Theodore H. Nevin was born in October 1814 in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania. Nevin’s father died while Nevin was a child, and Nevin and his mother moved to Allegheny City (now the North Side). Theodore H. Nevin was listed in the Pittsburgh city directory as early as 1841, as a druggist living at Mrs. Little’s boarding house on Fifth Avenue, Downtown. Nevin, according to information published in an obituary, by then owned a successful drugstore on Liberty Avenue near Sixth Street.
Nevin married Hannah Irwin, a daughter of Allegheny City rope manufacturer John Irwin, in the early 1840s. They had seven children who are known today: William, born in 1842-43, Eliza in 1844-45, Charles F. in 1847-48, Alexander in 1850-51, T. Herbert in 1855-56, Martha M. in 1862-63, and Frank Y. in 1866-67.
In 1841, Nevin established the Pioneer White Lead Works (later the Pioneer Paint Works), a paint factory, on Federal Street in Allegheny City. By 1847, Nevin, his wife Hannah, and their children lived on Federal Street. Samuel Finley, who later invested with Theodore H. Nevin in property at North Lincoln and Galveston avenues, was a partner in the Pioneer White Lead Works.
In the 1840s, Theodore H. Nevin became a trustee of the Western Theological Seminary in Allegheny City. In or after the 1840s, he helped found the First National Bank of Allegheny. He became president of the bank in the 1860s. The bank was located at 110 Federal Street in Allegheny City.
Nevin and his family moved from Allegheny City to Sewickley in the mid-1850s. In 1858, after the Irwin rope walk ceased operation, the Pioneer Paint Works moved to its longtime home at the southeast corner of Western and Galveston avenues. The paint works apparently thrived at that location. Allegheny City and Pittsburgh experienced significant economic and population growth in the 1860s and the first few years of the 1870s, resulting in considerable demand for paint and related products. It is possible that Nevin and others originally purchased the adjacent property at North Lincoln and Galveston avenues as a site for possible expansion of the Pioneer Paint Works.
In 1872, with demand for housing for middle-class and wealthy families in Allegheny West apparently stronger than any impetus to expand the paint works, Theodore H. Nevin and his business partner and brother-in-law John Irwin Jr. commissioned the construction of 850-858 North Lincoln Avenue. John Irwin Jr. conveyed his interest in the property to Theodore H. Nevin in 1874. Nevin had a smaller row of houses at 808-810-812 Galveston Avenue built around that time. He rented 850-858 North Lincoln Avenue, which became known as Nevin’s Row, and 808-812 Galveston Avenue to tenants.
The 1870 census, the last census to provide information on assets of persons enumerated, found that Theodore H. Nevin owned real estate worth $25,000 and had a personal estate of $53,000. Nevin’s total assets of $78,000 were comparable to more than $2 million in the early 21st century. Records of the 1880 census show that the Nevin family lived in an un-numbered house on the south side of Bank Street in Sewickley. Theodore H. Nevin had passed on his interest in the Pioneer Paint Works to his son Charles the year before, but remained president of the First National Bank of Allegheny. He served as president of the bank until he died on April 30, 1884. Hannah Nevin lived in Sewickley until she died in 1899.