806 Western Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15233

PHLF: Researching Your House History

Do you live in an old house? Ever wondered about the people who built it, and the lives that unfolded there before you? Find out about the people who influenced the spaces in which your life takes place, and discover how your house fits within the history and evolution of the surrounding neighborhood and the city.

Location: Landmarks Preservation Resource Center, 744 Rebecca Avenue
Date: Thursday June 9th
Time: 6:00 pm – 7:30 pm
Contact: or (412) 471-5808 ext. 527

In this lecture, Kelley Stroup will discuss methods and sources that can be used to discover both the construction and personal history of a house. Included will be discussion of chain of title, historical documents and directories, maps, and public records searches, which help people tell the stories of their houses.

About the Presenter

Kelley Stroup is the founder and principal of House/Story, a historical research firm that specializes in chronicling house histories. Long fascinated by history and the built environment, Kelley nurtured her love of architecture and history in college, and received her BA in historic preservation from Mary Washington College. She also holds an MA in historic preservation and an MFA in architectural history from the Savannah College of Art and Design.

This lecture is free to PHLF members. Non-members: $5

RSVPs are appreciated: or (412) 471-5808 ext. 527

Check out for more PHLF tours and events.

2016 Allegheny West Preservation Awards

Submitted by Carole Malakoff

The Allegheny West Civic Council, along with The Allegheny West Local Review Committee, announces the 8th Annual Allegheny West Preservation Awards. These awards are presented to property owners in Allegheny West who have completed projects over the past year, retaining or restoring appropriate elements of historic character and adhering to the neighborhood guidelines.The success of these projects was attained by doing research, creating well thought-out plans, following neighborhood historic guidelines, and working with the neighborhood LRC and the city HRC to seek advice on the application process and guidelines.

The 2016 Awards Recipients

705 Brighton Road, The Willock House
Owner: Q Development

This is an extensive restoration of both the interior and exterior, as well as the hardscape and landscaping around the building. The exterior work included masonry cleaning and repair to the foundation, the front steps, porch, and chimneys; reconstruction of the copper gutters and cornices; installation of new double-hung wood windows; refinishing of the exterior wood trim; installation of a new front door; and replacing sections of the roof. All of this work was planned to meet The Allegheny West Historic Guidelines and the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards. This project is an example of the highest quality of historic restoration. We are very pleased and proud to have it in our neighborhood.

827 N Lincoln Avenue
Owner: Ivor Hill

This developer worked with the LRC and the HRC over a period of a year to achieve a new porch design that reflects the historic character of this 19th century house. The final design is a porch that spans the entire front elevation of the house, with architectural elements that reflect the original: wood balustrades and railing, massive columns with decorative trim, and front stairs with an iron railing. This renovation greatly enhances the streetface of the 800 block of North Lincoln Avenue.

West Hall
Owner: Community College of Allegheny County

Work is being completed on West Hall, on the 800 block of Ridge Avenue. Representatives of CCAC met with both the LRC and AWCC several times over the last two years, initially discussing the historic appropriateness of the project and then keeping us updated on its progress. This project included brick and stone cleaning, installation of new windows, elimination of several window louvers and moving others to make them less obvious; pouring a new aggregate sidewalk; installing new front doors while retaining the original entrance design, and screening the loading dock in the rear. This well-planned project is an example of the neighborhood and the college working together for a common cause: the preservation of our historic structures.

These three projects greatly add to the historic ambience of the neighborhood streets, contribute to the economic development of our neighborhood, and enhance the quality of life in Allegheny West. To celebrate Preservation Month, the awards will be presented at the Membership Meeting of the Allegheny West Civic Council on Tuesday, May 10 at 7:30 pm at Calvary United Methodist Church, on the corner of Beech and Allegheny Avenues.

International Award Goes to Allegheny West

Submitted by John DeSantis

The National Ornamental Metals Association has honored a recent Allegheny West project among the finest in the world. The newly installed massive iron gates along Galveston Avenue at the corner of Western have been recognized with the international organization’s second-highest award – The Silver Medallion.

Representing more than 9,000 shops in a dozen countries, the members of NOMA gathered in March for their annual MetalFab Conference. One of the highlights of the Conference each year is the competition among hundreds of projects seeking to be recognized by their peers for excellence in design and execution. The 600 iron artisans who vote for the selection are looking for complexity and difficulty, originality, and craftsmanship.

Gate Detail

detail of the prize-winning iron gate

For iron artist Bob Thomas, whose forge is located in Charleston South Carolina, his first submission to the competition turned out to be a winner. Thomas had been commissioned to design and construct the ornamental iron gates and fence by The Pittsburgh Home & Garden Show, whose offices are located on that corner. When he first met his clients, they took him on a walking tour of the neighborhood – pointing out the extraordinary collection of authentic 19th century ironwork that has survived and been preserved in Allegheny West. Considering that much of this original architectural detail was commissioned for the homes of robber barons who owned their own iron and steel mills, Thomas immediately understood the magnitude of the task before him. He was expected to design and fabricate a set of gates that could hold their own in the company of some of the finest iron work ever made.

Bob Thomas expressed gratitude to the Home & Garden Show for providing the opportunity to create such an extravagant work of art. And he notes with pride that his gates will be enjoyed and admired for generations to come, by visitors who photograph and sketch them alongside their historic 19th century counterparts.

Tomorrow: Affordable Housing Deliberative Forum

When: Wednesday, March 23, 2016, 6:00-8:30 pm
Where: National Association of Letter Carriers, 841 California Ave, Pittsburgh PA 15212

It’s not too late to join us at one of five Affordable Housing Deliberative Forums. Your input is crucial to this process. All residents are welcome!

Modeled after the highly successful Police Chief and Capital Budget public meetings, these new forums will give neighbors a chance to learn about the work of the Affordable Housing Task Force. The forums will also provide an opportunity for the community to provide input on affordable housing issues, specifically relating to policies, programs or initiatives designed to increase the supply of affordable housing in the City of Pittsburgh.

Each forum will include:

  • A brief overview of the Affordable Housing Task Force and Affordable Housing in Pittsburgh
  • Small group discussions of priorities recommended by the task force
  • Q&A opportunities with the panel members
  • Food will be served

All forums contain the same presented content, and are open to every resident of the City of Pittsburgh. Families are encouraged to attend and participate.


Please call Sally Stadelman at (412) 255-4773 or email with any questions. Walk-in registration will be available on the day of the forum.

The House History Project: We Need Your Help!

In an effort to not only preserve the fantastic house histories that were created by Carol Peterson but to update them for the digital era and make them available for the public, Allegheny West is embarking on a new project centered on our website. We are hoping to build out a really robust house histories/Before & After section of the Allegheny West website as materials arrive, and then to also explore putting together a walking tour that could include an interactive, mobile device-driven component. This will allow visitors (and residents!) to dig deeper into the homes around them and their long, glamorous pasts as well as the hard work that went into – and goes into – keeping them beautiful.

Neighbor and friend, Jim Wallace and webmaster, Nick Smerker are asking for anyone who has a house history (these are key), photos of their home or the neighborhood over the years, video recordings of folks talking about their homes or other interesting materials to get in touch via Nextdoor or directly at Hard copies of any materials can be dropped off at 806 Western Avenue. More information is available on our Website: www.

The House History Project

There are many reasons why people come to love old houses.  These include the decorative features and layouts unavailable in the modern age, the solidity with which they are built, and the grand room sizes. One of the most interesting advantages of an older home is that it has a history. The world was different when it was built, and has changed dramatically over the years as the house has aged. Many families and people have lived in the house, and their stories are part of the fabric of American history. To live in an old house is to be a part of a much larger and longer story. What we today call Allegheny West is blessed by having a great many grand, unique and interesting houses. As a neighborhood, it has had a leading role in the history of both Pittsburgh and the country. As people move here, or come to walk our streets and see the architecture, they are curious about the people and the stories which animate the history of these houses.

Many of us have had house histories done by Carole Peterson. With Carole’s gracious permission, Allegheny West has undertaken to collect copies of those histories and publish them to our website. This will help tell the story of our neighborhood. We are hoping to build out a really robust house histories and Before & After section of the Allegheny West website as materials arrive. We’re also exploring the possibility of putting together a walking tour that could include an interactive, mobile device-driven component, allowing visitors (and residents!) to dig deeper into the homes around them and their long, glamorous pasts and the hard work that went into – and goes into – keeping them beautiful.

To do this, we need your cooperation.  

If you have a house history, please share it with us and allow us to add it to the neighborhood website. We are also looking for old photos of the neighborhood, and before and after pictures of the houses, to help flesh out the story. If you have those, please send them along as well!  Digital or scanned copies can be emailed to Cathy Serventi and to Nick Smerker, both reachable at Hard copies can be dropped off at the Allegheny West office (806 Western Avenue). You can drop them through the office door, addressed to the House History Project. Please make sure they’re in a protective envelope. After you drop them off, please email so we know that there’s a history for us to pick up. Also, please provide a phone number for us to call to make arrangements to return the materials to you. By dropping off items for scanning, you’re giving us permission to post the photos or histories on the website. You can also drop materials off during the AWCC Membership meetings. Please don’t leave house histories at Calvary during other times. If you have other questions you can call (412) 323-8884.

Thank you,

Jim Wallace and Nick Smerker

Above & Beyond

This week I’d like to call out all the folks who have been working so hard to make the Stables project work. The developer, Andrew, and his team have been to well over a half dozen meetings, taking feedback from the neighborhood and incorporating it into the designs. That also means that various combinations of neighbors have been attending these meetings, pouring through plans and financials, asking important questions and making suggestions. Michael and Tim have also been working for literally years on the submissions for various historic designations. And Jon (the NSLC Conference) and Christa (our realtor) have been holding our hands the entire way. Maintaining and developing a historic property is amazingly complicated and much like the tour it would take an entire newsletter to list everyone (especially since I’ve only be heavily involved for 5 years and this project has a lonngggg history in the neighborhood).

MWSS House & Garden Tour Call for Volunteers

Mexican War Streets House & Garden Tour
The Mexican War Streets House and Garden tour is upon us this Sunday. This is the 46th annual tour and it will bring nearly 2,000 people to our neighborhood. This is the best opportunity to showcase our wonderful neighborhood. Volunteers are still needed for both the day before, and the day of the tour.

On Saturday, September 12th, the Mexican War Streets Society has organized two separate clean up efforts. Volunteers are needed to weed Mechanics Retreat Garden at 9:00 am, and volunteers are also needed at 9:00 am to walk the neighborhood to pick up trash and weed. Supplies will be provided. Contact John Augustine to volunteer.

On Sunday, September 13th, volunteers are still needed to help homeowners welcome and guide guests through their houses during the tour. The available volunteer shifts are from 1 to 3 pm, and 3 to 5 pm. As a thank you for volunteering you will receive free admission to the House Tour, a catered lunch at the Hospitality House, and will be able to attend the After-Tour party. Contact Cindy Nichols to volunteer.

Allegheny City Central Association will have a table on Monterey Street during the tour to sell merchandise, sign up members, and provide information. Volunteers are needed for all portions of the day to help tend the table. Contact to volunteer.

Questions?  Contact Allegheny City Central Association

Letter from the President – July 2015

So I get to talk to a lot of interesting people since I finally managed to figure out the phone system enough to get the AWCC office number forwarded to my cell phone. One of the most common types of calls we get is from neighbors who have questions about complying with the historic guidelines for renovations. Well, aside from the electric company scammers trying to get me to tell then our account number so they can process our “rebate”: seriously, guys, if you were Duquesne Light you would KNOW our account number ALREADY. Anyway. Those calls from neighbors – coupled with the fact that I seem to have spent more than the normal amount of time this month in meetings that have “Enforcement” as an agenda item – means that I have been doing a lot of thinking about why it’s so important, as a property owner in the neighborhood, to continue to follow the historic district guidelines. So, even though it was, frankly, really frustrating that, in order to replace the person-door on our garage (of which approximately one square foot of was actually visible from the street) we ended up paying more in permit fees than the door itself cost AND we missed the deadline for the May Historic Review Committee agenda so we didn’t actually manage to get the approval in time to get the door replaced for the wine tour which was the entire point of replacing the door in the first place…


My point is that it can sometimes be challenging to explain to new neighbors, or even neighbors who have been here a while, WHY those rules are so important to follow even though they can be inconvenient and expensive. There’s some really interesting (well at least to me, but I’m kind of an archaeology nerd) work being done looking at the positive effect that enforcing historic preservation guidelines have on local property values. If you’re the kind of person that finds abstract evidence based arguments compelling a quick Google search on “historic preservation property values” should keep you happy for a good long while. Honestly, though, I’d really like some help making a more visceral case to folks about why the guidelines are important whether it’s a new neighbor or our new building inspector from BBI. I think, for the neighbors who have spent the last 30+ years watching their hard work come to fruition, the need to enforce the historic guidelines is obvious. But when we moved in even 7 years ago, Allegheny West was already gorgeous; our street was described as “the most beautiful street in Pittsburgh”. Our house was (and still is – we appreciate your patience!) one of the few houses not completely restored on Beech.

I realized this month though that the only photos I’ve seen of Allegheny West are either from the very early days of the neighborhood, 1870-1910 – before urban “renewal” (ha!) and the collapse of the steel industry wreaked havoc – or more recent photos meant to showcase the neighborhood for tours or the website. What I haven’t seen and what I’m hoping neighbors (you!) can provide are essentially the “before” pictures from the time period when the historic preservation guidelines went into effect. Before AWCC spent 50 years putting on tours and buying and stabilizing properties with the proceeds. Before neighbors got together on Saturdays to literally hand build brick sidewalks. Before folks wrote grants and property owners paid assessments to completely redo Western Avenue’s infrastructure. As part of the lead up to the 50th Anniversary of AWCC we’d like to share some of those “before” pictures. If you have photos of your house, interior or exterior, or even better, of the street, from “before” it was renovated please send them to: We’d like to start a section in the newsletter and on the website of “Then and Now” so that we have something concrete to point to about what can happen to our neighborhood without the protection of the Historic District guidelines.

Catherine Serventi
President, AWCC