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806 Western Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15233

The Diffenbachers

Jacob Diffenbacher first appeared in the Pittsburgh city directory in 1863, when he boarded at 162 Lacock Street in Allegheny. The directory did not indicate Diffenbacher’s occupation.

In 1864, Diffenbacher was listed as owner of a bung (stopper or cork) factory at the corner of Market Street and Duquesne Way in Pittsburgh. Diffenbacher lived at 327 Rebecca Street in Allegheny. The 1865 directory listed Diffenbacher as a partner in Diffenbacher & Watson, dealers in oil lands, and living in New York. Diffenbacher’s partner in this venture was Henry Watson, who boarded on Resaca Place near the gas works in Allegheny.

In 1866 and 1867, Diffenbacher was a partner with John F. Glosser of 21 Diamond Street in Allegheny in a grocery store located at 21 Diamond Street. Diffenbacher lived at 327 Rebecca Street (now Reedsdale Street) in Allegheny.

In 1870 the directory listed Diffenbacher as a publisher who lived and worked at 68 Fifth Avenue in Pittsburgh. Diffenbacher moved to Emsworth in the early 1870’s, and maintained an office on Fourth Avenue. The 1874 city directory indicated that Diffenbacher was publisher of the Pittsburgh Official Railway Guide. Diffenbacher began publishing the Pittsburgh city directory in addition to the railway guide by the late 1870’s.

Neither the 1870 or 1880 censuses provide information on Jacob Diffenbacher. The 1890 census, which would provide information on Diffenbacher, was destroyed in a fire following its completion.

City directories listed Diffenbacher as living in Emsworth until 1893, when he was listed at 78 Beech Avenue for the first time. Diffenbacher was listed in the directory at 78 Beech Avenue through 1897.

Jacob Diffenbacher died at Western Pennsylvania Hospital for the Insane at Dixmont on April 1, 1898. Susan Diffenbacher was listed as a widow living at 78 Beech Avenue beginning in 1898.

Current house numbers on Beech Avenue and nearby were used beginning in 1900.

The 1900 manuscript census reported that Susan Diffenbacher, 57, lived at 843 Beech Avenue with a niece, Elizabeth Hale. Susan Diffenbacher had been married 34 years and had no children. She had no occupation.

Elizabeth Rale, 27, was single and had no occupation. She had been born in Virginia to parents also born in Virginia. City directories listed Susan Diffenbacher at 843 Beech Avenue through 1904, the year after she sold the house. She lived in the Buckingham Apartments at Craft Avenue and Kennett Square in Oakland in 1905. She lived at 3604 Forbes Avenue in Oakland in 1906, the last year that she appeared in the directory.

The Stoners

Christian L. Stoner was born in November 1823 in Millersville, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. His parents were born in New York State and Pennsylvania. Stoner became a building contractor as a young man, and constructed homes in and around Lancaster for a number of years. He served one or two terms as Lancaster County Clerk of Courts, beginning in 1857.

Christian L. Stoner married Lizzie Hostetter in 1847. Lizzie Hostetter was born in November 1822 in Pennsylvania, to parents born in Pennsylvania. Their children included David H. Stoner, who was born in December 1847 and lived at 849 Beech Avenue in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. David H. Stoner and his wife, Mary Dilgen Stoner, were married in 1869.

The Stoner family left Lancaster County in the 1860s. The family may have lived in Washington, Pennsylvania in 1872, when Elizabeth Stoner (usually known as Bessie), one of four children of David H. and Mary Stoner, was born in that city. Other children of David H. and Mary Stoner, all of whom later lived at 849 Beech Avenue, were Mary, born in March 1871, Gertrude, born in April 1876, and Anne, born in January 1878.

Christian L. Stoner was first listed in the Pittsburgh city directory in 1876, as the superintendent of the Columbia Conduit Company. Stoner lived on Allegheny Avenue near West North Avenue. David H. Stoner began living in Allegheny City by 1880, when the city directory listed him as a clerk living on Pennsylvania Avenue in Manchester.

In the late 1870s, Christian L. Stoner became a partner in Stoner & McClure, proprietor of the Pittsburgh Saw Mills, which produced lumber, nail kegs and boxes at 27th Street and the Allegheny Valley Railroad in the Strip District. His partner was Alexander McClure of 946 Beech Avenue. Stoner remained a partner in Stoner & McClure until he retired in about 1890. During that time, Stoner was also a director of the Pittsburgh Gas Company and the Smithfield Street Bridge Company, which commissioned construction of the Smithfield Street Bridge as a privately owned toll bridge in the early 1880s.

David H. Stoner became treasurer of the Pittsburgh Gas Company in the early 1880s.

Christian L. Stoner purchased 849 Beech Avenue in October 1887. He never lived in the house, and remained at 1101 Allegheny Avenue for the rest of his life. He apparently bought the house for David H. Stoner, who lived there with his wife and children between 1887 and 1904.

The 1889 Pittsburgh and Allegheny Blue Book, a directory of socially prominent residents of both cities, included listings of the families of Christian L. and Lizzie Stoner and David H. and Mary Stoner. Christian Stoner appears to have been among a small minority of men who had any type of blue-collar background who were listed in the Blue Book.

Elizabeth (Bessie) Stoner, a daughter of David H. and Mary Stoner, married Francis E. Gaither, a draftsman, on June 9, 1892. Elizabeth Stoner was 19, and Francis Gaither was 23. The Pittsburgh Press mentioned the wedding in its social column the same day, describing the bride’s gown and reporting that a reception was to be held “at the home of the bride’s parents” at 849 Beech Avenue. The couple, later residents of 849 Beech Avenue, lived on Coltart Square in Oakland for about a decade after they were married.

Pittsburgh directories listed David H. Stoner as treasurer of the Pittsburgh Gas Company until the mid-1890s; Stoner was listed as a bookkeeper in the late 1890s, and subsequently as a clerk. Directories did not name Stoner’s employer after he became a bookkeeper.

Records of the 1900 census list six residents of 849 Beech Avenue: David H. Stoner, 52, a clerk, enumerated as the owner of the house; Mary Stoner, 52; and Mary, 29, Bessie, 27, Gertrude, 24 and Anne, 22. The enumeration of Bessie Stoner Gaither at 849 Beech Avenue in 1900 appears to have been erroneous, as she had been married and living in Oakland for eight years.

No servants or other unrelated persons lived at 849 Beech Avenue at the time of the 1900 census. Census records show that in 1900, at least half of all middle-class families living in Allegheny City employed at least one servant who lived in their home. It is possible that the Stoner family employed one or more servants who did not live in their home, or were between servants when the census was taken.

David H. and Mary Stoner and their unmarried daughters moved from 849 Beech Avenue to live with Christian Stoner at 1101 Allegheny Avenue in about 1904. At around the same time, Francis E. and Bessie Stoner Gaither moved to 849 Beech Avenue from Oakland. The Gaithers had one child, David S., who was seven years old in 1904.

By the early 1900s, Francis E. Gaither was a patent attorney and notary. His office was in the Farmer’s Bank Building at Fifth Avenue and Wood Street, downtown, in 1903, and moved to the Frick Building by 1907.
Christian L. Stoner died in April 1910, leaving 849 Beech Avenue to David H. Stoner. David H. Stoner continued to live at 1101 Allegheny Avenue after his father’s death, and Francis E. and Bessie Stoner Gaither remained at 849 Beech Avenue. The 1910 census enumerated three residents of 849 Beech Avenue: Francis E. Gaither, 41, a patent attorney, Bessie S. Gaither, 36 and David S. Gaither, 13.

Francis E. Gaither died in about 1914, when he was 45 years old. Available local records do not provide information on the date or cause of his death. Bessie and David S. Gaither lived at 849 Beech Avenue through about 1921. The 1920 Pittsburgh directory listed David S. Gaither as a student at the Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie-Mellon University).

Records of the 1920 census contain no information on residents of 849 Beech Avenue in that year, suggesting the house was temporarily vacant at the time of the census. David H. Stoner died in 1921, leaving 849 Beech Avenue to Bessie Gaither. Stoner had been widowed several years earlier, according to his obituary.
Bessie Gaither sold 849 Beech Avenue in February 1922, and appears to have left Pittsburgh with her son after she sold the house. She was not listed in Pittsburgh directories published in 1922 and in later years, and the Allegheny County estate index contains no information on her death.

The Grays

Theodore Gray was born in New York State in 1834, to parents from Scotland and Ireland. His wife, Annie Gray, was born in Pennsylvania in 1841. Her parents were born in Pennsylvania.

Theodore Gray was first listed in the Pittsburgh city directory in 1856, as a railroad engineer who lived in an un-numbered house on Western Avenue (then Water Lane) near Brighton Road (then Pasture Lane) in Allegheny City (now the North Side). Gray was listed as living on Federal Street in Allegheny City in the late 1850s. By 1860, he and his family lived on West North Avenue (then Fayette Street) near Bidwell Street (then Bagaley’s Lane).

Available records suggest that Annie Gray was the second wife of Theodore Gray. Records of the 1860 census show that Annie Gray, in addition to being seven years her husband’s junior, was also only 14 years older than the Grays’ older child.

In 1860, Theodore and Annie Gray, who were 26 and 19, had two children: Mary E., five, and Louis H., eight months. Theodore Gray was enumerated in the census as a railroad engineer, and Annie Gray had no occupation. Records of the 1860 census show that Theodore Gray owned no real estate, and had a personal estate of $700.

Pittsburgh directories listed Theodore Gray as a railroad engineer during the first half of the 1860s, and subsequently as a conductor. Gray and his family lived on Western Avenue near Bidwell Street in 1861, and at the corner of Western and Galveston Avenues during the rest of the decade. The 1867 Pittsburgh directory provides the only known information on Theodore Gray’s employer, indicating that Gray was employed by the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne & Chicago Railroad.

Theodore Gray bought the lot on which 849 Beech Avenue now stands in 1869. That transaction was Gray’s only purchase of property in Allegheny County. The 1870 Pittsburgh directory listed Theodore Gray as a conductor living at 72 Beech Street (now 849 Beech Avenue) for the first time.

The 1870 census enumerated the Gray family in their new home on Beech Avenue. Theodore Gray, 36, was enumerated as a railroad conductor, and Annie Gray, 28, did not work. The couple had three children: Mary E., 13, Lewis, 10 and Margaret, eight. The census enumerated no servants or other unrelated persons at 849 Beech Avenue.

The 1870 census, the last census to provide information on assets of persons enumerated, reported that Theodore Gray owned real estate valued at $6,000 and had a personal estate of $3,000.

City directory listings show that Theodore Gray continued to work as a railroad conductor throughout the 1870s. Available records do not suggest that he and his family were adversely affected by an economic depression that lasted between about 1874 and 1877. Gray, a railroad worker who was lower in status than most of his neighbors, was probably able to endure the depression more easily than Beech Avenue residents who owned retail and manufacturing businesses.

In 1880, four members of the Gray family lived at 849 Beech Avenue: Theodore, 45, a passenger conductor; Annie, 39; Lewis H., 20, a sleeping car conductor; and Margaret, 17. A servant, Louisa Lubin, also lived at 849 Beech Avenue. Lubin, 17, was a Prussian immigrant.

Pittsburgh directories listed Theodore Gray as a conductor and living at 72 Beech Street through 1884. Theodore and Annie Gray sold the house for $7,575 in 1884. The Gray family appears to have left the Pittsburgh area the same year. Neither Theodore or Lewis Gray were listed in Pittsburgh directories published in 1885 or in later years. Records of the 1890 census, which might provide information on the Gray family in that year, were destroyed in a warehouse fire. The 1900 and 1910 censuses do not appear to have enumerated Theodore or Annie Gray, suggesting that they died before 1900.

The Allegheny County estate index and an index of obituaries published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and its predecessors provide no information on the deaths of Theodore and Annie Gray.

849 Beech Avenue

849 Beech Avenue (Front)

Introduction

Theodore Gray and his wife, Annie Gray, had 849 Beech Avenue built between 1869 and 1870. The house was built on a lot that Theodore Gray purchased for $3,000 in 1869. The house is an example of the Second Empire style because of its mansard roof, projecting window hoods, arched dormer roofs and window openings, and brackets below its box gutter. The Second Empire style was popular in the Pittsburgh area between about 1870 and 1885. Theodore and Annie Gray also had a small wood frame stable, likely the building that still stands at the rear of the lot, built by 1872.

Theodore Gray was a railroad conductor during the time that he lived at 849 Beech Avenue. He was born in New York State, and Annie Gray was born in Pennsylvania. The Grays had three children who are known to have resided in the house: Mary, Lewis, and Margaret. The family appears to have lived comfortably, as evidenced by their ownership of the house and by their ability to employ a servant who lived in their home. Louisa Lubin, who lived at 849 Beech Avenue at the time of the 1880 census, was a 17-year-old Prussian immigrant.
The Grays sold 849 Beech Avenue in 1884, for $7,575, and left Pittsburgh. Edward L. Dawes of the Standard Sanitary Manufacturing Company in Allegheny City, predecessor of today’s American Standard, bought the house from the Grays, and lived there for two years.

Christian Stoner owned 849 Beech Avenue between 1887 and 1910. Stoner was a partner in a Strip District lumber mill, a director of the Smithfield Street Bridge Company, which had the bridge of the same name constructed, and a director of the Pittsburgh Gas Company. He lived on Allegheny Avenue. His son, David H. Stoner, lived with his family at 849 Beech Avenue between 1887 and 1904. A daughter, Elizabeth Stoner Gaither, her husband, attorney Frances E. Gaither, and their son moved to the house in 1904. Members of the Gaither family lived there until about 1921, and sold the house in 1922 for $7,750.

The former Gray house at 849 Beech Avenue has now had a total of 12 owners.

Detailed information on the history of 849 Beech Avenue is contained in the following report.

Ownership

  • May 12, 1869
  • May 23, 1884
  • April 22, 1886
  • October 19, 1887
  • April 5, 1910
  • September 23, 1921
  • February 20, 1922
  • December 18, 1922
  • April 30, 1928
  • November 1, 1967
  • July 31, 1992
  • February 25, 2003

Elizabeth F. Denny of Pittsburgh conveyed the lot on which 849 Beech Avenue now stands to Theodore Gray of Allegheny City (now the North Side) for $3,000. The lot was described as being located on the southern side of Beech Street (now Beech Avenue), 100’2.75″ east of Grant Avenue (now Galveston Avenue), and measuring 23’7″ wide along Beech Street by 137′ deep to Pasture Alley (now Dounton Way). The lot was in the Second Ward of Allegheny City, which became part of Pittsburgh in 1907.

(Deed Book Volume 244, Page 191)

Theodore and Annie Gray of Allegheny City conveyed 849 Beech Avenue to Edward L. Dawes of Allegheny City for $7,575.

(DBV 500 P 50)

Edward L. and Jennie W. Dawes of Allegheny City conveyed 849 Beech Avenue to Francis J. Torrance, as executor of the estate of Francis Torrance, for $7575.

(DBV 547 P 144)

Francis J. Torrance, executor of the estate of Francis Torrance, conveyed 849 Beech Avenue to Christian L. Stoner of Allegheny City for $7,350.

(DBV 575 P 350)

Christian L. Stoner died on April 5, 1910. In his will dated December 6, 1905 (Will Book Volume 105, Page 132), he left 849 Beech Avenue to David H. Stoner.

David H. Stoner, who died on September 23, 1921, left 849 Beech Avenue to Elizabeth S. Gaither (Will Book Volume 170, Page 270).

Elizabeth S. Gaither conveyed 849 Beech Avenue to Carrie M. Henderson, wife of William F. Henderson of Wellsville, Ohio, for $7,750.

(DBV 2126 P 177)

Carrie M. and William F. Henderson of Pittsburgh conveyed 849 Beech Avenue to Annie E. Hamill of Pittsburgh for $7,750.

(DBV 2151 P 231)

Annie E. Hamill, widow, of Pittsburgh conveyed 849 Beech Avenue to Evelyn M. Reynolds of Pittsburgh for $9,000.

(DBV 2352 P 482)

William F. and Evelyn M. Reynolds of Pittsburgh conveyed 849 Beech Avenue to Jacob and Arlene Smith of Pittsburgh for $5,850.

Jacob Smith died on July 11, 1981.

(DBV 4485 P 713)

Arlene Smith conveyed 849 Beech Avenue to John K. McCarthy for $63,000.

(DBV 8777 P 183)

Benjamin E. and Gretchen R. Schmaus purchased 849 Beech Avenue from John K. and Deborah D. McCarthy on February 25, 2003. Title to the house was placed in the name of Gretchen R. Duthoy (formerly Gretchen R. Schmaus) on March 17, 2005 (Deed Book Volume 12382, Page 233).

(DBV 11582 P 543)

Age of the House

Construction

Local historical records indicate that Theodore Gray had 849 Beech Avenue built between 1869 and 1870.

Theodore Gray purchased the lot on which 849 Beech Avenue now stands on May 12, 1869. Gray paid $3000 for the lot, which measured 23’7″ wide by 137′ deep. This purchase, at 93 cents per square foot, was comparable to prices paid for other undeveloped lots in Allegheny West at the time, and indicates that 849 Beech Avenue had not yet been built.
The 1870 Pittsburgh city directory listed Theodore Gray as living at 72 Beech Street (now 849 Beech Avenue) for the first time. The house was also depicted on plat maps published in 1872 and later years.

Architectural Style

Exterior architectural features of 849 Beech Avenue are consistent with construction in about 1870.

The house was constructed in the Second Empire style, characterized by mansard roofs, prominent door and window hoods or lintels, arched window openings, decorative brackets, and sometimes by central gables, or towers. The Second Empire style and the related Italianate style were the prevailing architectural styles for homes and small commercial buildings constructed in the Pittsburgh area between the late 1860s and about 1885.

Interior details of Second Empire houses usually 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 corners. In Pittsburgh, many Second Empire homes were built with stairways that incorporated landings located about three steps below the main level of the second floor.
Most Second Empire houses built before about 1880 featured two-over-two double hung windows; homes built in the style after 1880 were usually constructed with one-over-one windows.

Examples of the Second Empire style in the Pittsburgh area include houses on narrow lots in city neighborhoods like Allegheny West, Manchester, the Mexican War Streets, Lawrenceville and the South Side, and wider center-entry houses in areas such as Shadyside and Sewickley.

Known records do not identify an architect who is credited with design of 849 Beech Avenue.

Comparable Home Values

The house at 849 Beech Avenue was sold for the first time in 1884, for $7,575. Sales of other Allegheny City houses within a few years of 1884 included:

  • 2141 Perrysville Avenue, Perry Hilltop, $3,250 (1885)
  • 523 Jacksonia Street, Mexican War Streets, $3600 (1882)
  • 1239 Resaca Place, Mexican War Streets, $4300 (1886)
  • 1228 Palo Alto Street, Mexican War Streets, $4,625 (1884)
  • 1201 Palo Alto Street, Mexican War Streets, $5,300 (1888)
  • 518 Jacksonia Street, Mexican War Streets, $5,400 (1884)
  • 908 Beech Avenue, $8,500 (1886)
  • 1511 Buena Vista Street, Mexican War Streets, $12,500 (1886)
  • 842 Beech Avenue, $15,500 (1884)
  • 940 N Lincoln Avenue, $24,000 (1887)

Stable Construction

The modest size of the stable that stands at the rear of the lot at 849 Beech Avenue, and exterior features such as its partial cladding in board and batten, are consistent with construction in the 19th century. Plat maps published beginning in 1872 and fire insurance maps published in 1884 depict a small wood frame stable at the the rear of the lot. Although no known records document the construction of the stable, it appears likely that the stable is the same building depicted on the 1872 plat map.

Residents

The Grays

Pittsburgh city directories and U.S. census records provide information on Theodore and Annie Gray who built 849 Beech Avenue between 1869 and 1870.

Learn More

The Stoners

Local historical records also provide information on Christian L. Stoner, who purchased 849 Beech Avenue in 1887, and on his son and granddaughter who lived in the house.

Learn More

1884-1887

Edward L. Dawes purchased 849 Beech Avenue from Theodore and Annie Gray in 1884. Dawes was associated with the Standard Sanitary Manufacturing Company (now American Standard), then located on River Avenue in Allegheny City. The 1885 and 1886 Pittsburgh directories listed Dawes at 72 (now 849) Beech Avenue. He had previously rented a house nearby at 1007 Galveston Avenue (then 157 Grant Avenue).

Francis J. Torrance, as executor of the estate of his father, Francis Torrance, purchased 849 Beech Avenue from Edward L. Dawes in April 1886. He owned the house until October 1887.
Francis and Francis J. Torrance were associated with the Standard Sanitary Manufacturing Company, which Francis Torrance had founded. Both lived at 946 Western Avenue in Allegheny West. The 1887 Pittsburgh directory did not list anyone living at 849 Beech Avenue.

1922-1992

Carrie M. Henderson owned 849 Beech Avenue between February and December 1922. Her husband, William F. Henderson, was listed in the Pittsburgh directory published in that year as a traveling salesman. The Hendersons lived in Pittsburgh for only a short time; the deed with which Carrie M. Henderson purchased 849 Beech Avenue stated that she was a resident of Wellsville, Ohio, and William F. Henderson was not listed in Pittsburgh directories published in 1923 or later in the 1920s.

Annie E. Hamill purchased 849 Beech Avenue in late 1922, and owned the house until 1928. Pittsburgh directories listed no one named Hamill at 849 Beech Avenue during that time, indicating the house was used as a rental property. Annie E. Hamill was not listed in Pittsburgh directories.
Evelyn M. Reynolds bought 849 Beech Avenue in 1928, and owned the house for 39 years. Her husband, William F. Reynolds, was a house painter. Records of the 1930 census show that William F. Reynolds, 36, had been born in Ohio, and Evelyn M. Reynolds, 24, was a Pennsylvania native. The couple had been married for seven years and had no children. Census records also report that 849 Beech Avenue had an estimated value of $9000, and that William and Evelyn Reynolds owned a “radio set.”

The 1930 census is the last census that provides information on residents of 849 Beech Avenue. Jacob Smith and his wife, Arlene Smith, purchased 849 Beech Avenue in 1967. Jacob Smith worked as a press operator for the Hipwell Manufacturing Company, which manufactured flashlights nearby at 823 West North Avenue. Jacob Smith lived at 849 Beech Avenue until his death in 1981, and Arlene Smith sold the house in 1992.

Supplementary Materials

The following materials accompany this report:

Maps

  • a copy of part of an 1872 plat map of the area around 849 Beech Avenue
  • copies of parts of fire insurance maps of the area around 849 Beech Avenue, published in 1884, 1893, 1906 and 1926

Stoner

  • information on Stoner & McClure, from Industries of Pittsburgh, 1879-1880
  • information on Christian L. Stoner, from Biographical History of Lancaster County (1872)
  • an article mentioning the wedding of Bessie Stoner and Francis E. Gaither, from the Pittsburgh Press, June 9, 1892
  • the obituary of Christian L. Stoner, from the Pittsburgh Gazette Times, April 6, 1910
  • the obituary of David H. Stoner, from the Pittsburgh Commercial Gazette, September 24, 1921

Other Owners


A Researched History
By: Carol J. Peterson

all photos by Chris Siewers, unless otherwise noted

The Butzes

Edward M. Butz was born in or near Allegheny City, possibly in the Troy Hill area, in 1850. Known records do not provide information on his parents or on his residence as a child. Butz was listed as an architect for the first time in the 1868 Pittsburgh directory, at age 18. Butz worked in an office on Sixth Street, Downtown, and lived in what was then Duquesne borough (in the vicinity of the present H J. Heinz plant).

In 1870, according to census records, Edward M. Butz and three of his siblings lived on Troy Hill with the family of John Snyder, a Swiss immigrant house painter. His siblings were Harry P. Butz, a coppersmith’s apprentice, John A., a sign painter’s apprentice and Roman J., 13, attending school.

The 1870 manuscript census, the last census to provide information on assets of persons enumerated, reported that Edward M. Butz owned no real estate and had no personal estate.

Butz’s architectural career appears to have flourished during the 1870s, when he designed a number of important buildings in Allegheny City, Pittsburgh, and elsewhere. Butz was not listed in the 1871 Pittsburgh directory, but by 1872 opened an office on lower Federal Street in Allegheny City. He and G.C. Monahan of North Taylor Avenue were partners in the firm of Monahan & Butz on Federal Street for a short time in 1872-1873. Butz began to work on his own in the same Federal Street office by 1874.

Most information on buildings designed by Butz is provided by three sources: an entry in Industries of Pittsburgh, 1879-1880, an entry in Pittsburgh’s Business Proclamation (1903), and Butz’s obituary.

Unfortunately, many of the buildings that Butz designed in Pittsburgh and Allegheny City have been demolished in various redevelopment projects. Buildings that Butz designed that are still standing include:

  • 948-950 Beech Avenue
  • 1207 Allegheny Avenue, Manchester, Butz’s residence between about 1877 and 1880
  • the Western Penitentiary, Woods Run (1876-1882)
  • the Clarion County Courthouse, Clarion, Pennsylvania (1870s)
  • the Westmoreland County Courthouse, Greensburg

Butz claimed to have designed the Dollar Bank building (1868-71) on Fourth Avenue, Downtown, which is attributed to the Philadelphia firm of Isaac Hobbs & Sons. It is possible that Butz was employed by Hobbs for a short time in 1871, when he was not listed in the Pittsburgh directory.

It is interesting to note that by 1879, Butz designed Reineman’s Hotel (location unknown) in Pittsburgh for a member of the Reineman family. The Reineman family was prominent in the development of Troy Hill, the neighborhood in which Butz lived as a young man and possibly during his childhood. Documentation that Butz designed Reineman’s Hotel in the 1870s suggests that he may have designed other buildings for the Reineman family. The family was responsible for the construction of several large homes on Troy Hill, including a large and elaborate double Second Empire house built at 1515-1517 Lowrie Street in about 1875 for banker and real estate investor Adam Reineman.

Buildings by Butz in Allegheny City that have been demolished include the First National Bank and the C. Wattiey & Company furnishings store building, both on lower Federal Street; the C.C. Boyle lumber dealership at River Avenue and Sandusky Street; Trinity Lutheran Church, Stockton Avenue and Arch Street; Central Presbyterian Church at Lacock and Anderson Streets; a building for Western Theological Seminary, Ridge Avenue; and the Ridge Avenue homes of J.W. Dalzell, H. Sellers McKee, and D.M. Long. Buildings by Butz in Pittsburgh that no longer survive include the Seventh Avenue Hotel, downtown, and the Seventh United Presbyterian Church on 44th Street in Lawrenceville.

Butz married Mary A. Yeager of Allegheny City on December 28, 1876. Mary A. Yeager was born in Pittsburgh or Allegheny City in December 1856. She was a daughter of Christian Yeager, who owned a variety and dry goods store on Market Street, downtown. The Yeager family moved from Ninth Street, downtown, to Stockton Avenue in Allegheny City around the time that Mary A. Yeager was born. She lived on Stockton Avenue until she married.

In 1876, Edward M. Butz designed and commissioned construction of a large Second Empire house at 1207 Allegheny Avenue in Manchester (at the southwestern comer of Allegheny Avenue and Bidwell Street; now Duke’s Bar). He and Mary A. Butz began living at in the house after they were married. The couple had two children: Christian Yeager Butz, born in 1878, and another child whose name is not known. Christian Yeager Butz died in 1884, at age six, and the other child also died while young.

The Butz family lived at 1207 Allegheny Avenue until 1879 or 1880. The family resided in the Central Hotel in Allegheny City (in the present Allegheny Center Mall area) for a short time while 948-950 Beech Avenue was being built. They began living at 950 Beech Avenue in late 1880 or early 1881.

Edward M. Butz’s architectural office was still located on Federal Street when he lived at 950 Beech Avenue. Work with which Butz was associated while he lived in the house included the construction of the Western Penitentiary.

In 1883, Edward M. and Mary A. Butz sold 950 Beech Avenue and moved to 508 Pressley Street (demolished) in the East Allegheny neighborhood. The family lived on Sherman Avenue in the present Allegheny Center Mall area in 1884, and began living on Arch Street in the same neighborhood in about 1885. The family lived on Arch Street until about 1897.

Butz’s architectural office moved from Federal Street to 132 First Avenue, downtown, in 1886-1887. Butz became a partner in the architectural and engineering firm of Butz & Kauffman at 605 Smithfield Street a short time later. The firm’s other principal was William Kauffman of Buena Vista Street. The partnership dissolved in about 1891, and Butz returned to 132 First Avenue. In about 1893, his firm became known as E.M. Butz & Company, architects and engineers. Frederick A. Yeager, who was probably a brother of Mary A. Butz, was among its principals.

In the 1880s, Edward M. Butz was a founder of the Columbia Iron & Steel Company. The company’s headquarters was at 132 First Avenue, and it operated a mill in Uniontown. Butz’s younger brother, Roman J., was the company’s secretary.

E.M. Butz & Company moved to 236 First Avenue in about 1895, and to the 11th floor of the Park Building about a year later. In about 1897, Edward M. and Mary A. Butz moved from Arch Street in Allegheny City to Fremont Street in Bellevue.

Edward M. Butz lived on Fremont Street in Bellevue and ran E.M. Butz & Company until he retired in the 1910s. He and Mary A. Butz then moved to 1711 Termon Avenue in Brighton Heights. Butz died at home at 1711 Tennon Avenue on October 3, 1916, at age 66. His obituary incorrectly gave his age as 57. Earlier census records confirm that Butz was born in 1850.

Mary A. Butz outlived her husband by ten years. During part of the 1920’s, she worked at Joseph Horne’s in downtown Pittsburgh. She died on December 31, 1926, at age 70.

948-950 Beech Avenue

948-950 Beech Avenue (Front)

Introduction

Edward M. Butz had 948-950 Beech Avenue built between early 1880 and early 1881. Butz, an architect, designed the double house in the Second Empire style. After 948-950 Beech Avenue was constructed, Butz and his family began living at 950 Beech Avenue. Butz sold 948 Beech Avenue for $12,500 in 1881.

Edward M. Butz appears to have been among the more active and accomplished architects who worked in Pittsburgh during the last third of the nineteenth century. Butz was selected at age 26 to design the Western Penitentiary in Allegheny City, which was built while he lived at 950 Beech Avenue. Butz also designed office and commercial buildings, churches, homes, courthouses, and other buildings in Pittsburgh, Allegheny, and elsewhere in Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, many of the buildings he designed locally have been demolished.

Edward M. Butz, his wife, Mary A. Butz, and at least one of their children lived at 950 Beech Avenue between 1880-1881 and 1883. The Butz family subsequently lived in the Allegheny Center Mall area, in Bellevue, and in Brighton Heights.

The houses at 948 and 950 Beech Avenue were owned by several prominent persons in the late nineteenth century, when Allegheny West was at its height of popularity as a residential community. Attorney Wynn R. Sewell and his wife, Martha McC. Watson Sewell, owned 948 Beech Avenue between 1881 and 1908. The house at 950 Beech Avenue was owned and occupied by Franklin Finsthwait, a broker and his wife, Caroline, between 1883 and 1885. Philander C. Knox, an attorney and future United States Attorney General, Senator, and Secretary of State, owned 950 Beech Avenue between 1885 and 1887, but did not live in the house. Dr. John S. and Sarah E. Dickson owned and lived at 950 Beech Avenue between 1887 and 1897.

The conversion of 948-950 Beech Avenue to apartments took place in the early twentieth century, as Allegheny West changed from a primarily upper-middle-class and wealthy community to a neighborhood of apartments and boarding houses. 948 Beech Avenue contained three apartments in 1910, and 950 Beech Avenue contained eight apartments by 1930. The double house deteriorated until it was acquired in 1979 and rehabilitated by Robert Fierst and Douglas Simmons. Miles Bausch and Douglas Lucas purchased 948-950 Beech Avenue in 1999 and continue to care for and improve this unique historic property.

Detailed information on the history of 948-950 Beech Avenue is contained in the following report.

Age of the House

Construction

Edward M. Butz commissioned construction of a double house at 948950 Beech Avenue in 1880.

Edward M. Butz purchased the lot on which 948 Beech Avenue now stands on February 2, 1880. His wife, Mary A. Butz, purchased the lot on which 950 Beech Avenue stands on February 16, 1880. Each paid $2,100 for lots measuring 20′ wide by 100’ deep. These purchases, at $1.05 per square foot, were comparable to prices paid for other undeveloped lots in Allegheny West at the time, and indicate that 948-950 Beech Avenue had not yet been built.
The 1880 census of population did not enumerate any residents of 5 (950) or 7 (948) Beech Avenue. The census was taken on Beech Avenue on June 2 and 3, 1880.

Edward M. Butz conveyed the eastern half of the property, containing the site of 948 Beech Avenue, to Martha McC. Watson on March 7, 1881. The purchase price was $12,500, indicating that the double house had been built.

The 1881 Pittsburgh city directory listed Edward M. Butz as living at 5 (now 950) Beech Avenue for the first time.

An 1882 plat map also confirms that 948-950 Beech Avenue had been built.

Architectural Style

Edward M. Butz designed 948-950 Beech Avenue in the Second Empire style.

In urban neighborhoods like Allegheny West, where high land costs discouraged construction of homes with more than about 22’ frontage, Second Empire house exteriors were characterized primarily by mansard front roofs, arched door and window openings, prominent or projecting door and window hoods, and decorative brackets supporting box gutters. The majority of urban Second Empire homes were one room wide. Second Empire homes built in suburban and rural settings were built with full mansard roofs, and sometimes with centered wings or towers. Most were two rooms in width with a central or offset hallway.

Interior details of Second Empire homes usually 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 Second Empire homes were built with stairways that incorporated landings located about three steps below the main level of the second floor. Most local Second Empire 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 Second Empire style and the related Italianate style were the prevailing architectural styles for homes and small commercial buildings constructed in the Pittsburgh area between the late 1860’s and about 1885.
The facade of 948-950 Beech Avenue also displays the influence of the Eastiake movement in its incised stone lintels. The lintels, the stone belt courses and raised foundation, and the inset tile combined to make one of the most ornate late Victorian residential facades in Allegheny City.

Residents

The Butzes

Pittsburgh city directories, U.S. census records, biographical materials, and other sources provide information on Edward M. and Mary A. Butz.

Learn More


A Researched History
By: Carol J. Peterson

all photos by Chris Siewers, unless otherwise noted

The Prices

William P. Price was born in what later became the Allegheny Center Mall area in October 1845. He was one of at least seven children of Henry T. and Mary Price, both born in Pennsylvania. By 1858, the Price family lived on Sherman Avenue near Sampsonia Street. At the time, Henry T. Price was a carpenter with a shop at Water and Middle Streets in Allegheny.

In about 1862 the Price family moved to Chateau Street in Manchester, then an independent borough bordering Allegheny City. Around that time, William P. Price began working as a carpenter with his father.

In 1865 Henry T. and William P. Price formed a partnership, Henry T. Price & Company, oil tank builders, at 165 Lacock Street. The Price family moved to 1231 Monterey Street the following year. William P. Price went into business as a real estate and insurance agent at 33 Ohio Street in 1867, and moved the business to 21 Diamond Street by 1870. Later in 1870, William P. Price closed his office and joined his father in Price, Stewart & Company, agricultural implement dealers, at 32-34 Ohio Street.

Records of the 1870 census show that William P. Price, 25, lived with his parents and younger brothers and sisters on Monterey Street. Price’s siblings were James, 21, a clerk in a boat store, John, 19, a salesman in a store, and Mary, 17, Ella, 14, Charles, 13, and Frank, ten, all attending school. In 1870, William P. Price owned no real estate and had no personal estate. Henry T. Price owned no real estate and had a personal estate of $3000.

In 1872, at 26, William P. Price married Margaret McClintock Whitesell, 22, of Carrington Street in Allegheny City. She was born in Allegheny City on February 4, 1850, and was a daughter of Catherine McClintock Whitesell and the late Dr. George L. Whitesell. William P. and Margaret Price began living at 1214 Arch Street.

William P. Price was elected to Allegheny City Council for the first time in 1873. Serving on the councils of Allegheny or Pittsburgh was then a part-time endeavor, and Price continued as a partner in Price, Stewart & Company. He eventually served as Allegheny City Council president.

The Prices moved to 1528 Arch Street by 1877. The 1880 census enumerated William P. and Margaret Price at 1528 Arch Street with their children George L.W., five, and Henry T., three, and Margaret Price’s mother Catherine Whitesell, who was 50.

The Price family lived at 1528 Arch Street until they moved to 908 Beech Avenue in 1886. At about that time, William P. Price left the agricultural implements business that he had worked in with his father and became a manufacturer’s agent. Price had an office Downtown at 43 Sixth Avenue in the late 1880s, at 943 Liberty Avenue in 1890, and at 17 Seventh Avenue in 1892.

Records of the 1890 census, which would provide information on residents of 908 Beech Avenue in that year, were destroyed in a warehouse fire in Washington D.C. in the 1920s.

William P. Price changed careers again by 1893, when he opened a sewer pipe and builders supplies business at 302 Wood Street in Pittsburgh. Price continued in this work until about 1895, when he and his son George L.W. Price went into business as electrical contractors.

At the time of the 1900 census, William P. and Margaret Price had had five children, all of whom were still living at home at 908 Beech Avenue. George L.W. Price, 25, was an electrician, Henry T., 23, was a physician, and Ella, 19, John M., 17, and Catherine, 14, attended school. An adopted daughter, Nancy J. Stinson, 26, also lived at 908 Beech Avenue. Stinson was an unmarried schoolteacher who had been born in Pennsylvania to Scotch-Irish parents. Margaret Price’s widowed mother Catherine Whitesell, 70, also lived at 908 Beech Avenue in 1900.

William P. Price died on October 25,1904, when he was struck by a train at the North Avenue and Brighton Road crossing near his home. The crossing was then at-grade, a few years before the tracks were lowered through and northwest of West Park. During the first decade of the 20th century, numerous fatalities at at-grade railroad crossings throughout the United States led to the lowering or shifting of railroad lines in the interest of public safety. It is likely that the death of a well-known citizen such as William P. Price contributed to the decision to lower the tracks through West Park.

In 1910, according to census records, Margaret Price lived at 908 Beech Avenue with other family members, a lodger, and a servant. Nancy Stinson, 36, was a schoolteacher, as was Ella Price, 28. John Price, 26, was an electrical supplies dealer, and Catherine Price, 23, was a self-employed music teacher. Frederick A. Riegel, 28, an unmarried electrical supplies salesman, was the Prices’ lodger. He had been born in Pennsylvania. The family’s servant was Margaret O’Brien, 20, who had born in Pennsylvania to parents born in England.

Pittsburgh city directories show that Margaret Price moved out of the city of Pittsburgh in 1911 or 1912. After leaving 908 Beech Avenue, Price converted the house to a four-family dwelling. She lived at 6911 Prospect Avenue in Ben Avon, which she owned, with her daughter Ella and Nancy Stinson before she died on February 7,1934.

The Sterritts

John Sterritt was born in Virginia to foreign-born parents in about 1802. His wife Jane Stewart Sterritt was born in Ireland in about 1815. By 1850, John and Jane Sterritt were married and living in Allegheny City, where John Sterritt operated a dry goods store on Federal Street. Records of the 1850 census show that John and Jane Sterritt had four children, and also shared their home with Jane Sterritt’s sister and two other persons. In 1850, the Sterritts’ children were James S., ten, and William H., six, both attending school, and Robert, three, and Jane M., one. Jane Sterritt’s sister was Rachel Stewart, 29, who had no occupation. Also living with the family in 1850 were Jane Longhay, 13, born in Ireland, and James Vanweller, 20. Jane Longhay’s relation to the Sterritt family is unknown. James Vanweller was a salesman who boarded with the family.

The Sterritt family belonged to the First United Presbyterian Church of Allegheny for many years, including during the time that they lived at 908 Beech Avenue. The church was located on Union Avenue in what later became the Allegheny Center Mall area.

By 1856, the Sterritt family lived at the northeast corner of the North Commons (now North Avenue) and Federal Street. In the late 1850s, John Sterritt closed or sold his dry goods store and became a property assessor. Within a few years, Sterritt was a real estate agent and rent collector with an office at 70 Diamond Street in Allegheny. Sterritt’s sons William and Robert began working with him as clerks in the late 1860s.

The Sterritt family lived at North Avenue and Federal Street until 1868, when the city directory listed John Sterritt as living on Beech Avenue near Grant Avenue (now Galveston Avenue). Sterritt was listed at 53 (908) Beech Avenue beginning in 1870.

Records of the 1870 census show that John and Jane Sterritt lived at 908 Beech Avenue with two of their sons, Jane Sterritt’s sister Rachel Stewart, and a servant. William Sterritt, 25, was reported to be a bookkeeper, and Robert Sterritt, 21, was a salesman. Rachel Stewart, 49, had no occupation. The Sterritts’ servant was Amanda Hopkins, 18, who had been born in Pennsylvania.

The 1870 census, the last census to provide information on assets of persons enumerated, reported that John Sterritt owned real estate worth $25,000 and had a “personal estate” or cash savings of $1400. Jane Sterritt owned real estate worth $12,000 and had no personal estate. The Sterritts’ total assets of $38,400 were comparable to around $1.2 million or more in the early 21st century.

John Sterritt’s real estate office moved to 40 North Diamond Street in the early 1870s. At around that time, William H. Sterritt became a notary public at the same address. John Sterritt worked as a real estate agent until he died in late September or early October 1876. After Sterritt’s death, Jane Sterritt and other family members continued to live at 908 Beech Avenue.

The 1880 manuscript census listed William H. Sterritt as the head of the household at 908 Beech Avenue. Sterritt had married by that time, and he and his wife Jennie had a son, John C., five. Jennie Sterritt, 27, had been born in Pennsylvania and was of Irish descent. Jane Sterritt, 63, and Rachel Stewart, 59, still lived at 908 Beech Avenue in 1880.

In the early 1880s William Sterritt was a partner in Sterritt & Algeo, real estate agents, at 49 North Diamond Street. Sterritt’s partner was W.W. Algeo of Armandale Street in Allegheny City.

In 1885, Jane Sterritt prepared to sell 908 Beech Avenue. A December 8, 1885 advertisement in the Pittsburgh Commercial Gazette informed the public:

FOR SALE – 53 BEECH ST., NEAR GRANT ave, Allegheny. Ground 40 x 100 to alley; two-story brick house, 8 rooms, attics, laundry, bath, range, natural gas, stable. A good substantial residence. A. LEGGATE, Agent, 31 Federal St.

Jane Sterritt sold 908 Beech Avenue in 1886. She lived in the Pittsburgh area, possibly with her son William in Bellevue, until she died in 1893.

908 Beech Avenue

908 Beech Avenue

Introduction

Local historical records indicate that John and Jane Sterritt had 908 Beech Avenue built in or shortly before 1868. The Sterritts appear to have had the house built while its site was still owned by Elizabeth F. Denny, who subdivided land along Beech Avenue into building lots in the mid-1860s. They took title to the 4000 square foot lot in 1872, paying $2200.

The Sterritts had 908 Beech Avenue built in the Italianate style, which is shown in the house’s projecting front door surround with brackets and decorative panels, projecting window hoods, and paired brackets that are below the box gutter and within the east gable. The Italianate style was the most popular architectural style in the Pittsburgh area between approximately 1860 and 1885. Later owners William P. and Margaret Price were responsible for the construction of the two-story rear brick building at 908 Beech Avenue, built in 1895 for $600.

John Sterritt was a real estate agent in Allegheny City for many years. He was born in Virginia, and Jane Sterritt was born in Ireland. The Sterritts had at least two children, William and Robert, who lived at 908 Beech Avenue. Rachel Stewart, an unmarried sister of Jane Sterritt, and a servant, Amanda Hopkins, also lived in the house. John Sterritt died in 1876, and Jane Sterritt sold 908 Beech Avenue for $8500 in 1886.

William P. and Margaret McC. Price were the second owners of 908 Beech Avenue. William P. Price was a real estate agent and partner in an agricultural implement business before he lived at 908 Beech Avenue, and a manufacturers’ agent, builders’ supplies business owner, and electrical contractor while he lived in the house. He also served on Allegheny City Council, eventually becoming council president. Price lived at 908 Beech Avenue until 1904, when he was struck and killed by a train at West North Avenue and Brighton Road, then an at-grade crossing.

Margaret McC. Price lived at 908 Beech Avenue for several years after she was widowed, then moved to Ben Avon and converted her former home to apartments. She sold the house for $10,000 in 1923. The next owners, members of the Byrnes family, lived at 908 Beech Avenue and shared their home with roomers and tenants.

The former Sterritt house at 908 Beech Avenue has now had a total of 11 owners. Detailed information on the history of the house is contained in the following report.

Ownership

Elizabeth F. Denny became the owner of property that included the 900 block of Beech Avenue through inheritance in the mid-19th century. In the mid-1860s, Denny subdivided property along Beech Avenue into building lots.

  • June 13, 1872
  • February 1, 1873
  • March 1, 1873
  • March 1, 1886
  • September 7, 1923
  • September 16, 1931
  • September 21, 1944
  • August 28, 1961
  • September 30, 1969
  • May 26, 1977
  • August 8, 1980
  • February 27, 1917
  • January 30, 2017

Elizabeth F. Denny of Pittsburgh conveyed the lot at 908 Beech Avenue to John Sterritt of Allegheny City for $2200. The house occupied the lot on which it now stands, measuring 40′ wide along the north side of Beech Avenue by 100′ deep to Butter Cup Alley (now Buttercup Way). The lot was known as Lots 27 and 28 in Block 4 in a plan of lots laid out by Elizabeth F. Denny in the Second Ward of Allegheny City. The lot was part of a larger tract of land known as Out Lot 267 in the Reserve Tract opposite Pittsburgh.

(Deed Book Volume 292, Page 176)

John and Jane Sterritt of Allegheny City conveyed 908 Beech Avenue to Robert B. Sterritt of Allegheny City for $10,000.

(DBV 304 P 283)

Robert B. Sterritt of Allegheny City conveyed 908 Beech Avenue to Jane Sterritt of Allegheny City for $12,000.

(DBV 304 P 287)

Jane Sterritt, widow, of Allegheny City conveyed 908 Beech Avenue to Margaret McC. Price of Allegheny City for $8500.

(DBV 526 P 324)

Margaret McC. Price, widow, of Ben Avon, conveyed 908 Beech Avenue to Margaret Byrnes of Pittsburgh for $10,000.

Margaret Byrnes died on July 2, 1931.

(DBV 2163 P 669)

Martin C. Mihm, executor of the estate of Margaret Byrnes of Pittsburgh, conveyed 908 Beech Avenue to Anne Byrnes of Pittsburgh for $8000.

(DBV 2463 P 646)

Anne Byrnes, widow, of Pittsburgh, conveyed 908 Beech Avenue to Mabel M. Jiles and Hazel P. Jiles, both unmarried, of Pittsburgh, for $1 and other considerations.

Mabel M. Jiles died on January 24, 1957. She was survived by Hazel P. Jiles, who died on October 11, 1959.

(DBV 2823 P 105)

Ralph H. Smith Jr., executor of the estate of Hazel P. Jiles of Bellevue, conveyed 908 Beech Avenue to Donald R. and Barbara B. Ruffner for $10,700.

(DBV 3982 P 584)

Donald R. and Barbara B. Ruffner of Allegheny County conveyed 908 Beech Avenue to King North Development Corporation for $11,750.

(DBV 4504 P 627)

King North Development Corporation conveyed 908 Beech Avenue to Herman D. and Kyle K. Tomer of Pittsburgh for $14,000.

(DBV 5780 P 833)

Herman D. and Kyle K. Tomer of Pitsburgh conveyed 908 Beech Avenue to Marc Morley Kane and Barbara Stewart Kane of Pittsburgh for $92,500.

(DBV 6284 P 5)

James W. and Ida Walton Scully of Pittsburgh conveyed 845 North Lincoln Avenue to James S. Childs of Pittsburgh for $1 and other considerations.

(DBV 1894 P 21)

Gregory M. Kobulnicky purchased 908 Beech Avenue from Marc Morley Kane and Barbara Stewart Kane on January 30, 2017.

(DBV 16686 P 324)

Age of the House

Historical records suggest that John and Jane Sterritt had 908 Beech Avenue built in or shortly before 1868.

The June 13,1872 sale of the lot on which 908 Beech Avenue stands for $2200, at 55 cents per square foot, is consistent with the lot being undeveloped. However, Pittsburgh city directories listed John Sterritt and his son William H. Sterritt at 53 Beech Street (now 908 Beech Avenue) beginning in 1870. In 1868 and 1869, before houses on Beech Avenue received numbers, directories listed John and William Sterritt as living on Beech Avenue near Grant Avenue (now Galveston Avenue).

An 1890 plat map shows that 908 Beech Avenue was known as 53 Beech Street. Most older North Side neighborhoods received their current street numbers in 1899.
John Sterritt’s occupation as an Allegheny City realtor suggests that Sterritt may have entered into an unrecorded agreement with Elizabeth F. Denny, from whom he bought the lot, enabling Sterritt to erect a house on the lot before he became the owner of the property. The price that Sterritt paid for the lot also supports that possibility. Allegheny County records show rising prices for undeveloped Beech Avenue lots between the late 1860s, when few homes had been built on the street, and 1872, when more than 20 houses had been built. The 55 cents per square foot that John Sterritt paid in 1872 was closer to the prices that Beech Avenue lot buyers paid in the late 1860s than in the early 1870s.

Architectural Style

John and Jane Sterritt had 908 Beech Avenue built in the Italianate style. The style is shown in the house’s projecting front door surround with brackets and decorative panels, in the facade’s projecting window hoods, and in the paired brackets that are below the box gutter and within the east gable.

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 Italianate style was the most popular architectural style for houses and commercial buildings constructed in the Pittsburgh area between about 1860 and 1885.Known records do not identify an architect who is credited with the design of 908 Beech Avenue, or a construction firm that built the house.

Rear Building

The two-story brick building at the rear of 908 Beech Avenue was constructed in 1895, with construction possibly extending into 1896. The building was apparently constructed for storage of electrical supplies.

Fire insurance maps published in 1884 and 1893 depict a two-story wood frame stable at the rear of the property at 908 Beech Avenue. Allegheny City government began to require building permits for new construction, additions, and alterations in 1894. Allegheny City building permit records show that on November 19,1895, Margaret McC. Price received a permit for the construction of what was described as a two-story brick storage building on Buttercup Alley. The building was to measure 15’ by 25’, and had an estimated construction cost of $600. George L.W. Price, a son of Margaret McC. Price, was to construct the building.
A 1901 plat map and a 1906 fire insurance map depict the brick building. The 1906 fire insurance map labelled the building as “electric shop.” Pittsburgh directories show that George L.W. Price and his father, William P. Price, became electrical contractors together in about 1895.

Street Name and Numbering

The house at 908 Beech Avenue was known as 53 Beech Avenue between about 1870 and 1899. It was renumbered 908 Beech Avenue in 1899, when Allegheny City government put in place the Northside’s modern street numbering system.

Residents

The Sterritts

Pittsburgh directories, U.S. census records, and other sources provide information on John and Jane Sterritt.

Learn More

The Prices

The second owners of 908 Beech Avenue were William P. Price, a native of Allegheny City, and his wife Margaret.

Learn More

The 1920 Census

Records of the 1920 census show that 908 Beech Avenue was rented to families headed by Glen Dean, David Ford, Henry Lutz, and Gerald Latshaw. A total of 14 people lived in the house.

Glen Dean, 39, was an auto repairman who had been born in Ohio. His wife Mary, 37, had been born in Pennsylvania. The couple had four children: Forrest, 14, Rowan, 13, Bessie, eight, and James, six.

David Ford was a 22-year-old box maker who had been born in New Jersey. His wife Maria had been born in New York. The Fords’ only child was Maria, 18 months.
Henry Lutz, 40, was a steel mill laborer. He and his wife Evelyn, 37, had both been born in Pennsylvania and had no children.

Gerald Latshaw, a native of Pennsylvania, was a 24-year-old chauffeur who worked for a private family. His wife Helen, 22, had been born in New York State. The couple had a five- year-old daughter, Germaine.

The 1930 Census

Records of the 1930 census list Margaret Byrnes as the head of the household at 908 Beech Avenue. Byrnes, 66, was a widow who had been born in Northern Ireland and arrived in the United States in 1888. Her occupation was listed as landlady of a rooming house. She had four children and six roomers who lived with her. Byrnes’ children who lived with her, all unmarried, were William, 30, a news dealer at a newsstand, Paul, 28, a detective with a detective agency, Anne, 26, with no occupation, and Regis, 23, with no occupation.
The roomers who lived at 908 Beech Avenue in 1930 were:

  • Charles Anderson, 45, a steel mill laborer
  • Joanna Anderson, 45, with no occupation; Charles Anderson’s wife
  • William Lang, 40, a laborer in a pressed steel works
  • Grace Lang, 40, with no occupation; William Lang’s wife
  • Charles Brown, 28, a cabdriver
  • Mary Brown, 25, with no occupation; Charles Brown’s wife

All of the roomers living at 908 Beech Avenue in 1930 were at least second-generation natives of Pennsylvania.

The 1940 Census

In 1940, according to census records, Thomas and Ann Byrnes owned and lived at 908 Beech Avenue. Thomas Byrnes, 40, had been born in Ireland, was a high school graduate, and was employed as a street foreman with the city Bureau of Highways. He had worked 48 hours in the week before the census. In 1939, he had worked seven weeks and earned $245. His wife, Ann, 38, was also a high school graduate, and did not work outside the home. She had been born in Pennsylvania. They had three children: Thomas Jr., six, Ann, four, and Charles, one.

Thomas and Ann Byrnes rented apartments at 908 Beech Avenue to Earl and Hilda Brant, Angelo Festi, Norman and Elizabeth Currie, and George W. Richardson.

The Brants rented their apartment for $27 per month. Earl Brant, 21, was a dispatcher with a motor freight company. He was a Pennsylvania native who had completed three years of high school. In the week before the census he had worked 48 hours, and in 1939 he had worked 52 weeks and earned $1500. Hilda Brant, 56, was listed, probably incorrectly, as Earl’s wife. She had been born in Pennsylvania, was a high school graduate, and had no occupation.

Angelo Festi, 46, rented for $18 per month. He had been born in South America, had an eighth grade education, and worked in building construction. In 1939, he had worked 22 weeks and earned $1040. He was married, but was living apart from his wife. He shared his apartment with his son, Vincent, who was 19 years old. Vincent Festi had been born in Italy and had an eighth grade education. He was employed as a candy maker in a candy factory. He had worked 40 hours in the week before the census, and in 1939 he had worked 38 weeks and earned $646.
Norman and Elizabeth Currie, both natives of Scotland, paid $26 monthly rent. Norman Currie, 45, was a high school graduate and an instructor at a golf club. He had worked 48 hours in the week before the census, and in 1939 he had worked 32 weeks and earned $960. Elizabeth Currie, 40, had completed the eighth grade and did not work outside the home. The couple had two children: Helen, five, and Mary Elizabeth, three.

George W. Richardson rented for $12 per month. He was 81 years old and a widower with an eighth grade education. He had been born in Pennsylvania, and was retired. He had income other than from salary or wages.
In 1940,908 Beech Avenue had an estimated value of $1500. The house’s value was estimated at $8000 in 1930, before the Great Depression affected property values throughout the Pittsburgh area and in other regions of the United States.

The 1940 census is the last census that provides information on occupants of 908 Beech Avenue. Manuscript census records are withheld from public view for 72 years, to protect the privacy of persons who were enumerated.

Supplementary Materials

The following materials accompany this report:


A Researched History
By: Carol J. Peterson

all photos by Nick Smerker, unless otherwise noted

The Trauermans

Isaac Trauerman was married to Amanda Klee, a daughter of Joseph and Rosa Klee, in 1889-1890. The young couple lived with the Klee family at 927 Beech Avenue before they moved to 935 Beech Avenue.

Isaac G. Trauerman was a son of Samuel Trauerman, a livestock dealer who resided at 930 Beech Avenue, and lived with his family at that address before he was married. In 1889-1890 Isaac G. Trauerman became a partner in the family business, B.S. Trauerman & Company, located in Pittsburgh’s Central Stock Yards in East Liberty. He remained a partner in B.S. Trauerman & Company throughout the time that he lived at 935 Beech Avenue.

The 1898 Pittsburgh directory listed Isaac G. Trauerman as a partner in the Home Dressed Meat Company at 200 South 21st Street on the South Side. Trauerman’s home address was not listed. In 1899, Trauerman was again associated with B.S. Trauerman & Company, but had moved to Sioux City, Iowa.