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.
James J. Siebeneck was born in Mainz (or Mayence), Germany, on April 11, 1827. His parents were Franz and Clara Siebeneck. He arrived in the United States in 1848 or 1849, at age 21. He initially worked as a civil engineer and surveyor on canal and railroad projects. Siebeneck received his legal education in Towanda, Pennsylvania, where he served an apprenticeship known as reading law in the office of an established attorney between 1855 and 1857. He passed the bar in Towanda in 1857, and came to Pittsburgh in 1857 or 1858. He was listed in the Pittsburgh city directory for the first time in 1858, as an attorney at law whose office was on Grant Street, Downtown. He boarded at a different address on Grant Street.
On October 20, 1859, Siebeneck married Margaret E. Thomson McKinney, who had been born in Tennessee on April 11, 1825. Her parents were Archibald McKinney, born outside the United States and later a Pittsburgh resident, and Ann Watson McKinney, born in Pittsburgh. Ann Watson McKinney, according to information compiled by Allegheny West historian John Canning, was a daughter of Andrew Watson, an early Pittsburgh tavern keeper. James J. and Margaret Siebeneck had two children: James J. Jr., who was born in 1860 and died in infancy, and Clara H., who was born about 1862 and died in 1865.
After marrying, the Siebenecks lived in a boarding house in Wylie Avenue in the lower Hill District, then lived in what was probably their own home on the same street until 1869. During the Civil War James Siebeneck, a Republican like President Lincoln, was a strong Union supporter. He participated in a recruitment rally held on the West Common in Allegheny City on July 24, 1862, and contributed $50 to a bounty fund that rewarded volunteers for enlisting. He was among the speakers on the steps of the Pittsburgh main post office when the war ended three years later. His later participation in public life included serving on the Allegheny County Centennial [of the United States] Committee in 1876 and participating in dedication ceremonies for the new Allegheny County Courthouse in 1888.
The 1870 population census was the first census taken following the construction of 851 Beech Avenue. The census recorded James Siebeneck as an attorney who owned real estate worth $87,000, several times the value of his home, and had a personal estate of $6,500. Margaret, 44, kept house. The couple employed a servant who lived in their home: Mary Chambers, 22, who had been born in Ireland.
Margaret Siebeneck died on September 28, 1877, at age 51. Her death left James Siebeneck living alone at 851 Beech Avenue, except for household staff. The 1880 census enumerated two such residents of the house: Nancy Mcllevein, 66, a housekeeper born in Ireland, and Fanny Davis, 21, a servant who had immigrated from Wales. Records of the 1890 census, which would provide information on all occupants of 851 Beech Avenue in that year, were destroyed in a warehouse fire in Washington D.C. in the 1920s. By that time, Siebeneck had family members at close proximity, as a brother, Pittsburgh newspaper publisher Joseph G. Siebeneck, also a widower, and his family moved to 855 Beech Avenue in about 1887. Both Siebeneck brothers and Joseph’s family were listed in Pittsburgh and Allegheny Blue Books, or social directories, after publication began in the 1880s.
James Siebeneck practiced law on Grant Street and on Wylie Avenue at Fifth Avenue and Grant Street for the rest of his life. He may also have taken some cases in Beaver County, where he became licensed to practice in 1868. He died at home at 851 Beech Avenue on March 20,1896. His heirs sold his house in 1899.
Alfred McDonald constructed 851 Beech Avenue in 1869. McDonald, a building contractor who lived at 853 Beech Avenue, constructed the house as a speculative venture. He purchased the lot on which the house stands in April 1869 for $2836, and sold the lot and house four months later for $9,000. The house is a good example of the Italianate style applied to a somewhat narrow urban house form, with arched front door surround and window hoods, rounded ornamental panels on its front door surround, and paired brackets below the box gutter and along the roofline on the east elevation.
Pittsburgh attorney Joseph J. Siebeneck bought 851 Beech Avenue from McDonald, and lived there for 27 years. Siebeneck, a German immigrant, settled in Pittsburgh in 1857 or 1858 after working on civil engineering projects and then studying law in Towanda, Pennsylvania. He and his wife, Margaret McKinney Siebeneck, lived in the lower Hill District from the time that they married until they moved to Beech Avenue. Joseph Siebeneck may have walked or taken a horsecar from Allegheny West to his law office in Grant Street in Downtown Pittsburgh.
The Siebenecks had no children who lived at 851 Beech Avenue. Census records document the presence of servants who lived in the house. Margaret Siebeneck died in 1877, and Joseph lived at 851 Beech until he died in 1896.
Charles Holmes purchased 851 Beech Avenue in 1899. Holmes was then vice-president of the Mercantile Trust Company and president of the First National Bank of McKees Rocks, both of which he had helped found in the 1890s. He also helped establish the Mortgage Banking Company in 1902, and served as treasurer of the First Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh. Holmes and his wife, Sallie, lived in the house into the early 1910s. Sallie Holmes died in 1911, and in 1913 Charles sold 851 Beech Avenue to Ann Lattner Gerlach, whose family owned die house until 2007.
Detailed information on the history of 851 Beech Avenue is contained in the following report.
- April 3. 1869
- August 6, 1869
- September 15, 1898
- February 17, 1899
- January 18, 1913
- August 13, 1926
- October 2, 1931
- March 7, 1947
- April 29, 1947
- January 22, 1971
- July 27, 2007
Elizabeth F. Denny of Pittsburgh conveyed the lot on which 851 Beech Avenue now stands to Alfred McDonald of Pittsburgh for $2,836. The property was located on the south side of Beech Avenue, 71’ from Galveston (then Grant) Avenue, and measured 35’2.75” wide along Beech Avenue by 137’4.5” deep to an unnamed 20’ wide alley (now Dounton Way). The property was known as the east part of Lot 33 and all of Lot 32 in Block 1 of the Plan of Lots land out by Elizabeth F. Denny.
The property was in the Second Ward of Allegheny City, which became part of Pittsburgh on December 9, 1907.
(Deed Book Volume 244, Page 155)
Alfred and Mary A. McDonald of Allegheny City conveyed 851 Beech Avenue to James J. Siebeneck of Pittsburgh for $9,000.
James J. Siebeneck, a childless widower, died while owning 851 Beech Avenue. He left a will, recorded in Allegheny County Will Book Volume 50, Page 289, but died intestate as to 851 Beech Avenue. He was survived by as his sole heirs three siblings, all widowed: Joseph G. Siebeneck, Catherine Schreher and Julie Ansbach.
Julia Alsbach of Mayence, Germany, conveyed her one third interest in 851 Beech Avenue to Frank G. Alsbach of Allegheny City in consideration of love and affection.
(DBV 1000 P 590)
Joseph G. Siebeneck of Allegheny City,
Frederick G. and Marietta Alsbach of Allegheny City, and Catherine Schreher of Mayence, Hessen Darmstadt, Germany, conveyed 851 Beech Avenue to Charles Holmes of Pittsburgh for $7,500.
(Deed Book 1016 P 493)
Charles Holmes of Pittsburgh conveyed 851 Beech Avenue to Ann Lattner Gerlach of Pittsburgh for $5,300.
(DBV 1757 P 509)
Ann Lattner Gerlach died on August 13, 1926. She left 851 Beech Avenue to her husband John Gerlach Jr. and to any of her children who would be living at the time of her death (WBV 199 P 596). The Gerlach children were Lawrence A., Crescentia, Marie, Anna, Claude and John E.
John Gerlach Jr. conveyed his interest in 851 Beech Avenue to his six children: Lawrence A. Gerlach of Flushing, New York, Crescentia Gerlach Shutrump of Cleveland and Marie E. Gerlach, Anna A. Gerlach, Claude J. Gerlach and John E. Gerlach of Pittsburgh for $1 and other considerations.
(DBV 2462 P 101)
Lawrence A. and Edna Gerlach of Middletown, Delaware, George and Crescentia Gerlach Shutrump and Chaude J. and Muriel Gerlach of Youngstown, Ohio, Robert and Marie Gerlach Jackson of Ligonier, Westmoreland County and William H. and Anna Gerlach Fuellenwarth of West View conveyed their 5/6 interest in 851 Beech Avenue to John E. Gerlach of Pittsburgh for $7,500.
(DBV 2939 P 395)
Title to 851 Beech Avenue was placed in the names of John E. and Lauretta H. Gerlach.
(DBV 2954 P 122)
Title to 851 Beech Avenue was placed in the name of Lauretta Henderson Gerlach.
Lauretta H. Bohonick, formerly Lauretta Henderson Gerlach, died on March 28, 2006.
(DBV 4513 P 710)
Catherine M. Serventi and Eugene T. Wilson purchased 851 Beech Avenue from the estate of Lauretta H. Bohonick, also known as Lauretta H. Gerlach or Lauretta Henderson Gerlach, on July 27, 2007.
(DBV 13328 P 422)
Age of the House
Local historical records indicate that Alfred McDonald constructed 851 Beech Avenue in 1869.
Alfred McDonald purchased the lot on which 851 Beech Avenue stands on April 3,1869. He paid $2,836 for the property, measuring 35’2.75” wide by 137’4.5” deep. This purchase, at 59 cents per square foot, was comparable to prices paid for other undeveloped lots in and near Allegheny West at the time.
McDonald and his wife, Mary A., sold the lot to James J. Siebeneck for $9,000 on August 6, 1869. The significant increase in property value indicates that a house had been built on the property after the April sale. The 1870 Pittsburgh directory listed James J. Siebeneck as living at 68 Beach Street (now 851 Beech Avenue) for the first time. The first plat map of the area, published in 1872, depicts the house.
Alfred McDonald built 851 Beech Avenue in the Italianate style, which is shown in the house’s arched front door surround and window hoods, the rounded ornamental panels of the front door surround, and paired brackets below its box gutter and along the roofline on the east elevation. The Italianate style was the most popular architectural style in the Pittsburgh area between the late 1850s and the mid-1880s. In urban neighborhoods like Allegheny West, where high land costs encouraged construction of houses of about 25’ or less in width, 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.
Interior details of Italianate houses 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. In the Pittsburgh area, many Italianate houses were built with stairways that incorporated landings located about three steps below the main level of the second floor. Most local Italianate houses also featured two-over-two double-hung windows, although some later or larger examples were constructed with one-over-one double-hung windows.
The Developer: Alfred McDonald
Alfred McDonald was a bricklaying contractor in Allegheny City and Pittsburgh in the 1860s and 1870s. He moved from Arthur Street in the lower Hill District in Pittsburgh to Beech Avenue in Allegheny in 1866-1867, when he constructed a house at 853 Beech Avenue for himself and his family. The McDonald family lived at 853 Beech Avenue until 1869 or 1870, and later lived at various addresses on the Mexican War Streets and in Manchester.
Street Name and Numbering
The house at 851 Beech Avenue was originally known as 68 Beach or Beech Street. The street became known as Beech Avenue in 1892-1893. The house became 851 Beech Avenue when the North Side’s modern street numbering system was put in place in 1899.
Plat maps of the area around 851 Beech Avenue published in and before 1910 show that the large garage at the rear of the property had not been built. City of Pittsburgh building permit dockets show that in October 1913, Ann Gerlach received a permit for the construction of a brick garage at the rear of 851 Beech Avenue. The garage was to measure 35’ wide by 56’ deep, and have a slate roof. Its estimated construction cost was $3,130.
The name of the contractor who was to construct the garage is illegible in hand-written building permit records.
A 1925 fire insurance map shows that the garage had been built.
The Home Today
Photos by Chris Siewers
Through the Years
Pittsburgh directories, U.S. census records, an obituary, information compiled on ancestry.com, and other sources provide information on James J. and Margaret Siebeneck, the first owners of 851 Beech Avenue.
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.
Ann Gerlach bought 851 Beech Avenue in 1913, and records of the next three population censuses provide information on her family.
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 851 Beech Avenue
- copies of parts of fire insurance maps of the area around 851 Beech Avenue, published in 1884, 1893, 1906 and 1925 and the 1925 map, updated by the publisher to 1950
- the marriage notice of James J. Siebeneck and Margaret McKinney, from the Pittsburgh Commercial Gazette, October 20, 1859
- a copy of James J. Siebeneck’s passport application, April 21, 1873
- the obituary of Margaret E. Siebeneck, from the Pittsburgh Commercial Gazette, October 1, 1877
- information on James J. Siebeneck, from The Twentieth Century Bench and Bar of Pennsylvania (1903)
- the obituary of James J. Siebeneck, from the Pittsburgh Commercial Gazette, March 21, 1896
- letter from James J. Siebeneck (and others) to President Elect Lincoln, January 13, 1861
- the marriage notice of Charles Holmes and Sallie A. Mastisson, from the Pittsburgh Commercial Gazette, July 5, 1879
- portraits of Charles Holmes and other officers of the Mortgage Banking Company, from Views of Pittsburgh (1903)
- the obituary of Sallie Holmes, from the Pittsburgh Gazette Times, July 13, 1911
- the obituary of Charles Holmes, from the Pittsburgh Gazette Times, July 24, 1916
A Researched History
By: Carol J. Peterson
all photos by Chris Siewers, unless otherwise noted
We wanted to make sure folks who signed up for notifications had one last reminder to purchase tickets for the tour before the write-up about the tour runs in the Post-Gazette this weekend. There are only a few places left for Friday. Saturday afternoon has the most openings if you’re hoping to bring a larger group. There will be no tickets available at the door; advanced purchase required.
It’s a house and garden tour.
Guests will visit some of the most lavishly decorated homes and gardens in the Pittsburgh area. Learn about French architectural and literary influences in the neighborhood.
It’s a wine tasting – featuring wine from France.
Guests will sample a variety of regional reds and whites from France, one at each stop on the tour, and hors d’oeuvres to accompany them.
Dates & Times
Friday, June 5
5:00 – 9:00 pm
Saturday, June 6
12:30 – 4:30 pm or 5:00 – 9:00 pm
We have made arrangements for free parking for people with tickets attending the tour.
Questions? Contact Us Getting Here Buy Tickets →
In 1907, retired Pittsburgh industrialist George Harton Singer created the house that is today known as 849 North Lincoln Avenue when he combined two attached 40-year-old homes at 847 and 849 Lincoln Avenue. Singer spent $8,000, greater than the entire construction cost of a typical middle-class Pittsburgh home at the time, in converting 849 North Lincoln into a Colonial Revival mansion. In late summer 1907, Singer also had a garage built at 849 North Lincoln Avenue. Singer’s permit for construction of the garage was the last Allegheny West building permit issued before the late 1907 annexation of Allegheny City by the city of Pittsburgh.
George Harton Singer was a son of William H. Singer, a founder of the iron manufacturing firm of Singer, Nimick & Company. William H. Singer was a long-time resident of Western Avenue in Allegheny City.
George Harton Singer and his family lived at 849 North Lincoln Avenue for only a few years before joining other wealthy Allegheny City residents in fleeing to the clean air and tranquility of Sewickley. Singer and his wife,
Charlotte, sold 849 North Lincoln Avenue in 1920 to John R. McGinley president of the Gary Screw & Bolt Company, and his wife, Jennie. After John R. McGinley’s death, Jennie McGinley transferred 849 North Lincoln Avenue to a firm that converted it to a rooming house.
849 North Lincoln Avenue was owned by a succession of rooming house operators until 1977. In that year, 849 North Lincoln Avenue was purchased by its present owners, Harold E. Dixler and Nicholas F. Duerlinger, who are restoring the house to the period of its occupancy by the George Harton Singer family.
Detailed information on the history of 849 North Lincoln Avenue is contained in the following pages.
849 North Lincoln Avenue occupies part of the site of a rope walk, or factory, that was operated by members of the Irwin family until 1858.
Lot Owners (1858-1867)
On June 26, 1858 (Deed Book Volume 135, Page 382), John Irwin and his wife, Abigail, sold Lots 66 and 67 in the Plan of the Rope Walk Property to Daniel Euwer for $2,950. Both lots measured 48′ wide along Central Avenue (now North Lincoln Avenue) and Ridge Street (now Ridge Avenue), and 285’6″ deep. Daniel Euwer, of Ridge Avenue, was listed in city directories as a “gent,” or property owner who did not work. Euwer was the first of three short-term owners whose interest in the property was speculative, during a time of rising land values.
Daniel Euwer sold the western half of Lot 67 to William B. Smith, a “gent,” of Western Avenue on March 18, 1863 (DBV 159 P 500). On the same day, Euwer sold the eastern half of the lot to Alexander Pitcairn, a weaver who lived on Rebecca (now Reedsdale) Street (DBV 159, P 502). Both sales were for $1,000. Alexander Pitcairn sold the western half of the lot to William B. Smith for $1500 on September 10, 1864 (DBV 176 P 340).
William B. Smith doubled his investment in Lot 67 when he sold it to John W. Simpson, who would build the original double house at what is now 849 North Lincoln Avenue, in 1866.
Original Structures (1867-1906)
John W. Simpson, a Downtown Pittsburgh flour dealer who lived in an earlier house on the present site of 841 North Lincoln Avenue, purchased Lot 67 on March 16, 1866 (DBV 201 P 84). Simpson paid $5,000, or 36 cents per square foot, indicating the property remained undeveloped. Simpson had the two party wall houses that now comprise 849 North Lincoln Avenue built during the next 17 months.
On August 15, 1867 (DBV 222 P 71), John W. Simpson sold the eastern half of Lot 67, containing a house then known as 62 Lincoln Avenue, to Samuel P. Shriver for $15,000. Shriver, a wholesale grocer, lived in an un-numbered house on Ridge Avenue before moving to 62 Lincoln Avenue. The lot that was conveyed measured 24′ wide and 285’6″ deep between Lincoln and Ridge Avenues.
John W. Simpson sold the western half of Lot 67, containing a house known as 60 Lincoln Avenue, to Thomas Dawson for $15,500 on October 4, 1867 (DBV 220 P 436). Dawson, who previously lived in Rochester, Beaver County, was subsequently listed in city directories as a gent living at 60 Lincoln Avenue.
An 1872 plat map of the North Lincoln Avenue area shows that Lot 67 was occupied by a double house known as 60 and 62 Lincoln Avenue. Outbuildings, probably stables or carriage houses, faced Ridge Avenue.
62 Lincoln Avenue
After purchasing 62 Lincoln Avenue from John W. Simpson in 1867, Samuel P. Shriver owned and lived at 62 Lincoln Avenue for 27 years. On June 30, 1894, Shriver and his wife, Rachel, sold 62 Lincoln Avenue to John M. Montgomery of Glenfield, near Sewickley, for $12,750. Montgomery owned 62 Lincoln Avenue for nine months, selling the house to James W. Scully for $14,000 on March 23, 1895 (DBV 887 P 530).
Two months later, on May 22, 1895 (DBV 890 P 368), James W Scully and his wife, Ida, sold 62 Lincoln Avenue to William H. Singer for $14,000. William H. Singer owned 62 Lincoln Avenue (known as 847 Lincoln Avenue after late 1899) for nine years before his purchase of the western half of the double house.
John M. Montgomery, who may not have lived at 62 Lincoln Avenue during the brief time that he owned the house, was president of the Consolidated Stock and Produce Exchange of Pittsburgh. Montgomery, whose office was located at 410 Smithfield Street, Downtown, lived on Union Avenue, near the present site of Allegheny Center Mall, in the late 1890’s and early 1900’s.
James W. Scully, owner of 62 Lincoln Avenue for two months during 1895, lived in a house now known as 845 North Lincoln Avenue in the 1800’s andearly 1900’s. Scully was president of the First National Bank of Birmingham, 1201 East Carson Street.
60 Lincoln Avenue
Thomas Dawson owned and occupied 60 Lincoln Avenue until September 2, 1872, when he sold the house to John Kirkpatrick for $22,000 (DBV 294, P 314). Kirkpatrick was the general agent of the Armenia Insurance Company.
After Kirkpatrick’s death, legal actions among his heirs resulted in appointment of a special master to partition his property.
On July 28, 1906, C.S. Crawford, the court-appointed master for partition of the estate of John Kirkpatrick, sold 60 Lincoln Avenue (known since late 1899 as 849 Lincoln Avenue) to Karl E. Wilson for $10,000 (DBV 1463 P 572). Wilson owned the house for only three days before selling it to Frederick C. Ewart for $10,000 (DBV 1463, P 576). Ewart, a manager who had rented the house between the early 1890’s and 1904, sold the house on the same day – July 31, 1906-to William H. Singer for $10,000.
The Singer Mansion (1907)
With William H. Singer’s purchase of the western half of 849 North Lincoln Avenue in 1906, Singer owned both halves of what remained a party wall house. Under Singer’s ownership, the two houses were combined as a mansion in a 1907 remodeling.
William H. Singer appears to have purchased both halves of 849 North Lincoln Avenue as residences for his children. A son, William H. Singer Jr., occupied 62 (847) Lincoln Avenue between 1896 and 1901. Another son, George Harton Singer, occupied 849 North Lincoln Avenue after its remodeling as a mansion. George Harton Singer is recorded as the owner of the property in building permit records, although his father owned 849 North Lincoln Avenue until his death in 1909. The elder Singer left the house to George Harton Singer.
Allegheny City building permit dockets show that George Harton Singer received a permit for an $8,000 alteration of a brick dwelling on Lincoln Avenue on March 6, 1907. Existing records provide no information on dimensions of any additions made to the structure. On July 31, 1907, Singer received a permit for construction of a one-story brick garage in the rear of the property. The garage was to measure 44′ wide by 25′ wide, and had an estimated construction cost of $3,700.
The $8,000 that George Harton Singer spent for remodeling of 849 North Lincoln Avenue was greater than the typical construction cost of about $7,000 for a new middle-class house of about 10 rooms – including servants’ rooms – in Pittsburgh in 1907.
George Harton Singer hired the contracting firm of John H. Trimble & Brother for alteration of 849 North Lincoln Avenue and construction of the garage. City directories show that John H. Trimble & Brother was located at 2022 Chartiers (now Chateau) Street in Manchester in the early 1900’s. The firm was a partnership of John H. Trimble of Ben Avon and James Trimble of Bellevue.
Other work of John H. Trimble & Brother included an addition to the William Thaw Jr. house at 930 North Lincoln Avenue, a carriage house at 930 North Lincoln Avenue, and a house for iron manufacturer James B. Laughlin at 400 Devonshire Street in Shadyside. A related firm, W.F. Trimble & Sons, built the Harry Darlington Jr. house at 709 Brighton Road and its carriage house.
The July 31, 1907 permit for construction of the garage at 849 North Lincoln Avenue was the last building permit issued in Allegheny West before Allegheny City’s annexation into the city of Pittsburgh in late 1907.
George Harton Singer had 849 North Lincoln Avenue remodeled in the Colonial Revival style. Colonial Revival homes, common in Pittsburgh between the late 1890’s and the 1920’s, used features common to Georgian, Adam and Dutch Colonial houses built in the American colonies and United States until the 1840’s. Colonial Revival features of 849 North Lincoln Avenue include the shape of its front section, its front porch with columns and capitals, dentils at cornice level, and window configuration, keystone lintels, and blind arches. In and around Pittsburgh, most Colonial Revival homes were built of brick rather than wood frame.
A Field Guide to American Houses (Virginia and Lee McAlester, 1992) is a useful tool for identifying features of Colonial Revival homes, and provides abundant photographs of Colonial Revival, Georgian and Adam homes with accompanying text.
The Singer Family
George Harton Singer, born in Pittsburgh in 1859, was 48 when he and his father commissioned the remodeling of 849 North Lincoln Avenue. Singer’s father, William H. Singer, lived at 934 Western Avenue for many years. William H. Singer, a partner in iron manufacturing firms since the 1850’s, was a founder of the firm of Singer, Nimick & Company. The elder Singer also sold the Pittsburgh Bessemer Steel Company (later U.S. Steel’s Homestead Works) to the Carnegie Steel Company, and served on the boards of the latter firm and the Crucible Steel Company.
George Harton Singer worked for Singer, Nimick & Company and the Crucible Steel Company during the 1880’s and 1890’s. Singer was apparently able to retire in about 1900, at 41, and city directories published during the 20th century never listed Singer as having an occupation or maintaining a Downtown office for any purpose.
Although George Harton Singer invested a considerable amount of money in the 1907 remodeling of 849 North Lincoln Avenue, Singer and his family lived there for a relatively short time. Singer apparently began living in Sewickley at least during summers by the early 1910’s, and a biographical caption in Prominent Men of Pittsburgh (1915) indicated Singer’s home was in Sewickley. Singer and his wife, Charlotte, sold 849 North Lincoln in 1920.
Marguerite Singer, a sibling of George Harton Singer, and her husband, Dr. Robert Milligan, were the second owners of the Harry Darlington Jr. mansion at 709 Brighton Road.
Through the Years
Decline and Restoration (1920-Present)
After living in Sewickley for a number of years, George Harton and Charlotte Singer sold 849 North Lincoln Avenue to John R. and Jennie A. McGinley for $20,000 on April 21, 1920 (DBV 2049, P 123). The McGinleys, previously living in New York City, lived at 849 North Lincoln Avenue through 1932. John R. McGinley served as president of the Gary Screw and Bolt Company in the early 1920’s, and later maintained an investment brokerage office in the Westinghouse Building, Ninth Street, room 1200.
After her husband’s death, Jennie A. McGinley transferred ownership of 849 North Lincoln Avenue to the Eaglis Corporation, of which she served as secretary, for $1 on June 3, 1932 (DBV 2470 P 189). The Eaglis Corporation then converted 849 North Lincoln Avenue into a rooming house.
On February 10, 1937 (DBV 2561 P 134), the Eaglis Corporation sold 849 North Lincoln Avenue to Northside rooming house operators Chris and Nellie Christensen for $6,000. Chris Christensen, by then a widower, transferred the house to his son and daughter-in-law, Oskar H. and Yeiva J. Christensen, in consideration of $1 and love and affection on December 28, 1960 (DBV 3955, P 453). After her husband’s death, Yelva Christensen sold 849 North Lincoln Avenue to Carl E. and Nancy R. Floyd for $39,500 on February 22, 1974 (DBV 5386 P 399).
On January 19, 1976 (DBV 5572, P 553), Nancy R. Floyd, widowed, sold 849 North Lincoln Avenue to William Hubeaut for $40,000. Hubeaut owned 849 North Lincoln Avenue for 21 months, then sold it to its present owners, Harold E. Dixler and Nicholas F. Duerlinger, on November 11, 1977 (DBV 5865, P 623).
Allegheny West in the Early 1900’s
When George Harton Singer had 849 North Lincoln Avenue remodeled as a mansion, the Allegheny West housing market was characterized by steady demand for mansions and a declining market for middle-class homes.
In 1907, middle-class homeowners had been slowly leaving Allegheny West for nearly 20 years. Beech and West North Avenues were primarily a mix of owner-occupied and rented single family homes, with a few homes already divided into apartments. Although wealthy Allegheny West residents had begun to move to Sewickley in the 1860’s, most larger homes on North Lincoln and Ridge Avenues and Brighton Road remained single-family residences. Two of the neighborhood’s largest surviving houses – the Harry Darlington Jr. house at 709 Brighton Road and the William Penn Snyder house at Ridge and Galveston Avenues – were not yet built in 1907.
In the early 1920’s, almost all of the millionaire residents of Allegheny West moved to the Sewickley era. A few, such as the McGinley family, successors to the Singers at 849 North Lincoln Avenue, remained through the end of the decade.
A Researched History
By: Carol J. Peterson
all photos by Chris Siewers, unless otherwise noted
James H. Childs was born in the Shadyside section of Pittsburgh in 1878. His parents were Harvey Childs Jr., a wholesale shoe merchant on Wood Street, Downtown, and Jeannette Childs. As a young man at the beginning of the 20th century, he and Clinton L. Childs became partners in Childs & Childs, bankers and brokers, with offices in the Arrott Building at Fourth Avenue and Wood Street. He remained with Childs & Childs until about 1912. He then became president of H. Childs & Company at 813 Penn Avenue, a wholesale shoe, leather and rubber business that was a successor to his father’s firm.
James H. Childs married Alice Walton in 1902. The couple lived at 609 Allegheny Avenue and had a summer home in Sewickley Heights soon after they were married. By 1912, the Childs family had a summer home at Dark Harbor, Maine. The family lived at 943 North Lincoln Avenue in the 1910s, until James H. Childs purchased 845 North Lincoln Avenue from James and Ida Scully in 1917. When they moved to 845 North Lincoln Avenue, James H. and Alice Childs had three children.
Records of the 1920 census list the five members of the Childs family at 845 North Lincoln Avenue: James H. Childs, 41, a wholesale leather and rubber merchant; Alice Walton Childs, 40; and Alice Walton Childs, 14, Mary, ten and James H. Jr., six. Household staff living in the house were:
- Margaret Brown, 41, a widowed nurse who had immigrated from England in 1893
- Delia Osher, 28, a servant who had immigrated from Ireland in 1910
- Ellen Deasy, 30, a servant who had immigrated from Ireland in 1908
- Mary Lyon, 32, a servant who had immigrated from Ireland in 1900
- Julia Grotschal, 32, a Hungarian immigrant
Records of the 1920 census also show that 845 North Lincoln Avenue was mortgaged.
The Childs family lived at 845 North Lincoln Avenue until 1923, when James and Alice Childs sold the house. The family then moved to 5453 Albemarle Avenue in Squirrel Hill, and lived there until the 1930s, when they moved to 608 Academy Avenue in Sewickley. James H. Childs continued as president of H. Childs & Company for many years, and later served as chairman.
James H. and Alice Walton Childs lived at 608 Academy Avenue until they died in 1963.
Ida Walton Scully was born in Allegheny County on September 13,1863. She was one of at least seven children of Joseph Walton, a coal mine owner, coal shipper and coal merchant in Downtown Pittsburgh, and Annie Walton, both born in Pennsylvania. In the early 1860s, the Walton family lived on East Carson Street in the borough of East Birmingham (the present South Side Flats between South 17th and South 27th streets).
When Ida Walton was a small child her family moved to Manchester. The family lived in a large house at 1203 Western Avenue, at the lower end of Fontella Street, on a lot of about 1.75 acres that extended back to Ridge Avenue. Ida Scully resided at that address until she was married. The family’s move to Western Avenue indicates that Joseph Walton had prospered in business, and suggests that the Waltons were among the socially prominent families of Pittsburgh.
In September 1888, Joseph Walton purchased a substantial house at what is now 845 North Lincoln Avenue. Walton apparently bought the house to provide a residence for Ida Walton and Pittsburgh glass manufacturer James W. Scully, who were married on February 21, 1889. Pittsburgh directories listed James W. Scully at 64 Lincoln Avenue (845 North Lincoln Avenue) beginning in 1889.
James Wood Scully was born in Allegheny City on September 6, 1857. He was one of at least three children of James O’Hara Scully, a partner in the Eagle Iron Works on the South Side, and Margaret I. Townsend Scully, both born in Pennsylvania. James O’Hara Scully died in the late 1850s, leaving Margaret I. Scully a widow with three small children. She was apparently financially secure as a widow, as the 1860 census recorded her as owning real estate worth $12,000 (comparable to $600,000 or more in the early 21st century) and having a personal estate of $3,000. In 1860 Margaret I. Scully and her three children shared a home in Downtown Pittsburgh with members of the Townsend family.
James W. Scully worked as a clerk and as a bookkeeper as a young man in the 1870s. In the early 1880s, Scully became a partner in the Sterling Fire Brick Works with an older brother, Henry R. Scully. In about 1885, Scully joined the firm of William McCully & Company, manufacturers of glass vials, bottles, and other goods. The firm’s offices were on Wood Street in Downtown Pittsburgh. He was a partner in William McCully & Company when he married Ida Walton in 1889, and until 1894-1895.
The Scullys’ first child, James W. Jr., was born in June 1890. Records of the 1890 manuscript census, which would provide information on the Scully family and any other residents of their home in that year, were destroyed in a warehouse fire following the completion of the census. The Scullys had two more children in the 1890s: Alice W., born in 1897, and Walton T., born in 1898.
In 1894-1895, James W. Scully became a partner in Joseph Walton & Company, the coal mining and distributing company that had been owned by his late father-in-law. He remained with that firm for approximately three years. It is possible that Scully’s role with Joseph Walton & Company, combined with inheritance associated with Joseph Walton’s passing and the growth of the young Scully family, provided the impetus and means for the remodeling and enlargement of the house at 845 North Lincoln Avenue between late 1895 and late 1899.
In about 1897, James W. Scully left Joseph Walton & Company. For the next several years, his primary occupation was serving as president and then as vice-president of the First National Bank of Birmingham, at South 12th and East Carson streets on the South Side.
The 1900 census recorded 12 residents of 845 North Lincoln Avenue. James W. Scully, 42, was a banker and broker who owned his home without a mortgage. He and Ida Scully, 36, had three children: James W. Jr., nine, Alice W., three and Walton T., one. Sabina T. Rankin, a widowed aunt of James W. Scully, lived with the family. The other residents of 845 North Lincoln Avenue were the Scully family’s six servants:
- Mary Sweeney, 24, who had immigrated from Ireland in 1892
- Kate Sweeney, 23, who had immigrated from Ireland in 1892
- John Lewis, 34, born in Virginia, and possibly a coachman
- Rose Bradley, 39, who had immigrated from Ireland in 1890
- Margaret McCany, 18, who had immigrated from Ireland in 1899
- Elise Mueller, 39, who had immigrated from Switzerland in 1891
In about 1905, James W. Scully became a partner in a stock and bond brokerage, Scully Painter & Beech. The firm’s offices were in Pittsburgh’s financial district, on the second floor of what is now the Bank Center at 307 Fourth Avenue. Scully’s partners were Charles A. Painter of 1029 Western Avenue, Daniel Beech of Knoxville, then a borough above the South Side, and Edwin S. Fairley of Bellevue. Scully Painter & Beech was a member of the New York, Chicago, and Pittsburgh stock exchanges and the Chicago Board of Trade. James W. Scully was also a partner in R.L. Scoville & Company, investment bankers, in the same building.
In 1910, according to census records, the five members of the Scully family lived at 845 North Lincoln Avenue with six household staff persons. The 1910 census, unlike that of 1900, recorded the household roles of each staff person:
- Elise Mueller, a nurse
- Clara Johnson, 38, a cook who had immigrated from Sweden in 1889
- Annice Allingham, 29, a laundress who had immigrated from Ireland in 1899
- Louise Reichert, 26, a maid who had immigrated from Germany in 1903
- Jean S. Michner, 28, a waitress who had immigrated from Scotland in 1903
- William Dickson, 37, an African-American servant born in Pennsylvania
James W. Scully remained a partner in Scully, Painter & Beech until the early 1910s, when he retired or otherwise left the business world. The Scullys owned 845 North Lincoln Avenue until 1917, when they conveyed the house to James H. Childs, the husband of Alice Walton Childs, the youngest sibling of Ida Walton Scully.
Pittsburgh directory listings indicate that James W. Scully left 845 North Lincoln Avenue in about 1914. Directories no longer listed Scully, and listed Ida Scully as the head of the family. After James and Ida Scully sold the house in 1917, Ida Scully moved to her childhood home at 1203 Western Avenue, by then the home of her sister, Clara Walton Cook, and brother-in-law, Thomas McK. Cook. James W. Scully did not move to 1203 Western Avenue, and his residence and activities after 1914 are unknown. Scully was no longer listed in Pittsburgh city directories or Blue Books, and was apparently not enumerated in Pennsylvania in the 1920 census. He died in Saint Margaret Hospital in Lawrenceville on July 15, 1934, at age 76.
Ida Scully and at least one of her children, Alice, lived at 1203 Western Avenue for a number of years. In about 1917 Ida Scully became the proprietor of the Crossways Shop, which sold “exclusive furniture and novelties” in the Monongahela Bank Building at 213 Sixth Avenue, Downtown. She operated the Crossways Shop into the 1930s. She died on October 9, 1951, at age 88.