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

709 Brighton Road

709 Brighton Road

Introduction

709 Brighton Road is a three story red brick house occupying a 135’11” wide by 198′ deep lot located in the Allegheny West section of the city of Pittsburgh.

Harry Darlington, a millionaire industrialist who lived nearby at 721 Brighton Road, had 709 Brighton Road built in 1908 for his son, Harry Darlington Jr. The house was designed by George Orth and cost $60,000 to construct.

Darlington apparently demolished three older homes on the site that were owned by his mother-in-law, Rebecca T. McCullough, in order to construct 709 Brighton Road.

Detailed information on the ownership history, age, and owners of 709 Brighton Road is as follows:

Ownership

  • September 11, 1877
  • June 24, 1879
  • June 16, 1898
  • July 14, 1902
  • May 6, 1913
  • April 1, 1919
  • November 6, 1940
  • July 2, 1942
  • November 23, 1982

James L. and Margaret Graham of the city of Allegheny to Mrs. Rebecca T. McCullough of the city of Allegheny, $38,000.

This deed conveyed a lot of ground located on Irwin Avenue (now Brighton Road), 115′ north of the corner of Irwin Avenue and Ridge Street (now Ridge Avenue). The lot measured 58’5″ wide by 198′ deep, and contained “a large two story brick dwelling with mansard roof.” The lot was part of lots conveyed to James L. Graham by John Irwin and his wife on August 8, 1861, recorded in Deed Book Volume 150, Page 492, and by David Campbell and his wife on June 6,
1862, recorded in Deed Book Volume 156, Page 366.

(Deed Book Volume 369, Page 650)

Edith A. and Henry W. Oliver Jr. of the city of Allegheny to Rebecca McCullough of the city of Allegheny, wife of J.N. McCullough, $20,000.

This deed conveyed a 40′ wide by 198′ deep lot on Irwin Avenue, 70′ north of the corner of Irwin Avenue and Ridge Street. James L. and Margaret Graham had conveyed the lot to Henry W. Oliver Jr. as two parcels in two deeds dated April 26, 1876 and 1877 (date not given).

(DBV 395 P 154)

John L. and Louise T. McCutcheon of the city of Pittsburgh, James H. and Elizabeth C. McCutcheon of the city of Pittsburgh, Thomas G. and Annie S. McCutcheon of the city of Allegheny, and Eleanor M. and T. DeWitt Talmage of Washington, D.C., all the heirs of James McCutcheon, late of the city of Allegheny, deceased, to Rebecca T. McCullough, $50,000.

This deed conveyed a 37’6″ wide by 198′ deep lot located on the “west commons,” 173’5″ north of Ridge Street. The lot was known as Lot 8 and the northerly half of Lot 7 in the Plan of Lots of John Irwin, recorded in Plan Book Volume 2, Page 173. The lothad been conveyed by James L. Graham to James McCutcheon (date not given).

(DBV 1002 P 72)

Harry Darlington, trustee of the estate of Harry Darlington Jr., under the will of Rebecca T. McCullough, late of Allegheny County, and Rebecca McCullough Darlington, both of the city of Allegheny, to Mary E. McC. Darlington of the city of Allegheny, $1 and other good and valuable considerations.

This deed conveyed a 135’11” wide by 198′ deep lot located on Irwin Avenue, 75′ north of Ridge Avenue. The lot conveyed consisted of three lots acquired by Rebecca T. McCullough, mother-in-law of Harry Darlington, on September 11, 1877, June 24, 1879, and June 16, 1898, described above. Rebecca T. McCullough had died on June 4, 1902, and in her will, recorded in Will Book Volume 70, Page 429, left half her estate to her daughter Mary E. McC. Darlington.

(DBV 1200 P 72)

Harry and Mary E. McC. Darlington of the city of Pittsburgh to Harry Darlington Jr. of the city of Pittsburgh, $10 and natural love and affection.

(DBV 1772 P 425)

Harry Darlington Jr. and Ethel Shields Darlington, his wife, of the city of Pittsburgh, to Marguerite S. Milligan of the city of Pittsburgh, wife of Robert Milligan, $10.

(DBV 1947 P 330)

Robert Milligan, widower, and Robert Milligan and Gordon Fisher, trustees under the will of Marguerite Singer Milligan, deceased, to Carl E. and Grace S. Traubert of the city of Pittsburgh, $18,000. Marguerite Singer Milligan had died on June 13, 1939.

(DBV 2666 P 567)

Carl E. and Grace S. Traubert of the city of Pittsburgh to the Catholic Knights of Saint George, $20,400.

(DBV 2736 P 391)

The Catholic Knights of Saint George, a non-profit corporation, to the William Penn Association, a non-profit corporation, $350,000.

(DBV 6570 P 35)

Age of the House

All available information indicates that Harry Darlington had 709 Brighton Road built in 1908. City of Pittsburgh building permit dockets show that on October 20, 1908, Harry Darlington received a permit to erect one two story plus attic brick house on Irwin Avenue. The house was to measure 96′ wide by 72′ deep, contain 31 rooms, and have a slate roof.

Darlington hired W.F. Trimble & Sons to build the house, which had a construction cost of $60,000. City directories of the early 1900’s show that W.F. Trimble & Sons was located at 1717 Greenwood Street on the North Side near the current location of the Port Authority of Allegheny County headquarters. Directories also show that W.F. Trimble lived in Bellevue.
According to an advertisement in the Pittsburgh Architectural Club’s 1912 Yearbook, Marshall Brothers manufactured the house’s elevator. Marshall Brothers was located at 21st and Mary Streets on the South Side.

City of Pittsburgh building permit dockets also show that on June 24, 1909, Harry Darlington received a permit to erect one two story brick garage on Irwin Avenue near Ridge Avenue. The garage was to measure 50′ wide by 30′ deep, have a slate roof, and cost $9000 to construct. Darlington hired W.F. Trimble & Sons to build the garage.

The Architect

George S. Orth, a prominent Pittsburgh architect, designed 709 Brighton Road. Orth, who lived in Bridgeville during the early 1900’s, was a partner with his brother Alex B. Orth in George S. Orth & Brother, located at 341 Sixth Avenue, Downtown. Alex Orth lived at 1411 Federal Street, North Side. During the 1890’s the Orth brothers had lived at 404-406 South Highland Avenue in Shadyside.

George S. Orth also designed the William Penn Snyder house at Ridge and Galveston Avenues (1911), “Wilpen Hall,” William Penn Snyder’s summer home on Waterworks Road in Sewickley Heights (1897-1900),
the Spencer house at 719 Amberson Avenue, Shadyside, described in The Spencers of Amberson Avenue (1886), 5141 and 5205 Ellsworth Avenue, Shadyside, and 10 adjacent homes on Colonial Place (1898), and the Western Pennsylvania School for Blind Children, Bayard Street and North Bellefield Avenue, Oakland (1893-94) .

Residents

The Darlingtons

Pittsburgh city directories, U.S. census records, and biographical materials provide information on Harry Darlington Jr.

Learn More

The Milligans

Pittsburgh city directories, U.S. census records, and biographical materials also provide information on Robert Milligan, a physician.

Learn More

Conversion to Rooming House

Carl E. and Grace S. Traubert, who owned 709 Brighton Road from 1940 to 1942, apparently converted the house to a furnished rooming house upon purchase.

Pittsburgh city directories show that the Trauberts lived nearby at 838 Ridge Avenue during the time they owned 709 Brighton Road. Directories published in 1941 and 1942 show that Grace S. Traubert operated a furnished rooming house at 709 Brighton Road and Carl E. Traubert worked as an assistant chemist for the United States Bureau of Mines.

The 1941 city directory indicated that Frederick L. Beach Jr., a laborer employed by Williams & Company, and his wife Mary were tenants at 709 Brighton Road, and that Frederick L. Beach, a freight terminal manager, and his wife Edith were tenants at 709 Rear Brighton Road.
As city directories listed tenants in apartments, but not tenants in rooming houses, it is likely that many additional families or persons lived at 709 Brighton Road during the brief period that the Trauberts owned the house.

The 1942 city directory showed that the Catholic Knights of Saint George occupied 709 Brighton Road, and that 709 Rear Brighton Road was vacant.

Supplementary Materials

The following materials accompany this report:

  • a copy of an 1852 plat map of the city of Allegheny, including Irwin Avenue (now N Lincoln Avenue)
  • a copy of an 1872 plat map of part of Allegheny, including Lincoln Avenue
  • a listing for Harry Darlington Jr. from the 1904 Social Directory of Greater Pittsburgh
  • biographical information on Robert Milligan
  • a copy of an advertisement for Marshall Brothers, manufacturer of 709 Brighton Road’s elevator, included in the Pittsburgh Architectural Club 1912 yearbook

A Researched History
By: Carol J. Peterson

all photos by Chris Siewers, unless otherwise noted

The Biancos

Philip and Martha Bianco, the third owners of 719 Brighton Road, operated a funeral home at 719 Brighton Road between 1955 and 1979.

Philip Bianco was born in 1906. He was the son of Angelo and Mary Bianco, who lived at 3414 Monroe Street in a small Italian settlement in the area now known as Polish Hill. Angelo Bianco was born in Italy and immigrated to the United States in 1881. In Pittsburgh, Angelo Bianco worked as a street lamp lighter, and later as a street lamp inspector.

The 1910 manuscript census indicates the Bianco family lived at 3414 Monroe Street and shared their home with two other families. In 1910 Angelo Bianco, 45, worked as a lamp inspector and owned his home. Mary Bianco, 38, had no occupation.

In 1910, the Biancos had had six children, with five of their children living at the time of the census. The census indicated that their children were Antonio, 17, an office clerk in a steel mill, Elizabeth, 15, Frank, 12, Peter, nine, and Felix (Philip), three.

In March 1992, Philip Bianco’s daughter Phyllis Abinanti indicated that her father was known as Felix as a child.
The Bianco family moved from 3414 Monroe Street to 136 Stratford Avenue in Friendship in the late 1910’s.

Philip Bianco first appeared in the Pittsburgh city directory in 1928, when he worked as an embalmer for the Grime & Blair funeral home, located at 4112 Main Street in Bloomfield. In the early 1930’s, Bianco began working for the William A. Sirlin funeral home at 620 East Ohio Street in East Allegheny; he and Martha lived on the premises. In the late 1930’s, Bianco opened his own funeral home at 239 South Highland Avenue in Shadyside, and the Biancos moved their home to this location.

The Biancos moved their business and home to 825 Western Avenue in 1943 or 1944, and remained at this location until 1955, when they purchased and moved their home and business to 719 Brighton Road. After Philip Bianco’s death in 1960, Martha Bianco operated the funeral home at 719 Brighton Road until her death in June 1979. The Bianco Funeral Home continued operation through the end of 1979.

Holmes Hall

719 Brighton Road was known as Holmes Hall for Boys between 1923 and 1954. Holmes Hall for Boys was established by the will of James Holmes’ cousin Jane Holmes.

In her will, dated December 31, 1883 and recorded in Will Book Volume 28, Page 570, Jame Holmes left $50,000 for the founding of a Christian home for working Protestant boys to age 21. The home was to be known as the Protestant Home for Boys and was later renamed Holmes Hall for Boys.

After its founding, the Protestant Home for Boys was located at 33 Anderson Street (later 201 Anderson Street), at the corner of Robinson Street in Allegheny. The Home was located on Anderson Street between about 1886 and 1910, when it moved to 330 East North Avenue.

The Protestant Home for Boys was renamed Holmes Hall for Boys in about 1915. Holmes Hall for Boys remained at 330 East North Avenue until about 1918, when it was moved to 204 East Stockton Avenue. Holmes Hall for Boys moved to 203 Anderson Street in about 1920 and remained there until 1923, when it relocated to 719 Irwin Avenue.

Biographical materials indicate that Jane Holmes was a cousin of James Holmes, who had a sister also named Jane Holmes.

The Jane Holmes who founded the Protestant Home for Boys was known as “Pittsburgh Jane” Holmes in order to distinguish her from her cousin, “Baltimore Jane” Holmes. Both women were well-known for their philanthropic activities.

City directories of the 1880’s indicate that “Pittsburgh Jane” Holmes lived at 109 Penn Avenue in Downtown Pittsburgh.

The Holmeses (Letitia)

U.S. census records, Pittsburgh city directories and biographical materials provide information on Letitia Holmes, the first owner of 719 Brighton Road, and members of her family.

1830 to 1870

Letitia Holmes was born in May 1830. She was the daughter of John and Letitia Caldwell of the town of Allegheny. John and Letitia Caldwell’s other children included William A. Caldwell, who lived with his sister Letitia Holmes at 719 Brighton Road for over three decades.

Allegheny County records show that in May 1828, John and Letitia Caldwell were granted Lots 27, 28, and 29 in the eastern liberties of the town of Allegheny by William Anderson of the city of Pittsburg (sic). William Anderson granted the lots “in consideration of the love, good will and affection which I bear to my son and daughter John Caldwell and Letitia his wife.” Each lot measured 50’9″ wide by 140′ deep. The lots were part of Lot 146 in the Reserved Tract called the town of Allegheny.

William Anderson had opened Liberty and Washington Streets, each 50′ wide, through Lot 146 in a deed dated May
27, 1826 and recorded in Deed Book Volume 36, Page 79.

James Holmes, the husband of Letitia Caldwell Holmes, was born in about 1815 in Maryland. He was the son of Sarah Holmes, whose other children included William B. Holmes, a meat packer and banker, and Jane Holmes, a philanthropist. James, William B. and Jane Holmes were cousins of Jane Holmes, whose will provided for the founding of Holmes Hall for Boys.

The Holmes family settled in Pittsburgh by the late 1830’s, living on Penn Avenue near Hay Street in what is now Downtown Pittsburgh. Later directories gave the family’s address as 96 Penn Avenue, and subsequently 324 Penn Avenue.

1872 and 1890 plat maps of what was then Pittsburgh’s Fourth Ward shows that 96 Penn Avenue was located on the southern side of Penn Avenue, three houses west of Fourth Street. The house measured 24′ wide by approximately 85′ deep. Immediately to the east of the Holmes home was 98 Penn Avenue (later 326 Penn Avenue), owned by the Caldwell family. The Caldwell home measured 24′ wide by about 75′ deep.

The Holmes and Caldwell houses occupied part of the present site of Gateway Center. Plat maps and city directories indicate that 324 Penn Avenue existed until 1950 or 1951. In later years the house was used as a rooming house and was surrounded by stores and other businesses.

The Caldwell home at 326 Penn Avenue was later converted to commercial uses, housing a dry cleaning business until it was demolished in about 1950.

The 1850 manuscript census enumerated families headed by Sarah Holmes and James Caldwell, Letitia Caldwell Holmes’ brother, consecutively, suggesting that the families lived next to one another. The census enumerated the Caldwell family in dwelling house 493 and the Holmes family in dwelling house 494 in Pittsburgh’s Fourth Ward.

Sarah Holmes, 60, had no occupation. Living with her were William B. Holmes, 40, who had no occupation and owned real estate valued at $14,000, James Holmes, 33, who had no occupation, and Jane Holmes, 37, who had no occupation. All members of the Holmes family had been born in Maryland. William B. Holmes was the only Holmes family member who owned real estate. No members of the Holmes family had amassed a “personal estate.”

Also living with the Holmes family was Jane Nicklin, 19, who had been born in England and was reported to have no occupation. Jane Nicklin may have been a servant.

James Caldwell, 30, who had been born in Pennsylvania, worked as a tanner and currier, and owned no real estate. Mary Caldwell, 24 and a native of Ohio, had no occupation and owned real estate valued at $12,000. Sarah Caldwell, seven months old, had been born in Pennsylvania.

Ellen May, 25, who had been born in Ireland, and Sarah Davis, 10, who had been born in Pennsylvania, also lived with the Caldwell family.

The 1850 manuscript census apparently did not emumerate Letitia Caldwell (later Letitia Caldwell Holmes) in Pittsburgh or Allegheny.

Local marriage records of the 1800’s contain no information on the wedding of James Holmes and Letitia Caldwell.
James Holmes appeared in the Pittsburgh city directory as early as 1850, when he was listed as living on Penn Avenue in Pittsburgh. The 1850 directory did not give Holmes’ occupation. In 1856, James Holmes was a partner with William B. Holmes in William B. Holmes & Brother, a pork packing company located at 12 Market Street in
Pittsburgh. Both James and William B. Holmes lived at 96 Penn Avenue in 1856.

The May 9, 1881 obituary of William B. Holmes also reported that James and William B. Holmes were partners in a pork packing business. The 1893 obituary of Holmes’ sister Jane mentioned William B. Holmes and Sarah Pusey, a sister, but not James Holmes.

Sarah Holmes died October 24, 1859, at age 70. Her funeral, according to the Pittsburgh Gazette, took place at the Holmes family residence at 96 Penn Avenue.

The 1860 city directory listed James Holmes as proprietor of James Holmes & Company, pork packers and provision dealers, located at the corner of First and Market Streets in Pittsburgh. By 1860, Holmes had moved to Colonade Row on Federal Street in Allegheny. William B. Holmes, James Holmes’ brother and former business partner, had become president of the Mechanic’s National Bank and still lived at 96 Penn Avenue.

The 1860 manuscript census reported that James and Letitia Holmes lived in Allegheny in a household headed by Letitia Caldwell. Letitia Caldwell, 62, had been born in Pennsylvania and had no occupation. She owned no real estate and had a “personal estate” of $400. William Caldwell, 30, worked in a boat store. Charles Caldwell, 21, was a clerk. Kate Caldwell, 17, and Nelly Caldwell, 13, did not work.

The census reported that James Holmes, 40, had been born in Pennsylvania and had no occupation. Letitia Holmes, 35, also had no occupation. Neither James or Letitia Holmes owned real estate or had a personal estate.
The family’s servants were Catherine Creadiel, 23, and Lizzie Creadiel, 17, both born in Germany.

Pittsburgh city directories listed James Holmes at 18 South Commons in Allegheny through 1862. On May 17, 1862, the Pittsburgh Gazette reported:

DIED: HOLMES – On Friday morning, at 1 1/2 o’clock, Mr. James Holmes, in, the 47th year of his age.

His funeral will take place TO-DAY (Saturday) at 4 o’clock p.m., from his late residence, South Commons, Allegheny City. The friends of the family are invited to attend.

The Pittsburgh Daily Dispatch reported the same information on James Holmes.

Letitia Holmes was listed as the widow of James Holmes and living at 64 Union Avenue in Allegheny beginning in 1863. Letitia Holmes was listed at 31 Federal Street from 1865 to 1867. She did not appear in the directory again until 1876, when she was listed as the widow of James Holmes and living at 48 Irwin Avenue. The 1870 census did not enumerate Letitia Holmes in Allegheny or Pittsburgh.

Letitia Holmes’ brother William Caldwell was listed at 31 Federal Street between 1863 and 1869. William Caldwell next appeared in the city directory in 1871, when he was listed as president of the Monongahela Insurance Company and living at 48 Irwin Avenue.

The 1870 manuscript census apparently enumerated William A. Caldwell in Allegheny’s First Ward with other family members. Caldwell, whose age was given as 35, worked as president of a fire insurance company. The census, which gave Caldwell’s name as William F. Caldwell, indicated that he owned no real estate and had a “personal estate” of $5000.

Living with William A. Caldwell in 1870 were Louisa (sic) Caldwell, 79, who had no occupation, Agnes Caldwell, 30, who kept house, Kate Caldwell, 27, “at home,” and two servants. The Caldwells’ servants were Elizabeth Alexander,
28, and Elizabeth Fay, 19.

The census reported that all residents of the Caldwell home had been born in Pennsylvania.

Neither the 1870 census or the 1870 city directory indicated William A. Caldwell’s residence. However, the 1870 manuscript census enumerated the Caldwell family near families living at 126, 128, and 130 Robinson Street in Allegheny.

1870 to 1914

Pittsburgh city directories listed Letitia Holmes as the widow of James Holmes and living at 48 Irwin Avenue in 1876 and in most subsequent years. City directories never indicated that Letitia Holmes had an occupation.
In 1880, the census enumerated Letitia Holmes, 44, living at 48 Irwin Avenue with other family members and servants. The census reported that Letitia Holmes was a widow who had no occupation. Her brother William A. Caldwell, 60, was listed as the head of the household.

In 1880, the census reported that William A. Caldwell was single and was president of a fire insurance company. Letitia Holmes’ daughter Letitia C., 18, was a student. Asister, Agnes Caldwell, 65 (sic), also lived at 48 Irwin Avenue. Agnes Caldwell was single and had no occupation.

Servants who lived at 48 Irwin Avenue in 1880 were Sarah Campbell, 26, Maggie Coll, 26, and Maggie McCue, all born in Ireland, and William Remensnyder, 13, who had been born in Pennsylvania to parents born in Germany and Pennsylvania.

On March 19, 1886, the Pittsburgh Gazette reported on the wedding of Letitia Caldwell Holmes’ daughter Letitia C. Holmes and George P. Hamilton Jr. at 48 Irwin Avenue. Hamilton, an attorney, had previously lived at 187 Ridge Avenue. His father, George P. Hamilton, was also a prominent attorney. The Hamiltons’ daughter Elizabeth was born in 1887.

City directories listed George P. Hamilton Jr. at 48 Irwin Avenue beginning in 1887. George and Letitia Hamilton lived at 48 Irwin Avenue until Letitia Hamilton’s death on October 5, 1898. George P. Hamilton Jr. continued to live at 48 Irwin Avenue until his death on August 15, 1901.

In 1886, The Social Mirror, a book about wealthy and accomplished women of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County, estimated Letitia Holmes’ fortune at $500,000 or more. The book also estimated Letitia Holmes Hamilton’s worth at $200,000.

The 1890 census, which would provide information on Letitia Holmes and other residents of 719 Brighton Road in that year, was destroyed in a fire after its completion.

Neither the censuses of 1870, 1880, and 1900, or biographical information on William A. Caldwell indicate that Caldwell was ever married or had a child. However, a photograph album dated Christmas 1886 and inscribed “To William A. Caldwell Sr. from William A. Caldwell Jr.” suggests Caldwell had a son.

An index of local deaths during the 1800’s and early 1900’s also provides no information on William A. Caldwell Jr.
The 1900 manuscript census reported that William A. Caldwell was the head of the household living at 719 Brighton Road. Caldwell, 76, was reported to be single and president of an insurance company. Letitia Holmes, 70, was a widow who had had three children. None of her children were alive at the time of the census.
George P. Hamilton Jr., 38, a nephew, was a widower and a lawyer. His daughter Elizabeth Hamilton, 13, attended school.
Five servants lived at 719 Brighton Road in 1900. They were Malinda L. Lieb, 25, Margaret Higgins, 47, Annie McCarthy, 23, Annie M. O’Hare, 30, and Ellen Mulligan, 24.

Malinda L. Lieb, a cook, had been born in Ohio and was of German descent. Margaret Higgins, a nurse, had been born in Vermont to parents born in Ireland. Annie McCarthy, a waitress, had been born in Ireland, and immigrated to the United States in 1894. Annie M. O’Hare, a chambermaid, had been born in Ireland and immigrated in 1896. Ellen Mulligan, a chambermaid, had been born in Pennsylvania to parents born in Ireland.

The census also reported that all adult residents of 719 Brighton Road were able to read and write, and that no employed residents of 719 Brighton Road had been unemployed during the previous year.

The 1910 manuscript census shows that Letitia Holmes, 75, lived at 719 Brighton Road with her granddaughter Elizabeth Hamilton, 23, and four servants. The census indicated that Letitia Holmes had had three children, and that none of her children were alive. The occupation of Elizabeth Hamilton was given as “own income.”

In 1910, servants living at 719 Irwin Avenue were Anne O’Hare, Anne Sweeney, Nora Cook, and Margaret Miller.
Anne O’Hare, 40, was a childless widow who had been born in Ireland and immigrated in 1882. Anne Sweeney, 19, was single and a native of Ireland, and had immigrated in 1904. Nora Cook, 40, was a childless widow who had been born in Ireland and immigrated in 1886. Margaret Miller, 23, was single and had been born in Pennsylvania.

In 1910, all residents of 719 Brighton Road except Anne O’Hare were able to read and write English.

City directories listed Letitia Holmes at 719 Irwin Avenue through 1913, the year before her death on March 1, 1914.

1914 to the Present

Letitia Holmes’ granddaughter Elizabeth Hamilton married Percy E. Donner during the early 1910’s. Neither Allegheny County marriage license applications or listings of newspaper wedding announcements provide information on this wedding.

Percy E. Donner was born in Indiana on November 18, 1878. As a young man, Donner began working for the newly formed United States Steel Corporation, managing the company’s Monessen, Pennsylvania mill. Subsequently, Donner was involved with the Pittsburgh Air Brake Company and Monessen real estate activities.

A 1900 rendering of Monessen shows that one of Monessen’s streets was named Donner Avenue.

Directories of the early 1900’s show that Percy E. Donner lived on Morewood Avenue near Fifth Avenue in Shadyside between 1905 and 1908. Donner maintained offices in the Frick Building in 1905, in the Frick Building Annex in 1907, and in the Union Bank Building in 1910.

Percy E. Donner was first listed at 719 Irwin Avenue in 1911, when he was a partner in Donner, Childs and Woods, brokers, located on the second floor of the Union Bank building. Donner’s partners were Clinton L. Childs of 653 Morewood Avenue and Charles W. Woods of 816 Ivy Street, both in Shadyside.

Following Letitia Holmes’ death, directories listed Percy Donner at 719 Irwin Avenue through 1921. Donner was listed as president of the Pittsburgh Power Reverse Gear Company in the late 1910’s and early 1920’s, and as secretary-treasurer of the Pittsburgh Air Brake Company in the late 1910’s.

The 1920 manuscript census, which should provide information on residents of 719 Brighton Road in that year, will be available to the public later in 1992. Census records are sealed for 72 years to ensure confidentiality.
Percy and Elizabeth Donner moved to Edgeworth by 1923, the year that Elizabeth Donner sold 719 Brighton Road to the Holmes Hall for Boys. Percy Donner died in 1926.

Elizabeth Donner lived in Sewickley until shortly before her death in 1968. The Donners had a daughter, Letitia Caldwell Donner, who died at age five, and a son, Frederick H. Donner, born in about 1920, who is a resident of Sewickley and Delray Beach, Florida.

719 Brighton Road

719 Brighton Road

Introduction

719 Brighton Road is a three story stone and brick Renaissance Revival style house occupying a 50′ wide by 198′ deep lot located in the Allegheny West section of the city of Pittsburgh.

Letitia Holmes, a wealthy widow, had 719 Brighton Road built between late 1868 and 1871, after purchasing the lot on which the house stands for $15,000. Letitia Holmes lived at 719 Brighton Road until her death in 1914.

Letitia Holmes was the widow of James Holmes, the owner of a pork packing business. James Holmes died in 1862.

Letitia Holmes’ heirs sold 719 Brighton Road to a not-for-profit corporation that used the house as Holmes Hall for Boys between 1923 and 1954. Holmes Hall for Boys, formerly the Protestant Home for Boys, was founded and maintained through the will of Jane Holmes, a philanthropist who was a cousin of James Holmes.

Philip and Martha Bianco operated a funeral home at 719 Brighton Road between 1955 and 1979.

The block on which 719 Brighton Road is located was owned and subdivided by members of the Irwin family. John Irwin established a rope walk, or rope manufactory, in Pittsburgh in 1794. After John Irwin’s death, members of his family moved the Rope Walk to Out Lot 276 in Allegheny in 1813. The Irwin family operated the Rope Walk until 1858, and then subdivided the property.

719 Brighton Road was known as 48 Irwin Avenue from the time of its construction until 1900, and was known as 719 Irwin Avenue from 1900 until about 1940.

Detailed information on the ownership history, age and owners of 719 Brighton Road, and on the Irwin family and other early owners of the lot on which 719 Brighton Road stands, follows.

Ownership

  • March 17, 1790
  • November 2, 1813
  • March 9, 1816
  • June 15, 1858
  • April 6, 1865
  • November 13, 1865
  • November 16, 1868
  • October 1, 1923
  • November 12, 1954
  • February 28, 1955
  • August 19, 1983
  • February 21, 1986
  • September 30, 1988

Charles Wilkins, merchant, of the town of Pittsburgh, conveyed property that included the present site of 845 North Lincoln Avenue to John Irwin, esquire, of the town of Pittsburgh for 30 pounds. This deed conveyed Out Lot 276 in the Reserve Tract opposite Pittsburgh and Lot 69 in the town of Allegheny. Out Lot 276 was a 10-acre tract of land situated on the western side of land laid out for a common, and bounded by what are now Brighton Road, Ridge Avenue, Galveston Avenue and Western Avenue. Lot 69 in the town of Allegheny was a 60′ wide by 240′ deep lot at the comer of Ohio Street and Sandusky Street, measuring 60′ wide on Ohio Street and 240′ deep along Sandusky Street to Strawberry Alley.

(Deed Book Volume 2, Page 97)

William F. Irwin of the borough of Pittsburgh, one of the sons and heirs of John Irwin, rope maker, conveyed property that included the present site of 845 North Lincoln Avenue to John Irwin of the borough of Pittsburgh, another of the sons and heirs of John Irwin, for $1,772. This deed conveyed Out Lots 276, 263 and 268 in the Reserve Tract, containing 10 acres each, and property on Liberty Street (now Liberty Avenue) in Pittsburgh. John Irwin had died intestate and was survived by his widow Mary and four children, Margaret, John, William and Elizabeth.

(DBV 19 P 127)

John and Hannah Irwin of the town of Allegheny to Elizabeth Irwin and Margaret Irwin of the town of Allegheny. This deed conveyed Out Lot 276 in the Reserve Tract and other property in the borough of Pittsburgh. This deed was an amicable and full and equal deed of partition of the estate of John Irwin.

(DBV 22 P 189)

John and Abigail Irwin of the city of Allegheny to James C. Watt of the city of Allegheny, $3200. This deed and subsequent deeds conveyed a 50′ wide by 198′ deep lot of ground located on Irwin Avenue, 25′ south of the corner of Irwin Avenue and Central Street (now North Lincoln Avenue) in the city of Allegheny. The lot, which was part of Out Lot 276, was known as Lots 9 and 10 in the Irwin Plan of the Ropewalk Property, recorded in Allegheny County Plan Book Volume 2, Page 173.

(DBV 180 P 191)

John Watt, guardian of the heirs of James C. Watt, deceased, to William Dean of the city of Allegheny, $7350. James C. Watt had died and the Orphan’s Court of Allegheny County appointed John Watt guardian of the estates of his children William A. Watt, David M. Watt (now of full age who joins with the said guardian in the sale of the property), George D. Watt, deceased, James C. Watt, over the age of 14 years, Mary F. Watt, Charles A. Watt, Jane Watt and Martha Allen Watt, minors under the age of 14 years. John Watt, as guardian, had presented a petition it would be in the interest of the said minors and heirs that Lots 9 and 10 be sold, “said lots being unproductive and unimproved being expensive in the payment of taxes and loss of interest on the value of said lots.” The lots were offered at public sale on January 28, 1865.

(DBV 184 P 201)

William and Amelia B. Dean of the city of Allegheny to David E. Park of Allegheny County, $8400.

(DBV 194 P 14)

David E. and Sarah J. Park of the city of Allegheny to Mrs. Letitia Holmes of the city of * Allegheny, $15,000.

(DBV 239 P 307)

Elizabeth H. Donner of the borough of Edgeworth to Holmes Hall for Boys, $31,000. Mrs. Letitia Holmes had died on or about March 1, 1914, intestate and survived by no husband, child or grandchild except Elizabeth H. Donner. Percy E. Donner, the husband of Elizabeth H. Donner, was by decree of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County at No. 2190 January term 1922 declared weak-minded and unable to take care of his property, and Elizabeth H. Donner was appointed guardian of his estate.

(DBV 2172 P 529)

Holmes Hall for Boys, a non-profit corporation located in Pittsburgh, to the Allegheny Trust Company, a banking corporation, for the use and benefit of the Pittsburgh Foundation, a community trust, $1 and other good and valuable considerations. The deed stated that the final degree of dissolution of Holmes Hall for Boys was dated October 24, 1954 in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County.

(DBV 3355 P 670)

The Allegheny Trust Company, trustee, to Philip A. and Martha Bianco of the city of Pittsburgh, $24,000.

(DBV 3392 P 12)

Martha Jean Wolverton and Phyllis Abinanti, co-executrices of the estate of Martha Bianco, deceased, to Brighton-Lincoln LTD, an Ohio limited partnership, $195,000. Philip A. Bianco had died on January 28, 1960, and Martha Bianco died on June 30, 1979.

(DBV 6718 P 181)

Brighton-Lincoln LTD, an Ohio limited partnership, to 200 West North Associates, a Pennsylvania partnership consisting of William Peterson and Henry E. Beal, $170,000.

(DBV 7251 P 395)

200 West North Associates to John DeSantis of the city of Pittsburgh, $175,000.

(DBV 7887 P 364)

Age of the House

Available information indicates that Letitia Holmes had 719 Brighton Road built between late 1868 and 1871.

The November 1868 sale of the lot on which 719 Brighton Road now stands for $15,000, at $1.52 per square foot, indicates that 719 Brighton Road had not yet been built.

Subsequently, the 1871 Pittsburgh city directory listed Letitia Holmes’ brother William A. Caldwell at 48 Irwin Avenue (now 719 Brighton Road) for the first time. An 1872 plat map of part of Allegheny shows that 719 Brighton Road had been built.

Allegheny County mortgage records contain no record of any loan taken by Letitia Holmes for construction of 719 Brighton Road.

The $15,000 that Letitia Holmes paid for the lot was nearly double the $8400 paid for the lot in November 1865 and more than double the $7350 paid for the lot in April 1865.

The Allegheny City 1866 municipal report stated that Irwin Avenue had been graded and paved during 1866. This improvement apparently increased the value of the property significantly.

The Allegheny City 1866 annual report stated that the cost of grading and paving Irwin Avenue was $5038.23. The city assumed $495.60 of the cost and assessed private property owners $4542.63. Near the end of the year, the city had collected $4049.15, with $989.08 due January 1, 1867. Plat maps of the area around the subject property suggest that any additions made to 719 Brighton Road by Letitia Holmes were constructed between 1882 and 1890.
Plat maps of the site published in 1872 and 1882 indicate that the front of the house occupied the full 50′ width of its lot, with two narrower sections extending toward the rear. Plat maps published beginning in 1890 suggest the house may have received modest additions on its northern and western sides. However, the greater detail present in maps published in and after 1890 also suggests the apparent additions may not have been new.

Plat maps of the site published in 1901, 1907, 1910 and 1925 show that the house’s “footprint” remained the same during this time.

City of Allegheny building permit dockets, available between 1894 and 1907, contain no record of issuance of any permits for new construction or additions at 719 Brighton Road.

Plat maps of the site published between 1872 and 1907 suggest that Letitia Holmes had no stables or other outbuildings erected during this time.

City of Pittsburgh building permit dockets show that Letitia Holmes had a garage built at 719 Brighton Road in 1910. Building permit dockets also show that Letitia Holmes’ estate had a garage built at 719 Brighton Road in 1916.

The Contractors

John H. Trimble & Brother

On November 17, 1910, Mrs. Letitia Holmes received a permit to erect one brick garage at 719 Irwin Avenue, at a cost of $2000. The garage was to stand one and a half stories tall, have a slate roof, and measure 15’6″ wide by 26′ deep. The garage was designated plan and permit No. 1716.

Letitia Holmes hired John H. Trimble & Brother to build the garage. Pittsburgh city directories of the early 1900’s show that John H. Trimble & Brother was located at 1717 Greenwood Street in Allegheny, near the present location of the Port Authority of Allegheny County. John H. Trimble lived in Bellevue.

John H. Trimble & Brother had served as contractor for the $60,000 home of Harry Darlington Jr. at 709 Brighton Road in 1908, and constructed a carriage house at 709 Brighton Road in 1909 at a cost of $9000.

Patterson & Shaw

On August 4, 1916, the estate of Letitia Holmes received a permit to erect a one-story brick and tile garage at 719 Irwin Avenue. The garage was to measure 23′ wide by 26′ deep and have a construction cost of $2000. The firm of Patterson & Shaw was hired to build the garage, which was designated plan and permit No. 932.

The 1916 city directory shows that Patterson & Shaw was operated by Samuel Patterson and was located at 30 East General Robinson Street on the North Side. Samuel Patterson lived in Etna.

The Home Today

Photos by Chris Siewers

Residents

The Holmeses

U.S. census records, Pittsburgh city directories and biographical materials provide information on Letitia Holmes, the first owner of 719 Brighton Road, and members of her family.

Learn More

Holmes Hall

719 Brighton Road was known as Holmes Hall for Boys between 1923 and 1954. Holmes Hall for Boys was established by the will of James Holmes’s cousin Jane Holmes.

Learn More


The Biancos

Philip and Martha Bianco, the third owners of 719 Brighton Road, operated a funeral home at 719 Brighton Road between 1955 and 1979.

Learn More


Rope Walk

The rope walk occupied a site bounded by what are now Brighton Road, Ridge Avenue, Galveston Avenue, and Western Avenue.

Learn More

Supplementary Materials

The following materials accompany this report:

  • a copy of part of an 1852 map depicting Allegheny City
  • a copy of an 1872 plat map including the current location of Brighton Road
  • copies of parts of fire insurance maps of parts of Allegheny including Irwin Avenue, published in 1884, 1893 and 1906
  • a copy of an 1889 plat map of part of downtown Pittsburgh, showing the location of the Holmes and Caldwell houses on Penn Avenue
  • biographical information on Letitia Holmes, from The Social Mirror
  • biographical information on William A. Caldwell, from Century Cyclopedia of History and Biography of Pennsylvania
  • biographical information on John Caldwell, from History of Allegheny County and Encyclopedia of Biography
  • a March 19, 1886 Pittsburgh Gazette article on the wedding of Letitia Caldwell Holmes, Letitia Holmes’ daughter
  • biographical information on George P. Hamilton Jr., from Twentieth Century Bench and Bar of Pennsylvania
  • biographical information on Percy Donner, from Encyclopedia of Pennsylvania Biography and The Book of Prominent Pennsylvanians
  • an item from the March 14, 1914 Pittsburgh Bulletin reporting on Percy and Elizabeth Donner’s trip to the West Indies
  • biographical information on Jane Holmes of Pittsburgh, from The Social Mirror
  • biographical information on Jane Holmes of Baltimore, from The Social Mirror

A Researched History
By: Carol J. Peterson

all photos by Chris Siewers, unless otherwise noted

Letter from the President – June 2015

I thought I understood what kind of work went into putting on one of our house tours. After all, I had been working on the tickets sales for something like 5 years; sat in on countless committee meetings; set up a couple of spreadsheets for managing volunteers; even lead a tour or two (it’s probably best for everyone if that doesn’t happen again). Once, I even dressed up in 40lbs of velvet in August (and showed up at the wrong house with a group of 20 people – seriously, I’m not guide material).

Yeah, I had no idea.

No idea just how many people have to come together and contribute time and talent to pull off one of these tours until I added the perspective of the home-owner. And it’s the spring tour (which is basically the starter tour) – and it’s just our garden not the house so we’re not quite all in. Even still, there are a crazy number of people helping me and Gene at our house, just to make sure visitors get in and out of the garden with a glass of wine and an appetizer for 3 sets of tours. And there are 7 (7!) other houses. And 2 tours a year. And the neighborhood has been putting these tours on for over 30 (30!) years. I can’t even fathom just the raw number of volunteer hours those pretty little tour booklets represent.

By the way, if you’re feeling stalled on a home improvement project I would definitely recommend putting your house on tour. I think we’ve finished more projects (yay, no more chain link) in the last 3 months than we have managed to finish in the last 2 years. But as much as our new gate makes me smile, what I appreciate even more is that every time I think I can’t be surprised by our neighborhood, that I’ve lived here long enough to really understand how lucky we are to live here, I am yet again amazed by what our neighbors have managed to accomplish and sustain over decades of dedication.

Lots of other stuff is going on too! Please join us at the Tuesday membership meeting for an update on what’s going on with Lake Elizabeth and other updates for the Commons, a new One Northside project to catalog neighborhood resources and, fingers-crossed, a proposal for the Stables building that looks very promising.

Catherine Serventi
President, AWCC

AWCC Membership Meeting Agenda – June 9, 2015

Guest Speakers

  1. One Northside AIM Project
  2. Stables Proposal
  3. Erin Tobin, Parks Conservancy

Minutes

  • Treasurer’s Report
  • Nominations for Secretary, Sgt. at Arms
  • Vote on the Budget
  • Neighborhood Clean-ups
  • Wine Tour Recap
  • Upcoming Membership Events
  • Housing and Planning Updates
  • AWDC Updates
  • Committee Q&A
    • Housing & Planning
    • Membership
    • Property
    • Friends of Allegheny West
    • Communications
    • NSLC

Thanks Cleanup and Garden Volunteers!

Submitted by Michael Shealey 

Over the weekend of the May 30 – 31 (the weekend of the Kenny Chesney concert) AW had a very successful cleanup that cleaned the neighborhood before, during and after the Kenny Chesney concert as well as doing two days of gardening work on the AW parklet. Thanks to Fran Barbush and Howard Brokenbek for handing out flyers. Mary Callison, Holly Pultz and Carol Robert worked on the parklet as well as Michael Shealey’s 84-year old father, James, visiting from Virginia. Gloria Rayman tackled Dounton Alley herself. Trish Burton, Cathy Serventi and a new neighbor on W North Avenue, Carol Domrick, did a fine job of post-Kenny Chesney trash removal as well as weeding.

Our June neighborhood cleanup will be on Saturday, June 27th from 9:00 to 11:00. We will meet at the AWCC office at 806 Western Ave and refreshments will be provided. Based on the May cleanup experience, more donuts will be provided and fewer bagels. Come out, meet and work with your neighbors.

Above & Beyond

If you’d like to recognize a neighbor who went above-and-beyond for you or the neighborhood this month please send a note to president@alleghenywest.org or give Cathy a call at (412) 418-2027 and we’ll make sure they’re recognized in the Gazette.

We ran into Carol S. and her mom walking past with bags of weeds and clippings that turned out had come from the garden on Brighton & North. Loved her observation that she caught herself thinking that that “wow, someone should really trim those peonies that were squashed in the rain” quickly followed by “wow, I could take 20 minutes and trim those peonies”.

Michael S. has been a litter fighting MACHINE over the last few weeks. If you felt a little disappointed that Kenny Chesney turned out to be pretty much a non-issue and so you missed out on an opportunity to get snarky about folks from the suburbs, you can thank Michael. He spent that weekend walking around talking to folks, modeling proper behavior by preemptively picking up litter and leading a clean-up so that the neighborhood looks awesome for the tour.

So picture this, Tom B, chaining himself to an Allegheny West light post facing off a group of probably pretty confused electrical workers, until Councilwoman Harris swooped into rescue him (and us). Basically, rather than listen to Fran B explain where the conduit for the light poles was buried in the gutter, the power company, after drilling some random holes in the sidewalk, was planning to put in a “temporary” fix for the Beech Ave lights that have been out for a few weeks. It involved a random telephone pole and very un-decoratively strung wires (all wildly historically inappropriate). Everyone is back to focusing on actually fixing the lights.

“Many hands make light work.”  John Heywood

Nonie sends a big “Above and Beyond” to the committee who worked together for the Memorial Day Block Party. Chairwoman, Mary Callison, Michael Shealey, Trish and John Burton, Gloria Rayman, Howard Brokenbeck, Tom Barbush and Greg Coll (Sorry if I missed anyone). Their efforts gathered many neighbors together to welcome “unofficial summer” to Allegheny West. For those of you who have never helped or chaired this committee, you may not realize how much hard work, mentally as well as physically, is involved. The work begins before the day of the party, and as many of the helpers are aging, the schlepping, hauling and lugging is really a hard task. Nonie hopes that at the next party, those who are on hand could lend a hand during the set-up and clean-up. This would be GREATLY appreciated. It would be terrific to have more people get involved. Again, many thanks to this wonderful committee. For those of you interested in helping with the July 4 party, please contact Mary Callison by e-mail at: callismar@gmail.com.

You’re Invited!

32nd Annual Scholarship and Awards Dinner

Northside Leadership Conference
June 11, 2015

Begun in 1984 as a fundraiser to pay an overdue phone bill, the Annual Dinner has grown to be the largest such community gathering in the region, with close to 400 attending annually. It is a celebration of Northside neighborhoods, volunteers, students and partners. NSLC and its sponsors have recognized over 360 community volunteers and awarded over $187,000 in scholarships!

RSVP by June 8: http://www.pittsburghnorthside.com