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

The Kaufmanns

Jacob Kaufmann was a confounder of what became Kaufmann’s Department Store. He was the first of four Kaufmann brothers to settle in Pittsburgh, and was the last of the four brothers to move away from Allegheny City to Pittsburgh’s East End in the early twentieth century.

Jacob Kaufmann was born in the vicinity of Mannheim, Hesse Darmstadt, Germany, in June 1849. He was one of at least five children of a cattle and horse dealer. Kaufmann immigrated in about 1869 and began living in the borough of East Birmingham (part of the present South Side of Pittsburgh) within a short time. The 1870 Pittsburgh directory was the first to list Jacob Kaufmann or any members of his family. The directory listed Kaufmann and his brother Isaac, who had just arrived in Pittsburgh, as clerks who boarded at 1911 East Carson Street in East Birmingham.

The federal census of population taken in 1870 enumerated Jacob Kaufmann as a boarder in the home of Julius Prader, a German immigrant tailor, in East Birmingham. Isaac Kaufmann was not enumerated in Pittsburgh in the 1870 census, suggesting the census was taken before he arrived in the city.

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

By 1871, Jacob and Isaac Kaufmann founded J. Kaufmann & Brother, a men’s clothing store at 1916 East Carson Street. The first store’s floor space was only 18’ by 28’. Each of the brothers initially invested $1500 in the store – an amount that was approximately half the value of many of the homes in the neighborhood in which the Kaufmanns started their business. The store operated at 1932 East Carson Street, in a larger space measuring 20’ by 85’, between 1872 and 1876.

Jacob Kaufmann, 25, married Augusta Katz, 18, in 1874. Augusta Katz was born in downtown Pittsburgh in March 1856. She was one of at least three children of Abraham Katz, a peddler and laborer, and Julia Katz, both German immigrants. The Katz family appears to have lived modestly, renting living quarters in a small alley Downtown in 1860.

Abraham Katz died in the late 1860’s, and Julia Katz subsequently supported her children by operating a confectionery on East Ohio Street near Cedar Avenue in, the East Allegheny neighborhood. Augusta Katz worked as a saleswoman in the early 1870’s, before she was married. Known records do not identify the store in which she was employed.

After marrying, Jacob and Augusta Kaufmann initially lived above the store at 1932 East Carson Street. Isaac Kaufmann, still unmarried, lived with his brother.

In 1876-1877, the Kaufmann brothers closed the South Side operations and moved J. Kaufmann & Brother to storefronts on Smithfield Street, downtown, and Federal Street in Allegheny City (on the present site of Allegheny Center Mall). Jacob, Augusta and Isaac Kaufmann then moved from the South Side to a small house at 1414 (then 290) Federal Street in Allegheny City.

Jacob and Augusta Kaufmann’s first child, Alfred D, was born in September 1877. Following were Raymond M. in August 1879, C. Chester in July 1882, Edwin J. in May 1884, and Carl J. in July 1888. The Kaufmanns were among the minority of families who did not experience the death of a young child in the nineteenth century. The couple also adopted an orphan, Mitchell Schonberg.

In the late 1870’s, Jacob and Augusta Kaufmann moved to a larger house on Penn Avenue near Fifth Street, Downtown. Isaac Kaufmann, recently married, and his wife, Emma, began living next door to Jacob and Augusta Kaufmann. Another brother, Henry Kaufmann, had just settled in Pittsburgh, and boarded with Isaac Kauffmann’s family. Henry Kaufmann was the third of the four brothers who would become partners in what became Kaufmann’s Department Store.

J Kaufmann & Brother’s Federal Street store closed in about 1879. Subsequently, the Kaufmann brothers incrementally expanded the Smithfield Street store from its original 20’ by 50’ space to nearly a full city block by the end of Jacob Kaufmann’s life. With the expansion of the store, Kaufmann’s evolved from being one of many small clothing stores in Pittsburgh to one of a handful of large department stores in the city in the early twentieth century. The store began to offer women’s clothing and dry goods in addition to men’s clothing. It was not, however, the largest department store in Pittsburgh. in 1892, Kaufmann’s was worth $2 million, while its rival Joseph Home’s was worth $4.7 million.

As Kaufmann’s expanded, Jacob Kaufmann invested in real estate in its vicinity and became a significant owner of downtown property. Kaufmann also recognized the development potential of the East End, and invested in real estate there in the 1890’s.

The 1880 census enumerated the Kaufmann family in their home on Penn Avenue. Jacob Kaufmann was recorded as a clothing merchant, and Augusta Kaufmann kept house. The couple had two children, Alfred D., three, and Raymond, 10 months. Hannah Katz, a 26-year-old sister of Augusta Kaufmann, lived with the family. Census records also show that Jacob and Augusta Kaufmann, although only 30 and 25 years old, were able to employ three servants who lived in their home on Penn Avenue.

Morris Kaufmann, the last of the four brothers to arrive in Pittsburgh, began living on Penn Avenue in the early 1880s. A fifth brother, Nathan, remained in Germany. J. Kaufmann & Brother was renamed J. Kaufmann & Brothers at around the same time. The store became informally known as Kaufmann’s by the turn of the century.

Jacob and Augusta Kaufmann and their children moved in about 1883 from Penn Avenue to a home at 1238 Sheffield Street in Manchester. Isaac Kaufmann and his family moved to 1203 Sheffield Street and Morris Kaufmann moved to 1301 Bidwell Street in Manchester at around the same time. Henry Kaufmann moved from downtown to 1208 Sheffield Street later in the 1880’s. The Kaufmann’s new neighborhood became the home of some of the most prominent and prosperous Jewish residents of the Pittsburgh area in the 1880’s. Manchester’s Jewish population appears to have been concentrated on Sheffield and Liverpool Streets and W North Avenue.
The Kaufmanns lived at 1238 Sheffield Street until they purchased 913 Brighton Road in late 1890. Jacob Kaufmann’s brothers continued to live in Manchester for the next several years.

In 1900, according to census records, seven members of the Kaufmann family lived at 913 Brighton Road: Jacob, 50, a clothing merchant; Augusta, 44, with no occupation; Alfred D., 22, a clerk; and Raymond M., 20, C. Chester, 17, Edwin 16, Carl J, 11, all attending school. The Kaufmanns’ adopted son, Mitchell Schonberg, 15, also attended school.

The 1900 census enumerated three servants who lived at 913 Brighton Road:

  • Dora Hamm, 30, a German immigrant
  • Mary Pietch, 30, also a German immigrant
  • Ella Gardner, 37, born in Pennsylvania

Records of the 1900 census also show that Jacob and Augusta Kaufmann owned 913 Brighton Road without a mortgage.

Nearly all of the Jewish residents of Manchester and Allegheny West moved to Pittsburgh’s East End between the late 1890’s and the middle of the first decade of the twentieth century. Morris Kaufmann was among the first to leave, moving to Forbes Avenue near Wightman Street in Squirrel Hill in 1896-1897. Isaac and Henry Kaufmann followed in about 1900, leaving Jacob Kaufmann the only Kaufmann brother still living in Allegheny City. In 1902, Jacob Kaufmann and his family sold 913 Brighton Road and moved to 4922 Wallingford Street in Shadyside.

In 1904 or 1905, Kaufmann commissioned construction of a large home at 1935 Wightman Street in Squirrel Hill. The Kaufmanns moved into their new house, described in the Pittsburgh Gazette Times as “one of the finest homes on Squirrel Hill,” in mid- or late-1905.

Jacob Kaufmann lived at 1935 Wightman Street for only a short time. Kaufmann died on November 1, 1905, at age 56. His death was caused by appendicitis.

After the death of Jacob Kaufmann, his brother Isaac succeeded him as president of Kaufmann’s.

Augusta Kaufmann lived at 1935 Wightman Street for the rest of her life. Her obituary suggests that she continued charitable activities in which she had participated, without identifying organizations in which she was involved. Her sons continued to live with her before marrying. At least two of her sons, Alfred and Edwin, were associated with Kaufmann’s as an adult; others continued their father’s real estate activities.

Augusta Kaufmann died at home at 1935 Wightman Street on December 31, 1921. She was 65 years old.

913 Brighton Road

913 Brighton Road (Front)

Introduction

John Davidson, a saddler, commissioned construction of 913 Brighton Road in 1870 or 1871. The house was built on a piece of ground that Davidson had purchased for $2760 in 1860. Davidson had 913 Brighton Road built in the Italianate style. The house was built in the Second Ward of Allegheny City, which became part of the city of Pittsburgh in 1907.

The third floor of the front section of 913 Brighton Road was added in about 1890. At or about the same time, the house was altered with the addition of rough cut stone lintels, stone ornamentation around the front door opening, new front doors, and brick corbelling above the second floor front windows. These features express the Romanesque Revival style, popular in Pittsburgh between about 1890 and 1900.

Augusta Kaufmann, the wife of Pittsburgh department store owner Jacob Kaufmann, purchased 913 Brighton Road (then known as 68 Irwin Avenue) in 1890. Jacob and Augusta Kaufmann may have been responsible for the Romanesque Revival alterations to the house.

Augusta and Jacob Kaufmann and their children lived at 913 Brighton Road between 1890-1891 and 1902. Jacob Kaufmann was then one of four brothers who owned Kaufmann’s Department Store in Downtown Pittsburgh. He was the first of the Kaufmann brothers to immigrate to Pittsburgh, and founded the store on the South Side in 18704871. Kaufmann oversaw the store’s transformation from one of many small clothing stores in Pittsburgh to a large department store during the last two decades of the twentieth century.

Jacob Kaufmann was the last of the four Kaufmann brothers to leave Allegheny City for Pittsburgh’s East End. In 1902, he and Augusta Kaufmann sold 913 Brighton Road for $22,500 and moved to Shadyside. The family began living in a mansion in Squirrel Hill in 1905, only a few months before Jacob Kaufmann died.

The house at 913 Brighton Road has now had a total of seven owners.

Detailed information on the history of 913 Brighton Road is contained in the following report.

Ownership

  • July 1, 1852
  • March 23, 1854
  • November 1, 1860
  • January 16, 1877
  • February 28, 1880
  • December 16, 1890
  • May 12, 1902
  • February 14, 1933
  • January 27, 1939
  • December 16, 1963
  • July 13, 1979

Elizabeth F. Denny of Pittsburgh conveyed property that included the present site of 913 Brighton Road to the Allegheny Gas Company for $6,000. The property that was conveyed was located at the northwestern corner of the West Commons (later Irwin Avenue, now Brighton Road) and Water Lane (now Western Avenue) in Allegheny City. The property measured l8l’4” wide along Brighton Road by 220’ deep along Western Avenue to an alley.

(Deed Book Volume 103, Page 512)

Elizabeth F. Denny of Pittsburgh conveyed additional property on Brighton Road to the Allegheny Gas Company for $4,000. The property that was conveyed bordered the property described in the July 1, 1852 deed and measured 96’ wide along Brighton Road by 220’ deep to an alley.

(DBV 116 P 531)

The Allegheny Gas Company conveyed a lot that included the present site of 913 Brighton Road to John Davidson of Allegheny City for $2,760. The lot that was conveyed was located on Brighton Road (then Irwin Avenue), 75’ north of Western Avenue (then Water Lane), and measured 60’ wide along Brighton Road by 220’ deep to an alley.

(DBV 148 P 77)

John and Margaret Davidson of Allegheny City conveyed 913 Brighton Road to Eliza Davidson of Allegheny City for $20,000. The house occupied the lot on which it now stands, measuring 40’ wide along Brighton Road by 220’ deep.

(DBV 369 P 480)

Eliza Davidson of Allegheny City conveyed 913 Brighton Road to Clara L. McMurtry, wife of George G. McMurtry of Allegheny City, for $21,000.

(DBV 423 P 358)

George G. and Clara L. McMurtry of Allegheny City conveyed 913 Brighton Road to Augusta Kaufmann, wife of Jacob Kaufmann of Allegheny City, for $30,000.

(DBV 728 P 274)

Jacob and Augusta Kaufmann of Allegheny City conveyed 913 Brighton Road to G.C. Dellenbach of Allegheny City for $22,500.

Allegheny City became part of the city of Pittsburgh in 1907. G.C. Dellenbach died on November 13, 1927. He was survived by his son, George S. Dellenbach, and daughter, Hester Patterson.

(DBV 1178 P 573)

Hester and Edward H. Patterson of Mount Lebanon conveyed their half-interest in 913 Brighton Road to George S. Dellenbach of Ross Township for $1 and other considerations.

(DBV 2478 P 459)

George S. Dellenbach of Ross Township conveyed 913 Brighton Road to Clair E. McGinnis of Pittsburgh for $1 and other considerations (tax stamps suggest a price of $6,000).

(DBV 2619 P 266)

Title to 913 Brighton Road was placed in the names of Clair E. and Kathryn McGinnis of Pittsburgh.

(DBV 4135 P 484)

Robert I. and Carole E. Malakoff purchased 913 Brighton Road from Kathryn McGinnis on July 13, 1979.

(DBV 6138 P 889)

Age of the House

Construction

John Davidson commissioned construction of 913 Brighton Road in 1870 or 1871.

John Davidson purchased property that included the lot on which 913 Brighton Road now stands on November 1, 1860. Davidson paid $2,760 for a lot that measured 60’ wide along Brighton Road (then the West Commons) by 220’ deep to an alley. This purchase, at 21 cents per square foot, was comparable to prices paid for other undeveloped lots in Allegheny City at the time, and indicates that 913 Brighton Road had not yet been built.
The 1871 Pittsburgh city directory listed John Davidson as living at 68 Irwin Avenue (now 913 Brighton Road) for the first time. Davidson was listed as a saddler. An 1872 plat map of the Second Ward of Allegheny City confirms that 913 Brighton Road had been built.

Allegheny County mortgage records contain no record of any loan taken by John Davidson that could have been used to finance construction of 913 Brighton Road. If Davidson had taken a mortgage to build the house, the date of the loan could establish a narrower period of construction.

Architectural Style

John Davidson had 913 Brighton Road built as a two-story Italianate house, Most of the exterior Italianate features of 913 Brighton Road were removed between 1890 and 1893, when Jacob and Augusta Kaufmann had the house enlarged and remodeled in the Romanesque Revival style.

Original exterior Italianate features of 913 Brighton Road include the house’s segmentally arched windows on its facade and the three-sided bay on the first floor of the southern elevation, with fully arched windows and eight-sided Italianate panels below the windows. It should also be noted that an 1884 fire insurance map shows that the house was originally two stories in height. It is likely that the original two story house was built with a side-gabled roof, like most Italianate houses built in urban neighborhoods in Pittsburgh.

In urban neighborhoods like Allegheny West, where high land costs discouraged construction of homes with more than about 22’ frontage, Italianate house exteriors were characterized primarily by arched door and window openings, prominent or projecting door and window hoods, and decorative brackets supporting box gutters. It is likely that 913 Brighton Road was originally constructed with all of these features.
Interior details of Italianate homes often included flared newel posts and spindles, marble or wood mantels with arched openings, four-panel doors with porcelain knobs and ornamented cast iron hinges, and non-symmetrical door and window trim with diagonally mitered corners. In Pittsburgh, many Italianate homes were built with stairways that incorporated landings located about three steps below the main level of the second floor. Most local Italianate homes also featured two-over-two double hung windows, although some later or larger examples were constructed with one-over-one double-hung windows.

The Italianate style and the related Second Empire style were the prevailing architectural styles for homes and commercial buildings constructed in the Pittsburgh area between the mid-1860’s and about 1885.

Comparable Home Values

The house at 913 Brighton Road was sold for the first time in 1877, for $20,000. Prices of other North Side homes sold in or about 1877 included:

  • 1239 Resaca Place, Mexican War Streets, $4,000 (1877)
  • 1228 Resaca Place, Mexican War Streets, $5,000 (1876)
  • 1725 Perrysville Avenue, Perry Hilltop, $5,000 (1876)
  • a row of five houses at 1013-1021 Galveston Avenue, $26,000, or $5200 per house (1876)
  • 2141 Perrysville Avenue, Perry Hilltop, $6000 (1875)
  • 1400 Pennsylvania Avenue, Manchester, $25,000 (1875)
  • 516 West North Avenue, Mexican War Streets, $32,500 (1875)

Alterations Circa 1890

An 1884 fire insurance map depicts the front section of 913 Brighton Road as being two stories in height. The next insurance map, published in 1893, shows that the height of the front section of the house had increased to three stories.

Some exterior architectural features of 913 Brighton Road are consistent with an expansion and remodeling of the house in about 1890. These features included the house’s rough-cut stone lintels, the stone ornamentation around the front doors, the brick corbeling above the second floor windows, the stone belt course linking the sills of the third floor windows, the textured brick used above the third floor front windows, and the arched third floor windows of the house’s northern elevation (facing toward Beech Avenue).
These features are characteristic of the Romanesque Revival style, which was popular in Pittsburgh between approximately 1890 and 1900. It appears likely that the Romanesque Revival features displayed by the original section of 913 Brighton Road were added when the third-floor addition was constructed. Allegheny City building permit records, available beginning in 1894, contain no record of issuance of a permit for alterations to 913 Brighton Road.

Available records do not identify an architect who is credited with design of 913 Brighton Road or with the enlargement of the house in about 1890.

Through the Years


 

Residents

The Kaufmanns

Jacob and Augusta Kaufmann owned 913 Brighton Road between 1890 and 1902. Pittsburgh city directories, U.S. census records, Pittsburgh newspapers, and a book, The Jewish Experience in Western Pennsylvania: A History 1755-1945, provide information on the Kaufmanns.

Learn More

Neighborhood Development

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

Learn More

Supplementary Materials

The following materials accompany this report:

  • a copy of part of an 1852 map depicting the Allegheny City area
  • copies of parts of plat maps of the area around 913 Brighton Road, published in 1872 and 1901
  • copies of parts of fire insurance maps of the area around 913 Brighton Road, published in 1884, 1893, 1906 and 1925
  • a copy of an advertisement for Kaufmann’s, from the Pittsburgh Press, October 30, 1905
  • the obituary of Jacob Kaufmann, from the Pittsburgh Press, November 1, 1905
  • the obituary of Augusta Kaufmann, from the Pittsburgh Gazette Times, January 1, 1922
  • “The Kaufmann Legacy” interactive special, from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

A Researched History
By: Carol J. Peterson

all photos by Chris Siewers, unless otherwise noted

The Milligans

Robert Milligan was born in Swissvale on August 28, 1869. Milligan first appeared in the Pittsburgh city directory in the late 1890’s as a physician who lived in Swissvale and practiced in the Smith Block in Downtown Pittsburgh. Directories listed Milligan as living in Swissvale and practicing in the Westinghouse Building during the early 1900’s. The 1909 directory reported that he lived at the Duquesne Club in Downtown Pittsburgh.

The 1910 manuscript census reported that Robert Milligan and his wife Marguerite lived at 934 Western Avenue with Marguerite Milligan’s mother, Hester Singer, and two servants. The Milligans, married one year, had no children. Robert Milligan, 39, was a physician in general practice, and Marguerite Milligan, 36, had no occupation.

Hester Singer, a 72 year old widow born in Pennsylvania, was of Irish descent. She had had four children, with all still living in 1910, and owned her home at 934 North Lincoln Avenue fully. She had no occupation.

Servants living at 934 Western Avenue were Agnes Benach, 36, a “ladies maid” who was born in Germany and immigrated to the United States in 1907, and Annie Kelley, 32, a chambermaid who was born in Ireland and immigrated in 1895.

Directories listed Robert Milligan at 934 Western Avenue through 1918. He was listed at 709 Irwin Avenue from 1919 to 1940, the year after Marguerite Singer Milligan died. After selling 709 Irwin Avenue in 1940, Milligan lived at the Hotel Schenley in Oakland through 1943, the last year he appeared in the directory.

The 1920 manuscript census will be available to the public in 1992 and should provide information on residents of 709 Irwin Avenue in 1920. Census information is withheld for 72 years after it is gathered for purposes of privacy.

The Darlingtons (Harry)

Harry Darlington Jr. was born May 8, 1888, when his family lived at 50 Irwin Avenue (now 721 Brighton Road). His parents were Harry Darlington and Mary E. McCullough Darlington. Harry Darlington Jr. was born about two years before his parents demolished an earlier mansion on the site of 721 Brighton Road and built what is now known as the Darlington house.

Harry Darlington was an industrialist whose business pursuits included founding the Westmoreland & Cambria Natural Gas Company, operation of a brewery, and many corporate directorships. At the time of Harry Darlington Jr.’s birth, Harry Darlington operated a brewery at 110-112 First Avenue in Downtown Pittsburgh. Mary E. McCullough Darlington was the daughter of Jacob Nessly McCullough, a vice president of the Pennsylvania Railroad, and Rebecca T. Andrews McCullough.

According to the 1900 manuscript census, Harry Darlington Jr., then 12, lived at 50 Irwin Avenue with his parents, sister, and five servants. The census reported that Harry Darlington, 62, had been born in Pennsylvania to parents who had been born in England. Darlington owned his home fully. The census gave his occupation as “capitalist.”

Margaret E. McCullough Darlington, 44, had been born in Ohio to parents also born in Ohio. In 1900 the Darlingtons had been married 23 years and had had five children, with two children still living. In addition to Harry Darlington Jr., the Darlingtons had a daughter, Rebecca M., 20, who had no occupation.

The Darlingtons’ servants were Margaret Griffin, 31, who was born in Ireland and immigrated to the United States in 1883; Julia Griffin, 29, who was born in Ireland and immigrated to the United States in 1888; Bridget Carey, 48, born in Ireland and immigrated in 1873; Rose McCague, 36, born in Ireland and immigrated in 1883; and Loraine Oger, 21, born in Pennsylvania and of German descent.

The census also reported that all residents of 721 Irwin Avenue were able to read and write.

Harry Darlington Jr. first appeared in the Pittsburgh city directory in 1909, when he lived at 72 Irwin Avenue (now 709 Brighton Road). At the time, Darlington worked with his father in Room 42 of the Fidelity Building, 341 Fourth Avenue. Directories did not indicate the type of business in which the Darlingtons were engaged.

Sources provide conflicting information on whether Harry Darlington Jr. was married at the time of the 1910 census. The 1910 manuscript census reported that the younger Darlington, then 22, lived at 709 Irwin Avenue with a 20 year old woman identified as Lasheda W. Darlington, his wife. The census indicated that Lasheda W. Darlington had been born in Ohio, that the couple had been married one year, and that eight servants also lived at 709 Irwin Avenue.

Biographical materials indicate that Harry Darlington Jr. was first married in 1917, when he married Ethel Shields. Allegheny County marriage license applications contain no record of Darlington applying for a marriage license in or before 1910, and an index of weddings reported in Pittsburgh newspapers also does not mention Harry Darlington Jr. It seems likely that a census taker incorrectly recorded one of the many servants living at 709 Irwin Avenue as Harry Darlington Jr.’s wife.

The 1910 census reported that servants living at 709 Irwin Avenue were Bridget O’Neill, 30, who had been born in Ireland and immigrated in 1900; Howard Challingsworth, 30, born in England and immigrated in 1902; Louise Tiefenbuner, 34, born in Austrian Germany and immigrated in 1905; Elizabeth Yems, 32, born in Canada and immigrated in 1892; Josephine O’Hara, 24, born in Ireland and immigrated in 1903; Agnes P. Rintone, 35, born in Scotland and immigrated in 1892; Franklin C. Hubener, 38, born in New Jersey and of German descent; and Julia M. Dartoux, 39, born in France and immigrated in 1909.

The 1910 census also reported that Harry Darlington Jr. owned 709 Irwin Avenue fully, and gave Darlington’s occupation as “own income.” In 1910, the census also reported Darlington’s father’s occupation as “own income.”

Directories listed Harry Darlington Jr. as living at 72 or 709 Irwin Avenue and working in the Fidelity Building through 1918. Darlington was listed at 721 Irwin Avenue beginning in 1919; his father had died in 1914, and his mother in 1918. Continuing to work in the Fidelity Building, Darlington lived at 721 Irwin Avenue through 1925.

Harry Darlington Jr. was listed as living in Sewickley Heights and working in the Union Bank Building between 1926 and 1931. Darlington died on June 25, 1931.

709 Brighton Road

709 Brighton Road

Introduction

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

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

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

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

Ownership

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

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

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

(Deed Book Volume 369, Page 650)

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

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

(DBV 395 P 154)

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

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

(DBV 1002 P 72)

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

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

(DBV 1200 P 72)

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

(DBV 1772 P 425)

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

(DBV 1947 P 330)

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

(DBV 2666 P 567)

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

(DBV 2736 P 391)

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

(DBV 6570 P 35)

Age of the House

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

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

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

The Architect

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

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

Residents

The Darlingtons

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

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The Milligans

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

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Conversion to Rooming House

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

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

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

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

Supplementary Materials

The following materials accompany this report:

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

A Researched History
By: Carol J. Peterson

all photos by Chris Siewers, unless otherwise noted

The Biancos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Holmes Hall

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Holmeses (Letitia)

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

1830 to 1870

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1870 to 1914

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1914 to the Present

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

719 Brighton Road

719 Brighton Road

Introduction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ownership

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

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

(Deed Book Volume 2, Page 97)

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

(DBV 19 P 127)

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

(DBV 22 P 189)

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

(DBV 180 P 191)

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

(DBV 184 P 201)

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

(DBV 194 P 14)

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

(DBV 239 P 307)

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

(DBV 2172 P 529)

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

(DBV 3355 P 670)

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

(DBV 3392 P 12)

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

(DBV 6718 P 181)

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

(DBV 7251 P 395)

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

(DBV 7887 P 364)

Age of the House

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Contractors

John H. Trimble & Brother

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

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

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

Patterson & Shaw

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

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

The Home Today

Photos by Chris Siewers

Residents

The Holmeses

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

Learn More

Holmes Hall

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

Learn More


The Biancos

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

Learn More


Rope Walk

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

Learn More

Supplementary Materials

The following materials accompany this report:

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

A Researched History
By: Carol J. Peterson

all photos by Chris Siewers, unless otherwise noted

A & S Wilson

The firm was located at 541-551 Third Avenue, Downtown. It was a partnership of Adam Wilson of 318 North Neville Street, Oakland, J. Charles Wilson of 320 N Neville Street, and W.P. Clyde of 147 Auburn Street in East Liberty.

A & S Wilson built houses and other buildings for a number of Pittsburgh’s manufacturing and social elite in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Work by the firm in Allegheny West included the construction of a large carriage house at 705 Brighton Road.

Other work by A & S Wilson included construction of:

  • Downtown: the headquarters of the Jones & Laughlin Steel Company at 200 Ross Street
  • Squirrel Hill: houses at 1130 Shady Avenue and 1405, 1415, and 1427 Squirrel Hill Avenue
  • Shadyside: the Spencer House at 719 Amberson Avenue; houses at 5131 Ellsworth Avenue,
    653 Morewood Avenue, 5131 Pembroke Place, and 512-514 Shady Avenue; and a carriage
    house at 400 Devonshire Street
  • Highland Park: a house at 5655 Stanton Avenue