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

Free Tickets for Northsiders: Strength & Grace

Strength & Grace

Presented by Texture Contemporary Ballet
July 16, 17 and 19

Two Shows, One Night…

Strength & Grace features choreography by Alan Obuzor, Kelsey Bartman, and Gabriel Gaffney Smith. With music by Mertens, Pierri, Meyers, Piazzolla, as well as arrangements by musician Ben Hardt and live vocals sung by Krysta Bartman.

You’re Invited

Thanks to the generous support of the Buhl Foundation, Northside residents and workers are invited to attend this performance for free. A limited number of tickets are available online, so reserve your seat today.

 Thursday, July 16 at 7:30 pm  Friday, July 17 at 8:00 pm  Sunday, July 19 at 2:00 pm

Letter from the President – July 2015

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

Anyway.

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

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

Catherine Serventi
President, AWCC

AWCC Membership Meeting Agenda – July 14, 2015

Calvary United Methodist Church
971 Beech Avenue

Tuesday, July 14th @ 7:30 pm

  • City Capital Budget meetings
  • Allegheny Commons Update
  • 50th Anniversary Update
  • Committee Q&A
    • Housing & Planning
    • Ways & Means
    • Membership
    • Property
    • Friends of Allegheny West
    • Communications
    • NSLC

Neighborhood Cleanup!

Submitted by Michael Shealey

Saturday, July 25th at 9:30 am

The July neighborhood cleanup will be held from 9:30 – 11:00 am on Saturday, July 25th. We will be both picking up trash and cleaning a few tree wells, if possible. Gather at the AWCC office at 806 Western Avenue (next to the parklet). Refreshments will be provided.

July Membership Activities

Submitted by Mary Callison 

The largest event for July has already happened! The 4th of July Block Party occurred last Saturday with possibly the best weather I can remember for the event. Also, I was thrilled with the number of neighbors who helped with setting up and cleaning up the party. It was very much appreciated. As usual special thanks to: Howard Brokenbek (and his truck), Gloria Rayman (her brother John and her large vehicle) for bringing all the tables and supplies from the office. Because the weather has been so rainy, the council decided to buy two large easy to put up tents. John Burton purchased the tents and had them on site for several men of the neighborhood to show off their construction skills. Thankfully we did not need them for rain but it was still nice to have shade over the food tables. Special thanks to Doug Lucas and the use of Calvary’s kitchen, to Linda Iannotta for fixing the turkey breasts and John, Tom, Scott and Devin for fixing ribs.

Neighborhood Mixer will be at Giorgio’s on July 17th, it is a BYOB and you can order from the menu. Time is 6:30 pm, but any time after is fine!

We are still trying to play Bocce each week on Thursday evenings starting at 6:30 pm. We play until it begins to get dark, so if you cannot come ‘till 7 or 7:30 it will be fine. Turnout to play has been very small, so if there is no interest in playing let me know.

One Northside Community Knowledge Session

Community Knowledge Session

One Northside Community Knowledge Session

Wednesday, July 15th from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM
The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh
10 Children’s Way, Pittsburgh, PA 15212, Pittsburgh , PA

The Lyonses

Thomas Moore Lyons was born in Ohio in 1824, to parents who were born in Virginia. Nancy R. Lyons was born in Ohio in 1834-35; her parents were born in Pennsylvania and Ohio. Local records do not indicate when Thomas and Nancy Lyons were married or identify their residence and activities before they settled in Pittsburgh.

The Lyons family moved to the Pittsburgh area in or shortly before 1865, when Thomas M. Lyons and John C. Elliott formed Elliott & Lyons, merchant tailors, at 53 Federal Street in Allegheny City (on the western side of Federal Street a short distance north of the present site of PNC Park). John C. Elliott, then 46, was also an Ohio native and new to the Pittsburgh area, and it is possible that the two men had been acquainted or in business together in their native state.

In 1865, Thomas and Nancy Lyons had at least one child, Harry M., who was born in 1864. Their later children were Cora, born in 1866, Morris, born in 1869, Josephine in 1873-74, and Louisa in 1878-79.

In Allegheny City, the Lyons family initially lived above the tailor shop on Federal Street. In 1867-1868, the family moved to the newly constructed house at 858 Beech Avenue.

The 1870 population census was the first census taken following construction of 858 Beech Avenue. The census enumerated Thomas Lyons, 46, as a merchant tailor, and Nancy Lyons, 35, with no occupation. Their children were Harry, six, Cora, four, and Morris, one. Census records also show that a servant, Mary Hidley, lived with the Lyons family. Hidley, 20, had been born in Ohio.

The 1870 census, the last census to provide information on assets of persons enumerated, reported that Thomas M. Lyons owned no real estate and had a personal estate of $300. The census was taken before Thomas M. Lyons acquired title to the lot at 858 Beech Avenue in August 1870.

Records of the 1870 census of manufactures document the activities of Elliott & Lyons. In 1870, Elliott & Lyons employed three adult males, one adult female, and no children, and paid $2000 in total annual wages. The firm had a capital investment of $5000. It manufactured coats, vests, and other clothing items that were worth an annual total of $15,000. The value of Elliott & Lyons’ annual output was third among the six tailoring establishments operating in Allegheny City’s First Ward. The annual production of the six tailor shops ranged from $5760 to $23,000.

In 1874, Thomas M. Lyons and John C. Elliott purchased a building at 17 Federal Street (on the present site of PNC Park) for $9500. Lyons and Elliott then moved their business to that address. At around the same time, John C. Elliott and his family moved from Arch Street in the Mexican War Streets area to a rented house at 1017 Galveston Avenue, a short distance from 858 Beech Avenue.

The 1880 census enumerated seven members of the Lyons family at 858 Beech Avenue: Thomas M., a merchant tailor; Nancy R., keeping house; and Harry, 15, Cora, 13, Morris, 10, Josephine, six, and Louisa, one. The family employed one servant who lived at 858 Beech Avenue. She was Agnes, 24, who had been born in Pennsylvania and was of Irish descent. Her last name is illegible in hand-written census records.

The partnership of Elliott & Lyons continued until about 1881. Directories published after 1881 listed Thomas M. Lyons as a merchant tailor but did not identify his workplace. John C. Elliott formed J.C. Elliott & Son, merchant tailors, in the former Elliott & Lyons shop at 17 Federal Street. The Elliott family moved around the same time from Galveston Avenue to Brighton Place.

Thomas M. Lyons died on February 22, 1884. The cause of his death, at age 59, is not known.

Nancy R. Lyons and her children left Pittsburgh within a short time after Thomas Lyons died. Local records do not indicate whether they immediately moved to Cincinnati, where Nancy Lyons and her children lived when they sold 858 Beech Avenue in 1902. The family used 858 Beech Avenue as a rental property between 1884 and 1902. In 1902, Nancy Lyons and her surviving children sold 858 Beech Avenue to Dennis Hayes, a commission merchant with offices in Downtown Pittsburgh and Allegheny City.

858 Beech Avenue

858 Beech Avenue

Introduction

Local historical records indicate that Thomas M. and Nancy R. Lyons commissioned construction of 858 Beech Avenue in 1867 or 1868. The house was built inan urban version of the Italianate style, the most popular architectural style in the Pittsburgh area between the early 1860s and about 1885. Italianate features of 858 Beech Avenue include the brackets below the box gutter and within the side gable facing Galveston Avenue and the prominent window hoods and front door surround.

The house at 858 Beech Avenue was one of the first houses to be built on that street. The lot on which the house stands was part of property in Allegheny West that Elizabeth F. Denny had subdivided in the 1850s or 1860s, after receiving the property in an inheritance.

Thomas M. Lyons was a self-employed tailor while he lived at 858 Beech Avenue. Lyons owned and operated a tailor shop on Federal Street near the Allegheny River during most of the time that he lived in the house. His firm, Elliott & Lyons, produced $15,000 worth of goods annually around the time that 858 Beech Avenue was built.

Thomas M. and Nancy R. Lyons were both bom in Ohio. The couple had five children, all of whom lived at 858 Beech Avenue. Census records also show that the Lyons family employed a servant who lived in their home.

The Lyons family lived at 858 Beech Avenue until 1884. In that year, Thomas M. Lyons died and Nancy R. Lyons and her children left Pittsburgh. The Lyons family owned 858 Beech Avenue until 1902, using the house as a rental property. Their tenants included Thomas P. Roberts, an engineer.

The former Lyons house at 858 Beech Avenue has now had a total of nine owners. Detailed information on the history of 858 Beech Avenue is contained in the following report.

Ownership

  • August 18, 1870
  • February 22, 1884
  • November 4, 1902
  • September 21, 1909
  • October 29, 1909
  • May 26, 1921
  • September 22, 1934
  • December 14, 1938
  • August 16, 1968
  • March 13, 1970
  • October 27, 1978
  • April 17, 1981
  • July 8, 1987
  • January 29, 1999

Elizabeth F. Denny of Pittsburgh conveyed the lot on which 858 Beech Avenue now stands to Thomas M. Lyons of Allegheny City (now the North Side) for $1100. The lot was described as being located at the northeastern comer of Beech Street (now Beech Avenue) and Grant Street (now Galveston Avenue) in Allegheny City and measuring 20′ wide by 100′ deep. The lot was known as Lot 1 in Block 3 in Mrs. Elizabeth F. Denny’s Plan of Lots (Allegheny County Plan Book Volume 6, Page 193).

(Deed Book Volume 264, Page 545)

Thomas M. Lyons died on February 22, 1884. He was survived by his widow, Nancy R. Lyons, and their children.

Nancy R. Lyons, Cora D. Lyons and Maurice E. Lyons, all of Cincinnati, Ohio, conveyed 858 Beech Avenue to Dennis Hayes of Avalon for $5500.

(DBV 1203 P 576)

The South Side Trust Company, trustee in bankruptcy for Dennis Hayes, conveyed 858 Beech Avenue to Una E. Newell of Willock, Allegheny County, for $4600.

(Deed Book 1656 P 186)

Joseph R. and Una E. Newell conveyed 858 Beech Avenue to Frances Rose Hayes of Pittsburgh, wife of Dennis Hayes, for $5187.50.

(DBV 1656 P 190)

Title to 858 Beech Avenue was placed in the names of Dennis and Frances Rose Hayes.

Frances Rose Hayes died on October 16, 1929.

(Deed Book 2074 P 47,48)

Dennis Hayes of Pittsburgh conveyed 858 Beech Avenue to Anna Werner and Edward A. and Elizabeth Werner for $1.

(DBV 2490 P 521)

Anna Werner conveyed her interest in 858 Beech Avenue to Edward A. and Elizabeth Werner.

(DBV 2611 P 367)

Edward A. and Elizabeth Werner of Pittsburgh conveyed 858 Beech Avenue to Edward R. and Gay L. Hilderhoff of Pittsburgh for $8000.

(DBV 4592 P 581)

Edward R. and Gay L. Hilderhoff of Bellevue conveyed 858 Beech Avenue to Thomas J. Lapinski of Pittsburgh for $11,000.

(DBV 4824 P 41)

Thomas J. Lapinski of Allegheny County conveyed 858 Beech Avenue to James R. Harvey for $29,500.

(DBV 6025 P 867)

James R. Harvey conveyed 858 Beech Avenue to Joseph A. Buongiomo for $47,500.

(DBV 6363 P 858)

Title to 858 Beech Avenue was placed in the names of Joseph A. and Pamela D. Buongiomo.

(DBV 7593 P 134)

John C. McDanel purchased 858 Beech Avenue from Joseph A. and Pamela D. Buongiomo on January 29, 1999.

(DBV 10397 P 5)

Age of the House

Construction

Historical records indicate that Thomas M. and Nancy R. Lyons commissioned construction of 858 Beech Avenue in 1867 or 1868. The couple had the house built two to three years before they acquired title to the lot on which the house stands from Elizabeth F. Denny, who had subdivided property on and around Beech Avenue.

Thomas M. Lyons purchased the lot on which 858 Beech Avenue now stands from Elizabeth F. Denny on August 18, 1870. Lyons paid $1100 for the lot, measuring 20’ wide along Beech Avenue by 100′ deep along Galveston Avenue. This purchase, at 55 cents per square foot, was slightly lower than prices paid for other undeveloped lots on Beech Avenue at the time.
Pittsburgh city directories listed Thomas M. Lyons as living at the corner of Beech and Grant streets (now Beech and Galveston Avenues) for the first time in 1868. Lyons was listed at the corner of Beech and Grant streets in 1869, and at 63 (now 858) Beech Avenue in 1870. An 1872 plat map confirms that 858 Beech Avenue had been built.

Architectural Style

Thomas and Nancy Lyons had 858 Beech Avenue built in the Italianate style.

In urban neighborhoods like Allegheny West, where high land costs discouraged construction of homes with more than about 25′ frontage,Italianate house exteriors were characterized primarily by side-gabled roofs, arched door and window openings, prominent or projecting door and window hoods, and decorative brackets supporting box gutters.

Interior details of Italianate homes often included flared newel posts and spindles, marble or wood mantels with arched openings, four-panel doors with porcelain knobs and ornamented cast iron hinges, and non-symmetrical door and window trim with diagonally mitered comers.
In Pittsburgh, many Italianate homes were built with stairways that incorporated landings located about three steps below the main level of the second floor. Most local Italianate homes also featured two-over-two double hung windows, although some later or larger examples were constructed with one-over-one double-hung windows.

The Italianate style and the related Second Empire style were the most popular architectural styles for homes and commercial buildings constructed in the Pittsburgh area between the early 1860s and about 1885.

Available records do not identify an architect who is credited with design of 858 Beech Avenue.

Land Development

Pittsburgh city directories, U.S. population and manufacturing census records, and Allegheny County land records provide information on Thomas M. and Nancy R. Lyons, the first owners of 858 Beech Avenue.Elizabeth F. Denny inherited property that included land on both sides of Beech Avenue from her father, Harmar Denny, in the 1850s or 1860s. Elizabeth F. Denny subdivided the land into building lots and began selling the lots. Maps published in 1852 and 1862 show that no houses had yet been built on Beech Avenue. An 1872 plat map shows that about 22 houses had been built on the street in the preceding decade. Elizabeth F. Denny sold most of the lots fronting on Beech Avenue in the 1860s and 1870s, although a few of the lots continued to be owned by her heirs in the early 20th century.

Review of early sales of lots on Beech Avenue by Elizabeth F. Denny between 1866 and 1872 and city directory listings suggests that 858 Beech Avenue is among at least three houses on the street that were built before their owners acquired title to the lots on which they stand. Other houses that are known to have been built in this way are 908 Beech Avenue, occupied beginning in 1867-1868 by real estate agent John Sterritt, who bought the lot on which the house stands for $2200 in 1872, and 922 Beech Avenue, occupied beginning in 1868-1869 by James Hamilton, a jeweler who bought the lot for $2900 in 1871.
It appears that Elizabeth F. Denny allowed these early Beech Avenue residents to build houses on the lots in association with unrecorded agreements that the home builders would purchase the lots within specified periods of time. It should be noted that Elizabeth F. Denny was a member of a family that owned large amounts of land in many city neighborhoods, including valuable properties in Downtown Pittsburgh and holdings of value in the North Side, Strip District, Lawrenceville, Polish Hill, Hill District, and other areas.

In addition to construction of rows of rental houses, the Denny family is known to have leased land to manufacturers who built factories on their land in the Strip District. It appears likely that Elizabeth F. Denny was following real estate practices pursued by other members of her family when she permitted pre-purchase construction on some of her Beech Avenue lots. She probably also realized that construction of substantial houses on a few of the lots would increase the value of the remaining lots that she hoped to sell on Beech Avenue.

Residents

The Lyonses

Pittsburgh city directories, U.S. population and manufacturing census records, and Allegheny County land records provide information on Thomas M. and Nancy R. Lyons, the first owners of 858 Beech Avenue.

Learn More
 

1887-1981

Pittsburgh city directories listed Thomas P. Roberts as living at 858 Beech Avenue between 1887 and 1891. Roberts was the chief engineer of the Monongahela Navigation Company during most of the time that he lived at 858 Beech Avenue. The Monongahela Navigation Company’s offices were at the comer of Forbes Avenue and Grant Street in Downtown Pittsburgh.

In 1887, the first year that he was listed at 858 (then 63) Beech Avenue, Roberts was the chief engineer of the Pittsburgh East End Railroad Company. He and his family had lived on Logan Street in the lower Hill District (on or near the present site of the Mellon Arena) before they moved to 858 Beech Avenue.
Records of the 1890 manuscript census, which would provide information on the Roberts family and any other residents of 858 Beech Avenue in that year, were destroyed in a warehouse fire following the completion of the census.

The Roberts family moved from 858 Beech Avenue to North Craig Street near Centre Avenue in Oakland in 1891-1892.

The 1900 Census

In 1900, according to census records, 858 Beech Avenue contained two occupied apartments.

The first apartment at 858 Beech Avenue was rented to Eliza McCracken. McCracken was 69 years old and had no occupation. She was single and lived alone. She had been born in Ohio to parents bom in Ireland and Pennsylvania.
The second apartment was rented to Nancy Ridgeley, 53, a widow with no occupation. Ridgeley had been married for 27 years and had had two children. Both of her children lived with her. They were Frank, 25, a student, and Carrie, 21, a music teacher. Both had been born in Colorado.

Neighborhood Development

Residential development of Allegheny West began by the middle of the nineteenth century. An 1852 map shows that a number of houses stood on both sides of present Western Avenue between Brighton Road and Allegheny Avenue. A few buildings had been constructed along Brighton Road between Ridge and Western Avenues, on what was then the grounds of the Rope Walk.

Learn More

Supplementary Materials

The following materials accompany this report:

  • a copy of part of an 1852 map depicting Allegheny City
  • a copy of part of an 1872 plat map of the area around 858 Beech Avenue
  • copies of parts of fire insurance maps of the area around 851 Beech Avenue, published in 1884, 1893, 1906 and the 1925 map, updated by the publisher to 1950
  • information on Thomas P. Roberts, from Century Cyclopedia of History and Biography, Pennsylvania (1910)
  • a copy of a photograph of Thomas P. Roberts, from Notable Men of Pittsburgh and the Vicinity (1901)

A Researched History
By: Carol J. Peterson

all photos by Nick Smerker, unless otherwise noted

The Knoxes

Hugh Knox moved to Allegheny (now the Northside) in 1859 or 1860. The 1860 manuscript census enumerated Knox in Allegheny’s Third Ward (now the East Allegheny area). The census reported that Knox, 32, was a flour dealer who owned no real estate and had a “personal estate” of $1300. Catherine N. Knox, 23, had no occupation. Hugh and Catherine Knox had one child: Jane, who was one year old.

Directories listed Hugh Knox as living on Fleming Street near Locust Street in Allegheny in 1861 and 1862. During the mid-1860’s, Knox lived at 59 Colwell Street in the Hill District. Knox was listed at 36 Liberty Street in Allegheny in 1866, and at 63 Lincoln Avenue in Allegheny in 1867. Knox & McKee, which had moved to 323 Liberty Avenue in Pittsburgh, apparently dissolved in 1867 or 1868.

City directories listed Hugh Knox at 63 Lincoln Avenue between 1867 and 1870.

The 1870 manuscript census enumerated Hugh Knox and his family on Lincoln Avenue in Allegheny. Knox, 42, owned real estate valued at $9000 and had a “personal estate” of $10,000. In 1870, the Knox’s children were Jane, 11, Hugh R., nine, Maggie, eight, Mollie, seven, Anne, five, and Kate, three.

In 1870, one servant lived with the Knox family at 63 Lincoln Avenue: Agnes McCarthy, 24, who had been born in Ireland.

Hugh Knox did not appear in the directory in 1871 or 1872.

By 1873, the Knox family relocated to Nunnery Hill (now Fineview). Hugh Knox was listed as an agent who worked at 415 Liberty Avenue. Later directories indicated that Knox worked for the Laurel Hill Coal Works at 418 Liberty Avenue (later known as 1129 Liberty Avenue, on the current site of the Greyhound Bus Terminal) and lived on Bell Avenue (now Belleau Street) on Nunnery Hill.