 1210 Washington Avenue (now Columbus Avenue) in Manchester. Cochrane lived at 1612 Sedgwick Street in Manchester.

G.A. Cochrane built a two story brick house on Manilla Street (now Maolis Way) for Joshua Rhodes in 1908, at a cost of $2,000.

Cochrane also built three small structures at 939 Western Avenue in 1913 for Mary Rhodes. On February 26, 1913, Mary Rhodes received a permit to erect a one-story brick dwelling at 937 (sic) Western Avenue. The house was to measure 16′ wide by 29′ deep and have a construction cost of $2,500. On July 30, 1913, Mary Rhodes received a permit to erect two one-story brick dwellings at 939 Western Avenue at a cost of $1100. The houses were to measure 11′ wide by 17′ deep.

Building permit dockets show that G.A. Cochrane also served as contractor for the William Penn Snyder house at Ridge and Allegheny Avenues, constructed in 1910-11 at a cost of $125,000, and for a three story brick house constructed for Joshua Rhodes Jr. on Lincoln Avenue near Galveston Avenue in 1903 at a cost of $35,500.

The Home Today

Photos by Roy Engelbrecht

Residents

The Rhodeses

U.S. census records, Pittsburgh city directories, and biographical materials on Joshua Rhodes, a brewer, tube works president, railroad builder and president and bank president, and members of his family.

Learn More

Supplementary Materials

The following materials accompany this report:

  • an 1852 plat map of part of Allegheny, including Water Lane (now Western Avenue)
  • John Irwin’s Plan of the Subdivision of Out Lot 275
  • 1872, 1882, 1890 and 1900 plat maps of part of Allegheny, including Western Avenue
  • a 1910 plat map of part of the Northside, including Western Avenue
  • biographical information on Joshua Rhodes, from History of Pittsburgh and Environs
  • Joshua Rhodes’ obituary, from the Bulletin Index, January 9, 1909
  • biographical information on Eliza Rhodes, from The Social Mirror

A Researched History
By: Carol J. Peterson

all photos by Chris Siewers, unless otherwise noted

Tags: