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.
- 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
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.
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
- profile of the home as owned and restored by Joedda Sampson from the May 10, 1992 edition of the Pittsburgh Press
A Researched History
By: Carol J. Peterson
all photos by Chris Siewers, unless otherwise noted
Part of the CSA Performance Series
May 11 | 8PM
Two Shows, One Night…
The Community Supported Art performance series concludes its current season on Thursday, June 11 with our first ever double feature: Teena Marie Custer’s My Good Side and fellow Northsider Roberta Guido’s RETREAD/together/apart.
My Good Side examines how we create personas on social networks, “curating” our lives for general consumption. Using the street dance styles of wacking, breaking, house, and locking, Teena explores how lines of privacy, fantasy, and reality are blurred.
RETREAD/together/apart focuses on ways sense memory, particularly touch, affects human emotion. There’s a very visceral sense that the skin isn’t a barrier to these experiences but is permeable and affected, as individuals and as a collective.
Thanks to the generous support of the Buhl Foundation, Northside residents are invited to attend The Mousetrap for free. A limited number of tickets are available online. Reserve your seat today!
Thursday, June 11 at 8:00 pm
Isaac Trauerman was married to Amanda Klee, a daughter of Joseph and Rosa Klee, in 1889-1890. The young couple lived with the Klee family at 927 Beech Avenue before they moved to 935 Beech Avenue.
Isaac G. Trauerman was a son of Samuel Trauerman, a livestock dealer who resided at 930 Beech Avenue, and lived with his family at that address before he was married. In 1889-1890 Isaac G. Trauerman became a partner in the family business, B.S. Trauerman & Company, located in Pittsburgh’s Central Stock Yards in East Liberty. He remained a partner in B.S. Trauerman & Company throughout the time that he lived at 935 Beech Avenue.
The 1898 Pittsburgh directory listed Isaac G. Trauerman as a partner in the Home Dressed Meat Company at 200 South 21st Street on the South Side. Trauerman’s home address was not listed. In 1899, Trauerman was again associated with B.S. Trauerman & Company, but had moved to Sioux City, Iowa.
Max Klein was a wholesale liquor dealer in Pittsburgh between the 1870s and 1890s, operating stores on lower Federal Street in Allegheny City and at 410 Market Street, Downtown. Klein was a Bavarian immigrant and a Civil War veteran.
Records of the 1890 manuscript census, which would provide information on the Klein family and any other residents of 935 Beech Avenue in that year, were destroyed in a warehouse fire following the completion of the census. Records of the 1880 census, taken four to five years before the Klein family moved to 935 Beech Avenue, provide some information on the family. In 1880, Max Klein was 37 years old and his wife, Henrietta, was 28. The couple then had three children: Leah, seven, Arthur H., five and Milton, born in September 1879. The Kleins employed two servants, Rosina Rogers and Gertrude Smith, who lived in their home. The size of the house at 935 Beech Avenue, together with Max Klein’s continuing success in business, strongly suggests that the family also had live-in help at that address.
After moving from 935 Beech Avenue in 1891-1892, the Klein family lived at 911 Beech Avenue. The family remained at that address into the early 20th century.
The Klein family does not appear to have been related to the Klee family.
Joseph and Rosa Klee were both born in Prussia, Joseph in 1824-1825 and Rosa in 1834-1835. Known records do not indicate whether the couple were married before or after they came to the United States. Joseph Klee may have immigrated with a brother, Jacob, who was his business partner in Pittsburgh between the late 1850s and the early 1880s. Jacob Klee, according to Jacob Feldman, became an American citizen in 1854 in Philadelphia, and it is possible that Joseph Klee did the same.
Rosa Klee in Later Life
Jacob Feldman found that in the 1850s, “Most Jews in Pittsburgh concentrated in four business lines: liquors, livestock, dry goods and men’s clothing.” Joseph Klee was involved in the manufacture and sale of men’s clothing with most of the businesses in which he is known to have been a principal. Klee was listed in the Pittsburgh city directory for the first time in 1857, as a partner in J. Klee & Company, shoe merchants, on Federal Street in the present vicinity of PNC Park. In about 1858 Joseph and Jacob Klee and an in-law, Simon Kaufman, formed Klee, Kaufman & amp; Klee, tailors and wholesale clothiers, on Federal Street in the same area. Both firms operated on Federal Street through the early 1860s.
Joseph and Jacob Klee were partners in their longest-lasting venture, J. Klee & Brother, wholesale clothiers, between approximately 1860 and the early 1880s. The firm was located on Federal Street in Allegheny City in the 1860s, and on Wood Street, Downtown, in the 1870s and 1880s. After Jacob Klee left in about 1882, the firm continued briefly as J. Klee & Son at 805 Liberty Avenue before Joseph Klee became the sole owner. Klee retired in about 1886.
The Klee family lived on or near lower Federal Street in the 1850s and 1860s. The family moved by the mid-1870s to Allegheny West, living in a house then known as 5 Lincoln Avenue, between Allegheny Avenue and the present Rooney house at 940 North Lincoln Avenue. The 1880 census enumerated the family at that address. Joseph Klee, 55, was listed as a merchant tailor, and Rosa Klee, 45, had no occupation. The couple had eight children living at home: Bennie, 18, a salesman, and Laura, 17, Amanda, 15, Simon, 13, Leo, 11, Nettie, nine, Winfield, six and Carrie Oppenheimer, 22, who was married to Sol Oppenheimer, 27, a merchant.
In the early 1880s, the Klee family moved to Western Avenue. The family remained there until 1884-1885, when they moved to 36 (now 927) Beech Avenue, at the eastern end of what became known as Klee Row. By the time that Klee Row was built, the Klees were prominent in Pittsburgh’s social circles. In 1888, The Social Mirror, a book listing well-known Pittsburgh families, reported that:
In one of a pretty new block of houses in Allegheny, which he recently built, Mr. Joseph Klee and his family reside. Mrs. Klee is a pleasant mannered, good-looking woman, and quite a favorite in her social circle.
The Klees were also listed in Pittsburgh Blue Books, or social registers, which began publication in the 1880s.
Joseph Klee lived at 927 Beech Avenue until his death in 1889. Rosa Klee lived in the house until 1907, sharing the house with the family of a daughter and son-in-law, Tillie and Henry Herzog. Rosa Klee sold Klee Row in 1907, at age 72. She appears to have died or left Pittsburgh within a short time after she sold the property.
Photo by Jim Parrish
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.
- 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
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.
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.
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.
Max Klein was listed in Pittsburgh directories as living at 28 (935) Beech Avenue between 1885 and 1891.
Pittsburgh directories listed Isaac G. Trauerman at 28 (935) Beech Avenue for six consecutive years beginning in 1892.
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.
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.
The following materials accompany this report:
- a copy of part of an 1852 map depicting Allegheny City
- copies of parts of plat maps of the area around 935 Beech Avenue, published in 1872 and 1907
- copies of parts of fire insurance maps of the area around 935 Beech Avenue, published in 1884, 1893, 1906 and 1926
- information on the Klee family, from The Social Mirror (1888)
- information on Max Klein, from Industries and Wealth of Pittsburgh and Environs (1890) and All Sorts of Pittsburghers (1892)
- a caricature of, and poem about, Max Klein, from All Sorts of Pittsburghers (1892)
- information on the Rev. James M. Thobum, from Methodism in Western Pennsylvania (1969)
A Researched History
By: Carol J. Peterson
all photos by Chris Siewers, unless otherwise noted
John S. Bell was born in Ireland in about 1838. Eliza Bell was born in Pennsylvania in about 1836.
By the late 1850’s, the future Eliza Bell was the wife of Robert McKee, a salesman. The couple lived in Allegheny (now the Northside), on Federal Street near Jackson (now Jacksonia) Street. John S. Bell began boarding with the McKee family by 1860.
The 1860 manuscript census enumerated a household headed by Robert McKee in Allegheny’s Second Ward. The census reported that Robert McKee, 25, was a native of Ireland who worked as a salesman, and that Eliza McKee, 24, had no occupation. Robert McKee owned no real estate and had no “personal estate,” or cash savings, but Eliza McKee owned real estate worth $1,000 and had a personal estate of $5,000.
In 1860, Robert and Eliza McKee had three children: John B., four, Amelia, two, and Christian, five months. All of the McKee children had been born in Pennsylvania.
The 1860 census reported that John S. Bell, 22, was a clerk who boarded with the McKee family. Bell was reported to own no real estate and have no personal estate.
A servant, Mary Kress, also lived with the McKee family in 1860. Mary Kress was 18 years old and had been born in Ireland.
City directories show that the McKee family and John S. Bell moved from Federal Street to 67 Logan Street in the Hill District (on or near the site of the Civic Arena) in 1861 or 1862. By 1863, Robert McKee died, and Eliza McKee and John S. Bell moved to 71 Logan Street. John S. Bell and Eliza McKee were married in 1863 or 1864. Shortly after their marriage, the Bells moved to 294 Penn Avenue in Pittsburgh.
In 1865, John S. Bell became a partner in Bates & Bell, dry goods merchants, located at 21 Fifth Avenue. Bell’s
partner was Alexander Bates of Highland Avenue in East Liberty. The Bates & Bell partnership lasted until 1869.
The Bell family moved to 52 Ferry Street in Pittsburgh in 1865 and lived at that address through 1867. In 1867, the Bells’ neighbors included Harry Darlington, who built a four-story mansion at 721 Brighton Road about 24 years later. In 1867, Harry Darlington was the owner of a brewery and lived at 35 Ferry Street.
The 1868 city directory listed John S. Bell as living on Beech Street near Grant Street (now Galveston Street).
The 1870 directory listed John S. Bell as a partner in Bell & Moorhouse, dry goods merchants. Bell’s partner was John L. Moorhouse of 118 Centre Avenue in the Hill District. Bell & Moorhouse was located at 21 Fifth Avenue, the former location of Bates & Bell. This partnership lasted only one year.
The 1870 manuscript census enumerated John S. and Eliza Bell at 47 Beech Street with their six children and a servant. In 1870, the Bells’ children were Amelia, 11, Charles, seven and William, five, all attending school, and Bessie, three, John B., two and James, five months, at home. All of the Bells’ children had been born in Pennsylvania.
The Bell family’s servant was Frances Pleasant, 27, who had been born in Ohio.
The 1870 manuscript census, which was the last census to provide information on assets of persons enumerated, reported that John S. Bell owned real estate valued at $141,500 and had a personal estate of $1,000.
City directories indicate that after selling 47 Beech Avenue in 1870, John S. and Eliza Bell moved their family to Jacks Run Road in Bellevue. During the 1870’s John S. Bell was listed in city directories as an agent.
The 1880 manuscript census enumerated the Bell family living in an unnumbered house on Jacks Run Road. John S. Bell was employed as a millinery agent, and Eliza Bell did not work.
In 1880, the census reported that the Bells’ children were Charles, 16, William, 14, Bessie, 11, Bates, nine, Nellie, six, James, five and Frederick, four. According to census records, only William Bell attended school.
During the 1880’s, John S. and Eliza Bell experienced financial difficulties, losing some of their property in Bellevue at sheriff’s sale and selling other property to the person who had foreclosed on them. John S. Bell last appeared in the Pittsburgh city directory in 1884.
912 Beech Avenue is a three-story red brick house occupying a 30′ wide by 100′ deep lot located in the Allegheny West section of Pittsburgh.
John S. Bell, an Irish-born dry goods merchant, and his wife Eliza had 912 Beech Avenue built in 1869 or 1870. The Bells and their children and servant lived at 912 Beech Avenue for only a year or less before they sold the house and moved to Bellevue.
Henry Meyer, an attorney who owned 912 Beech Avenue between 1886 and 1909, had the house updated in the late 1880’s. Meyer’s alterations to 912 Beech Avenue, which included a new facade, stairway, doors, mantels, woodwork and hardwood floors, incorporated fashionable home features of the time while leaving intact a number of items that date to the time of the house’s construction.
Other early occupants of 912 Beech Avenue included the family of Moses Bauer, a Prussian immigrant jewelery store owner who rented the house in 1880.
912 Beech Avenue, originally known as 47 Beech Street, has had 19 owners. The house was converted to a rooming house by the late 1920’s and was allowed to deteriorate until its 1991 restoration.
Detailed information on the ownership history, age, and first owner of 912 Beech Avenue follows.
- April 30, 1869
- August 16, 1870
- March 1, 1882
- September 25, 1882
- October 22, 1883
- December 14, 1886
- July 9, 1909
- April 10, 1912
- January 30, 1915
- June 12, 1918
- March 29, 1919
- January 10, 1920
- January 10, 1920
- July 20, 1921
- April 11, 1922
- March 11, 1946
- May 1, 1959
- April 27, 1966
- March 6, 1973
- May 23, 1990
- December 19, 1990
Arthur and Bell Hobson, Joseph and Jessie McNaugher and Samuel and Jane McNaugher, all of Allegheny City, to Eliza Bell, $4,000.
This deed conveyed lots 23 and 24 in Block 4 in Elizabeth F. Denny’s Plan of Lots, located in the Second Ward of Allegheny City. The property conveyed was located on the northern side of Beech Street (now Beech Avenue), 440′ east of Allegheny Avenue, and measured 40′ wide along Beech Street and 100′ deep to Butter Cup Alley (now Buttercup Way).
(Deed Book Volume 244, Page 243)
John S. and Eliza Bell of Allegheny City to Ralph Bagaly, son of William Bagaly of Allegheny City, $13,000.
This deed conveyed Lots 23 and 24 and the western half of Lot 25 in Block 4 in Elizabeth F. Denny’s Plan of Lots, measuring 50′ along Beech Street and 100′ deep to Butter Cup Alley.
(DBV 261 P 114)
Ralph and Mary A. Bagaly of the city of Pittsburgh to William Semple of Allegheny City, $7,000. This deed and subsequent deeds conveyed a 30′ wide by 100′ deep lot on Beech Avenue, 460′ east of Allegheny Avenue.
(DBV 424 P 679)
William and Marion Semple of Allegheny City to August G. Hatry of the city of Pittsburgh, $10,000.
(DBV 442 P 686)
August and Louisa Hatry of the city of Pittsburgh to Alexander M. Byers of Allegheny City, $8,000.
(DBV 466, P 682)
Alexander M. and Martha F. Byers of Allegheny City to Mattie E. Meyer of the city of Pittsburgh, $6,500.
(DBV 558, P 254)
Henry and Mattie E. Meyer of the city of Pittsburgh to John Goettmann of the city of Pittsburgh, $1 and other good and valuable considerations.
(DBV 1645 P 88)
John Goettmann, widower, of the city of Pittsburgh, to Enoch James of the city of Pittsburgh, $1 and other valuable considerations.
(DBV 1713 P 615)
Enoch and Annie James of the city of Pittsburgh to Henry H. Daubenspeck of Washington Township, Butler County, $1 and other good and valuable considerations.
(DBV 1832 P 199)
Henry H. and Elizabeth J. Daubenspeck of Washington Township, Butler County, to Roscoe M. Daubenspeck of the city of Pittsburgh, $1 and other good and valuable considerations.
(DBV 1944 P 3)
Roscoe M. Daubenspeck, unmarried, of the city of Pittsburgh to Grace E. and Phillip J. Artz Jr. of the city of Pittsburgh, $1 and other valuable considerations.
(DBV 1951 P 487)
Grace E. and Phillip J. Artz Jr. of the city of Pittsburgh to Kathryn D. Float of the city of Pittsburgh, $1 and other valuable considerations.
(DBV 2004 P 451)
Kathryn D.. Float, unmarried, of the city of Pittsburgh to Grace E. Artz of the city of Pittsburgh, $1 and other valuable considerations.
(DBV 2004 P 449)
Grace E. and Phillip J. Artz Jr. of the city of Pittsburgh to Martin and Catharine Schmidt of the city of Pittsburgh, $8.700.
(DBV 2071 P 200)
Martin and Catharine Schmidt of the city of Pittsburgh to Adam Kerr of the city of Pittsburgh, $9,000.
(DBV 2125 P 408)
Nettie Kerr, widow, Lela and Glenn E. Hilliard and Florence and Presley Albert Traft, all of the city of Pittsburgh, and Roy M. and Mary Kerr of Southgate, California, to George S. and Edna C. Harger of Evans City, Butler County, $1.
Adam Kerr had died on April 26, 1945, and left one-third interest in the property to his wife Nettie Kerr and two-thirds interest in the property to his children.
(DBV 2887 P 568)
Edna C. Harger, widow, of Evans City, Butler County, to Niels Bork of Evans City, Butler County, $8,500.
(DBV 3792 P 318)
Niels and Anne Louise Bork of Mercer, Butler County to Edward R. and Gay L. Hilderhoff of the city of Pittsburgh, $12,000.
(DBV 4328 P 613)
Edward R. and Gay L. Hilderhoff of the city of Pittsburgh to Joseph F. Coyne of the city of Pittsburgh, $13,700.
(DBV 4664 P 181)
Joseph F. Coyne, single, to Louis DePellegrini, $27,000.
(DBV 8253 P 525)
Louis DePellegrini, single, of the city of Pittsburgh to Barbara A. and Robert L. Wells Jr. of the city of Pittsburgh, $49,000.
(DBV 8394, P 583)
Age of the House
All available information indicates that John S. and Eliza Bell had 912 Beech Avenue built in 1869 or 1870.
The April 30, 1869 sale of a 40′ wide by 100′ deep lot on Beech Avenue for $4000, at $1 per square foot, was comparable to prices paid for other undeveloped lots in Allegheny West and indicates that 912 Beech Avenue had not been built.
Subsequently, the 1870 Pittsburgh city directory listed John S. Bell as living at 47 Beech Street (now 912 Beech Avenue) for the first time.
Pittsburgh city directories of the late 1860’s provide information on Arthur Hobson, Joseph McNaugher and Samuel McNaugher, who, with their wives, sold Eliza Bell property on which 912 Beech Avenue stands.
Arthur Hobson was a contractor who lived at 9 Knoll Street in Allegheny. Joseph McNaugher was a paver and contractor who lived at 268 Sandusky Street in Allegheny. Samuel McNaugher, a bricklayer, also lived on Sandusky Street.
Pittsburgh city directories, and U.S. census records provide information on John S. and Eliza Bell and their family.
Occupants in 1880
The 1880 manuscript census shows that 912 Beech Avenue (then 47 Beech Street) was rented to the family of Moses Bauer.
Moses Bauer, 30, was a Prussian-born jewelery store owner. His wife Laura, 25, kept house. Laura Bauer had been born in Pennsylvania to parents born in Baden, Germany.
In 1880, Moses and Laura Bauer lived at 47 Beech Street with their two children, Moses Bauer’s step-brother, and two female servants.
The Bauers’ children were Alice, two, and Walter, one. Both had been born in Pennsylvania.
Herm Cerf, Moses Bauer’s step-brother, was 18 and worked as a store clerk. He had been born in Prussia.
Servants living at 47 Beech Street in 1880 were M. Ackerman, 16, who had been born in Pennsylvania, and Millie Racy, 25, who had been born in Virginia and was not able to read or write. Both servants were the children of Prussian immigrants.
Pittsburgh city directories indicate that 912 Beech Avenue was converted to a rooming house by 1929. In that year, Nettie Kerr was listed as proprietor of a rooming house at 912 Beech Avenue and living at the same address.
The following materials accompany this report:
- a copy of an 1872 plat map of part of Allegheny, including Beech Avenue
- a copy of an 1890 plat map of part of Allegheny, including Beech Avenue
- a copy of a 1910 plat map of part of the Northside, including Beech Avenue
A Researched History
By: Carol J. Peterson
all photos by Chris Siewers, unless otherwise noted
The 1920 and 1930 censuses enumerated Ann Gerlach’s husband, John Gerlach Jr., as the head of the household at 851 Beech Avenue. He had been born in Pennsylvania and was a son of German immigrants. In 1920, he was 38 years old and his occupation was listed as auto transportation. Records of the 1930 census list him as a broker in stocks and bonds.
Anna Gerlach, 39 in 1920, had been born in Pennsylvania like her parents. The Gerlach children were then Lawrence, 14, John E., 12, Crescentia, 11, Maria, nine, Anna, seven and Claude, four. The 1930 census, taken three and a half years after Ann Gerlach’s death, recorded four of the children still living at home: John E., 22, a laborer doing odd jobs, Marie, 20, with no occupation, Anna, 16, a department store saleswoman and Claude, 15.
The 1930 census indicates that the Gerlach family owned a “radio set,” like many middle class families, and that 851 Beech Avenue had an estimated value of $12,000. In 1940, as a result of the Great Depression’s effect on property values, the house’s estimated value was $8,000.
John Gerlach Jr. no longer lived at 851 Beech Avenue in 1940, having conveyed his interest in the house to his children in 1931. Records of the 1940 census list John E. Gerlach, 31, as the head of the household. He was employed as a Pittsburgh firefighter, and had worked 40 hours in the week before the census. In 1939 he had worked all 52 weeks, and earned $1,000. His wife Loretta, 29, and a Pennsylvania native, had no occupation. The couple had a son, Bernard, who was two years old. Claude Gerlach, 23, also still lived in the house. He was a college senior who was not working or seeking work at the time of the census, and had not worked in 1939.
The 1940 census was the first to collect information on educational levels. Census records show that John E. Gerlach had completed two years of college and Loretta Gerlach was a high school graduate.
The 1940 census is the last census that provides information on occupants of 851 Beech Avenue. Manuscript census records are withheld from public view for 72 years, to protect the privacy of persons who were enumerated.
Charles Holmes was born in or near Pittsburgh in September 1835. His father, Thomas Holmes, was a bricklayer who had been born in England. His mother, Jane, was from Ireland. Records of the 1850 census show that Thomas Holmes owned real estate valued at $3,700, roughly comparably to $300,000 today, indicating that the family lived comfortably. Thomas Holmes may have been a bricklaying contractor rather than an employee, a distinction that was sometimes not made in city directories and census records. In 1850, the Holmes family lived on Decatur Street in the lower Hill District.
The Holmes family left Pittsburgh during the first half of the 1850s, and Charles Holmes’ residence and activities during young adulthood are not known. Holmes returned to the city in or shortly before 1862, when he was listed in the city directory for the first time. He worked as a clerk, and boarded on Liberty Avenue, Downtown.
In about 1863, Holmes established C. Holmes & Company, a grocery store at the northwest corner of Third Avenue and Smithfield Street. He owned the store, later at the southeast corner of Second and Smithfield, until the late 1870s. He was still single, and boarded at various addresses around Downtown.
Holmes married Sarah “Sallie” A. Gilfillan Mastisson, about 36, a native of West Alexander, Washington County, on July 3,1879. Her parents were Silver Gilfillan, a carpenter and cabinet maker, and Marie Gilfillan, both born in Pennsylvania in the late 1790s. She had previously been married, but was a widow when she married Charles Holmes. She had no children during either of her marriages.
At around the time that he married, Charles Holmes left the grocery business and became a partner in the firm of Keller Morris & Holmes, sand and gravel dealers, on Water Street (now Fort Pitt Boulevard), Downtown. Holmes became a partner in the Keystone Sand Company in about 1881, and in the Monongahela Sand Company, possibly a successor firm, about 1884. The Monongahela Sand Company was located at 1825 Wharton Street on the South Side. Holmes remained with the latter business until about 1892, serving as its secretary and treasurer in the late 1880s and early 1890s.
In 1890, Holmes parlayed his gains from the sand and gravel business as a founder of the Mercantile Trust Company of Pittsburgh, at 413 Wood Street, Downtown. He left the Monongahela Sand Company in 1892 or 1893, when he became the Mercantile Trust Company’s bookkeeper. He was vice-president of the trust company by 1896. He also helped found the First National Bank of McKees Rocks in 1898, and was that institution’s first president. He served as vice-president of the Mortgage Banking Company after that firm was established in 1902.
Charles and Sallie Holmes lived at 425 and 435 Liberty Avenue, in the present Gateway Center area, between the early 1880s and early 1890s. In about 1891 they moved to 1617 Locust Street, in the present UPMC Mercy Hospital area. They remained at that address until they moved to 851 Beech Avenue in 1899.
Records of the 1900 census list Charles Holmes, 64, and Sallie Holmes, 56, as the only residents of 851 Beech Avenue. Census records also show that 851 Beech Avenue was not mortgaged.
While living on Beech Avenue, Charles and Sallie Holmes belonged to the First Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh on Sixth Avenue, Downtown. Charles Holmes had been a church deacon since 1874, was a member of the finance committee, and served as the congregation’s treasurer.
Pittsburgh directories published during the first several years after Charles and Sallie Holmes moved to Beech Avenue listed Holmes simply as a banker, possibly because of his association with more than one financial institution. Holmes retired in 1905. Census records from 1910 gave his occupation as “own income”, meaning that he was able to support himself without working.
In 1910, Charles and Sallie Holmes employed a private nurse, Sadie Taylor, who lived at 851 Beech Avenue. Taylor was a 33-year-old divorcee who was at least a second-generation Pennsylvania native. She probably cared for Sallie Holmes, who died in 1911,
Charles Holmes sold 851 Beech Avenue in 1913, and was not listed in subsequent Pittsburgh directories. When he died at Columbia Hospital in Wilkinsburg in 1916, his obituary reported that he had been living with a nephew in Ohio.