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806 Western Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15233

The Torrances

Francis Torrance was born in Letterkenny, Ireland in 1816. After living in various locations, Torrance settled in Pittsburgh and began working as manager of the Schenley Estate by 1858.

Francis Torrance appeared in the Pittsburgh city directory as early as 1857, when he was listed as a bookkeeper who roomed on Penn Avenue near Clymer Street in Pittsburgh. By 1859, Torrance moved to Allegheny, living with his family in a two-story brick Greek Revival house at 36 James Street (now 1300 James Street).

The 1860 manuscript census enumerated Francis Torrance and his family in the Third Ward of Allegheny. Francis Torrance, 40, worked as a real estate agent, and Jane Torrance, 36, had no occupation. Francis Torrance owned real estate valued at $1,000, and had a “personal estate” of $200.

In 1860, Francis and Jane Torrance had three children: Martha, 10, Catharine, six, and Francis J., one, all born in Pennsylvania. Jane Torrance’s widowed mother Ann Waddell, 68, also lived with the family.

Pittsburgh city directories published during the 1860’s identified Francis Torrance as a clerk, real estate agent, or notary public.

In the mid-1860’s, Francis Torrance moved to a slightly larger two-story brick Greek Revival house at 33 Boyle Street (now 1223 Boyle Street) in Allegheny.

The 1870 manuscript census reported that Francis and Jane Torrance lived in Allegheny’s Third Ward with their three children, Ann Waddell, and one servant. Francis Torrance, still working as a real estate agent, owned real estate valued at $7,000 and had a personal estate of $20,000.

In 1870, the Torrance family’s children were Martha, 20, Kate, 16, and Francis J., 11. The family’s servant was Ellen Callahan, 20, a native of Ireland. The census indicated that Ellen Callahan could not read or write.

In the early 1870’s, Francis Torrance worked briefly for Bovard, Rose & Company, wholesale and retail dealers in carpets, oil cloths, mattings and window shades. Bovard, Rose & Company was located at 21 Fifth Avenue in Pittsburgh.

In the mid-1870’s, Francis Torrance became a partner in the Standard Manufacturing Company, manufacturers of enameled iron, located at 286-297 River Avenue in Allegheny.

City directories listed Francis Torrance at 33 Boyle Street until 1877, when he lived on Western Avenue near Allegheny Avenue.

The 1880 manuscript census shows that Francis Torrance lived at 86 Western Avenue (now 946 Western Avenue) with his wife, children, and two female servants. The census gave Francis Torrance’s occupation as real estate agent and reported that Jane Torrance did not work.

The Torrances’ children who lived at 86 Western Avenue in 1880 were Mattie, 30, who had no occupation, and Frank, 20, who worked as a clerk in a store.

In 1880, the Torrances’ servants were L. McLaughlin, 27, who had been born in Ireland, and M. Reethback, 18, who had been born in Ohio to parents born in Baden, Germany.

City directories indicate that Francis Torrance lived at 946 Western Avenue until his death in 1886. After Torrance died, his son Francis J. Torrance continued to live at 946 Western Avenue.

Francis J. Torrance first appeared in the Pittsburgh city directory in 1878, at age 19, when he was listed as a clerk living on Western Avenue. Francis J. Torrance married Mary or Marie Dibert in 1884, and lived with his new wife at 946 Western Avenue.

By 1887, Francis J. Torrance became secretary of the Standard Manufacturing Company. Subsequent city directories listed Torrance as secretary or treasurer of the company.

The 1890 manuscript census, which would provide information on occupants of 946 Western Avenue in that year, was destroyed in a fire following its completion.

The 1900 manuscript census reported that a household headed by Francis J. Torrance lived at 946 Western Avenue. Francis J. Torrance, 40, worked as a manufacturer, and Mary Torrance had no occupation. The Torrances, married 16 years, had one child: Jane, 15. Francis J. Torrance’s mother Jane, 81, also lived at 946 Western Avenue.

In 1900, three servants lived with the Torrance family at 946 Western Avenue: John Dyson, Jennie McDougan, and Katie McDougan. John Dyson, 32, had been born in West Virginia. Jennie McDougan, 24, and Katie McDougan, 20, had both been born in Canada.

In 1900, no residents of 946 Western Avenue had been unemployed during the previous year, and all were able to read and write.

The 1900 census also indicated that Francis J. Torrance owned his home fully.

City directories published during the early 1900’s show that Francis J. Torrance served as first vice-president of the Standard Sanitary Manufacturing Company and as president

of the National Metal Weather Strip Company, located at 12 North Diamond Street in Allegheny. The 1910 manuscript census again enumerated Francis J. Torrance and his family at 946 Western Avenue. Torrance, 50, was vice-president of a manufacturing company. His wife Mary, 48, and daughter Jane, 24, did not work.

In 1910, the Torrance family had only one servant, Alice Savage, 22. Alice Savage had been born in Ireland and immigrated to the United States in 1906. She was employed as a chambermaid, had not been unemployed during the previous year, and was able to read and write.

Pittsburgh city directories listed Francis J. Torrance as vice-president of the Standard Sanitary Manufacturing Company and living at 946 Western Avenue through 1918, the last year that Torrance appeared in the directory.
City directories show that 946 Western Avenue was known as Torrance House, a home for blind women, beginning in 1928, the year that a trust for maintenance of Torrance House was established.

Directories indicate that 946 Western Avenue was known as Torrance House until about 1963, when the house was converted to apartments.

946 Western Avenue

946 Western Avenue (Front)

Introduction

946 Western Avenue is a three story brick house occupying a 30′ wide by 120′ deep lot located in the Allegheny West section of Pittsburgh.

946 Western Avenue was built between 1875 and 1877 by Francis Torrance, president of the Standard Manufacturing Company. Torrance, a native of Ireland, had previously served for many years as manager of the Schenley Estate. Torrance lived at 946 Western Avenue until his death in 1886.

Francis Torrance’s son Francis J. Torrance, who also worked for the Standard Manufacturing Company, lived with his family at 946 Western Avenue through 1918.

946 Western Avenue was known as Torrance House-Home for Blind Women between 1928 and the early 1960’s.

946 Western Avenue was originally known as 86 Western Avenue.

Detailed information on the ownership history, age and first owner of 946 Western Avenue follows.

Ownership

  • May 18, 1875
  • December 22, 1928
  • November 15, 1962
  • August 6, 1975
  • October 24, 1977
  • October 3, 1990
  • April 16, 1992

Elizabeth F. Denny of the city of Pittsburgh to Francis Torrance of the city of Allegheny, $6,250. This deed and subsequent deeds conveyed a 30′ wide by 120′ deep lot located on the northern side of Western Avenue, 76′ east of Allegheny Avenue, in the Second Ward of the city of Allegheny. The lot was known as Lot 4 in Block 2 in a plan of lots laid out by Mrs. Elizabeth F. Denny. The lot was part of a larger tract of land situated in the Reserve Tract opposite Pittsburgh.

James O’Hara had left the property to his daughter Elizabeth Denny in his last will and testament, recorded in Will Book Volume 2, Page 101.

(Deed Book Volume 341, Page 37)

Mary R.D. Torrance, widow, of Glen Osborne, to William D. George of Sewickley, Horace Baker of Glen Osborne, and George E. Alter of Springdale, trustees, $1. This deed established a trust for the establishment and maintenance of 946 Western Avenue as Torrance House-Home for Blind Women.

(DBV 2370 P 376)

Francis J. Torrance Baker and Louis Willard Jr., successor-trustees, of the city of Pittsburgh, to Joseph T. and Hermine L. Hudon of the city of Pittsburgh, $15,000.

(DBV 4031 P 465)

Hermine L. Hudon, widow, of the city of Pittsburgh, to Ronald P. Wosher, Clifford B. Schultz Jr., William W. Lang and Kenneth R. Rader of Allegheny County, $24,000.

(DBV 5513 P 131)

Ronald P. and Linda Wosher, Clifford B. Schultz Jr., William W. Lang, and Kenneth R. Rader to Robert W. and Marlies B. Kiser, Irwin W. and Barbara H. Templeton, as joint tenants, $54,000.

(DBV 5857 P 587)

Robert W. and Marlies B. Kiser and Irwin W. and Barbara H. Templeton of the 22nd Ward of Pittsburgh to Harold R. and Elizabeth Keeler of the 22nd Ward of Pittsburgh, $40,000.

(DBV 8349 P 629)

Harold R. and Elizabeth Keeler to Allegheny City Restoration, a corporation, $46,000.

(DBV 8697 P 187)

Age of the House

Available information indicates that Francis Torrance and his wife Jane had 946 Western Avenue built between 1875 and 1877.

An 1872 plat map of the Allegheny West area shows that the lot on which 946 Western Avenue stands was undeveloped. The May 1875 sale of the lot on for $6250, at $1.74 per square foot, was comparable to sales of other lots in the area at the time and indicates that 946 Western Avenue had not yet been built.
Subsequently, the 1877 Pittsburgh city directory listed Francis Torrance as living on Western Avenue near Allegheny Avenue for the first time.

An 1882 plat map of the area indicated that 946 Western Avenue had been built.

Allegheny County mortgage records contain no record of any loan taken to finance construction of 946 Western Avenue.

Residents

The Torrances

Pittsburgh city directories, U.S. census records, and biographical materials provide information on Francis and Jane Torrance, the first owners of 946 Western Avenue.

Learn More

Supplementary Materials


A Researched History
By: Carol J. Peterson

all photos by Chris Siewers, unless otherwise noted