806 Western Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15233

Wrap Up of the 36th Annual Christmas Tour

Submitted by Carol Gomrick

Was it smell of fresh pine from the recently hung swags in the neighborhood? Was it the bright blue skies contrasting with the chill in the air? Was it the sound of Dr. Dan’s leaf blower wiping out every trace of fall on Beech Ave? It was that and so much more which marked the coming of the 36th Annual Christmas Tour. This year, almost 1,600 people ushered in their Christmas season by walking through the lovingly decorated homes of Allegheny West. The weather was perfect, the glitches were few, and—if I dare say—by all accounts, the tour was a great success. As my first time managing the Christmas tour, I cannot thank everyone who stepped in and stepped up to make daunting tasks seem easy and the unintentionally overlooked details, a non-issue. It is truly because of you that the tour was such a success.

A very special thank you goes to the homeowners. I received a lot of feedback a how impressed the guests were with the homes this year. One guest, who has taken the tour over 15 times, actually took the time to email me directly to share that she thought 2017 was the best selection of homes she has visited to date. No doubt this guest and others came to this conclusion in no small way by the decorations at the Flashlight Factory. The re-purposing of flashlight pieces and parts was beyond ingenious, and such a tremendous addition to the tour. Congratulations to John Engle and Tom Cihil on tackling the after party. A lot of people needed some extra sleep on Sunday, so it was a great success! I would be completely remiss if I didn’t thank Tony and Diane Caruso. You both seem to always be there to jump in whenever needed and for whatever needs done. The list of how you both helped on this tour is too long to write, but beyond appreciated. Thank you.

I have to share that this tour was not without its challenges. It was the first time a service dog was on the tour. The homeowners were made aware in advance and all agreed they would accommodate. However, none of us expected a Great Dane! I should have taken pictures.

There are so many stories from the tour. Two are from the “Great Beech Ave Clean Up of 2017”. I’ll never forget Dr. Dan leaping through Beech Ave (with the greatest of ease), wielding his leaf blower like a warrior’s sword going into battle. Those leaves didn’t have a chance! OK, I’m using some dramatic license, but I’ll never be able to convince my mind’s eye from seeing a cape flowing behind him as he valiantly traveled up and down Beech Ave! My fondest memory is also from that day (not just because of Dr. Dan). Many saw Gloria Raymond and myself chipping away and cursing at the leaves stuck to the street. Trying to remove them was a formidable task. One by one, people stopped their cars, opened their front doors and came out with shovels, spades and whatever was needed to get the street cleaned and we did. The spirit of Christmas and the spirit of this neighborhood shined brightly that day. It will be forever etched in my memory as to what made this tour and what makes this neighborhood so special.

I hope you all enjoyed the holidays and I wish the blessings of the season to carry through for you in 2018.

Please contact me ( with any feedback for how to improve the tour for 2018.

Old Allegheny Victorian Christmas House Tour

The Tour is shaping up for December 8th and 9th. Here are the updates:

  1. Flyers are going into the mail. A big thanks to Trish Burton for coordinating the effort…once again, it went off like clockwork. Thanks also to Greg Coll for designing and managing the printing. The flyers are lovely.

    A big thank you from Carol and Trish to all who helped put address labels on the 8008 (!) postcards that we’ll be sending to advertise the tour. A special thanks to Quentin Lane and Charlie and Eli Sweeney for giving up homework time to help us set a new record! We have extra postcards available should anyone want to distribute to coworkers and friends, or to post on community bulletin boards.
  2. Next up, putting the swags together. We’ll be meeting at Cathy and Gene’s house on December 2nd at 9:00 am Please come and help. The swags help make the entire neighborhood look so special for the tour guests. In addition to putting them together, we’ll be looking for volunteers to help hang the swags.
  3. We’re still on the hunt for the final house. Please consider joining the tour this year. Contact Carol ASAP at
  4. If you haven’t signed up to volunteer yet, please reach out to Doug Sprague at
  5. There are so many people who continue to help behind the scenes to make the tour successful every year. Thank you for your efforts and support!

Old Allegheny Victorian Christmas House Tour

It’s time to start thinking about this year’s Old Allegheny Victorian Christmas House Tour.

This year’s tour will take place on December 8th and 9th. We are looking for homeowners who are willing to open their homes for this year’s tour. If you’re interested and able, please contact Carol Gomrick at

Information about volunteering for the event will be coming out after this month’s Alleys, Axles & Ales tour on September 23rd. Stay tuned to the calendar and e-newsletter to learn about the kickoff meeting for this year’s tour volunteers.

Above & Beyond

Volunteer PartySince this is the month of the Christmas tour, if I wrote the Above & Beyond that managed to recognize everyone who helps out with the tour, the newsletter would have to be 20 pages long. Carrie Doyle, our Ways and Means chair, wrangles hundreds of volunteers to make the tour happen. An incredible amount of work goes into managing the tour, so thank you to the:

  • homeowners
  • folks who answer the phones & handle the tickets
  • guides
  • train museum volunteers
  • volunteers at the houses
  • greeters and volunteers at Calvary Church
  • folks who handle the luminaria
  • bundlers and hangers of greens (shout out to the crew of the show Manhunter who hung some of the greens this year because of their filming on Beech Ave)
  • maker of 50+ holly pins for the tour guides
  • hosts and volunteers for the volunteer party (very meta)
  • booklet designer (Thanks Greg!) and the folks who solicited ads and grants from local businesses
  • folks who cleaned up the streets and the neighbors who moved their cars

We literally couldn’t have done it without you! (Hope you had an awesome time at the volunteer part at Mitchell & Elaine’s).

2016 Old Allegheny Victorian Christmas House Tour: Our 35th Year!

Submitted by Carrie Doyle

As I write this, it’s a cold night – 30 degrees to be exact – and I’ve just returned from the Tour Guide training for this year’s tour. This month’s Gazette will be printed post-tour but I wanted to take a moment to reflect and to thank many of you in advance of a busy weekend. A big thank you to Trish Burton, Gloria Rayman, Cathy Serventi, John DeSantis and Carole Malakoff for their words of wisdom and knowledge from the many years of producing such a wonderful tour.

Additionally, Doug Sprague (guides), Brandon Williams (greeters), Mary Ann Murphy & Cecile Canales (trains), Martin Fuess (Christmas Shoppe), Greg Coll (photos, brochure and mailer), Nonie Knauss (house sitters). Of course – our homeowners, too: Clayton Harris, Mark & Kimberly Moore, Carole & Bob Malakoff, Nick Duerlinger & Hal Dixler, Q Development and John DeSantis. I hope to have finalized numbers for January’s Gazette, and a more detailed thank you list as well! Until then, Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!

AWCC Membership Meeting Agenda – November 8, 2016

Calvary United Methodist Church, 971 Beech Ave
Tuesday, November 8th at 7:30 pm

  • Visitors: Erin Tobin, Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy
  • Minutes
  • Treasurer’s Report
  • Tree and Scholarship for Stella “Yia Yia”
  • Vote on Bylaws
  • Elections!
  • Ways and Means: Christmas Tour
    • Volunteer Signups
    • Two More Houses
    • Five Year Plan with Calvary
  • Housing and Planning
    • Film Guidelines
    • Western Avenue
    • Light of Life
    • Buhl Grant Meeting
  • Green Space: Parklet
  • Membership Events
    • 50th Anniversary: Alleys, Axles and Ales Report
    • Mixers
    • History Project Update
  • Property: 806 Western Avenue Improvements
  • Friends
  • Committee Q&A

2016 Old Allegheny Victorian Christmas House Tour: Our 35th Year

The 2016 tour will be on Friday, December 9th from 5:00-8:00 pm and Saturday, December 10th from 10:00 am-8:00 pm. Tickets for the tour are $30 until November 30th; $35 after that date. Train museum tickets are $12; $15 after November 30th.

Volunteer Opportunities & Info

Postcard Mailing: The annual labeling of the Tour postcards is set for Monday, November 7th at 7:00 pm at Calvary. Please join us! We’ll have pizza and snacks and, with your help, we will be able to quickly put address labels on the 8,000 mailers that we send to potential tour visitors.

Ticket Sales: Tickets are available online and we have sold blocks of tours to a few groups. Expect tickets to sell at a brisk pace once our mailers are delivered.

Holiday Gift Shop: The shop will again be in the lower level of Calvary Church, so guests can shop before as well as after the Tour.

For more information about the Shop, please contact Martin Fuess.

Train Museum: The popular Toy Train Museum will, once again, be open at Holmes Hall. Visitors can visit before their tour or after they finish the tour of Holmes Hall. Tickets can be purchased in advance or at the door. DVDs of the train exhibit will again be for sale for $15, and a limited number of the fine train books are available for $100.

Street Decorating: We will be decorating the streets on Saturday, December 3rd, starting at 9:00 am. Volunteers will be bundling greens to create the lamppost swags in the Serventi/Wilson garage on Dounton Way. This is an easy and fun way to get into the holiday spirit – and we can finish the job quickly with about 20 volunteers.

Clean Up: Please take some time to pick up litter and leaves in front of your house the morning of each tour day (Friday and Saturday). If each of us fills just one bag, our streets will be clean!

We need your help!

There are many opportunities to volunteer. During the tour, be a greeter at Calvary, a tour guide, a house sitter for a homeowner on tour, a conductor at the train museum or be ready to help with salting or shoveling if we get snow that weekend. Or help with the volunteer party or set up the luminaria.

Contact Carrie Doyle at or (412) 337-6020 – or come to our next meeting on November 9th @ 7:00 pm – and she’ll get you to the coordinator of that activity.

2016 Old Allegheny Victorian Christmas House Tour

The 35th Annual tour will be held Friday, December 9th and Saturday, December 10th. As always, we will need help the weekend of the tour with house sitting, guiding tours, lighting luminaries and decorating the streets. But we also need your help in the planning leading up to the tour. There will be a planning meeting on Wednesday, October 12th at 7:00 pm at Carrie Doyle’s (950 Beech Avenue).

If you are a homeowner, volunteer or interested in participating in any way, we welcome your involvement! If you can’t make the meeting, but want to help, please contact Carrie at (412) 337-6020 or

Letter from the President – January 2016

Happy New Year, Everyone!

I’m one of those people who makes, and occasionally even keeps, New Year’s resolutions, so I thought I would share a couple of the resolutions I made for this year.

But before I do that, I do want to take a minute to send out a huge thank you to everyone who did such an amazing job on the Tour. Trish, along with Gloria & Carrie were really able to recruit and organize an amazing amount of support for the tour. I’m tempted to just list out everyone who helped but I’m pretty sure that it would take up the entire newsletter. I’m not sure folks realize that over 100 volunteers participate in the tour every year! For a neighborhood of somewhere around 300 people that just boggles my mind. We’ve been working with some of the other neighborhoods on how to support each other’s efforts and when people ask us how we manage to pull ours off I always end up saying “Have wonderful, great, amazing neighbors!” Not sure how useful that advice actually is, but frankly it’s the truth. Please join us for a Tour wrap up discussion before Tuesday’s membership meeting (7:00pm) so we can run through what worked really well and any ideas for things we want to try differently next year.

Back to the resolutions. This is it, this is the year! WE ARE GOING TO FINISH REVISING THE BYLAWS! There I said it, you all heard me. Feel free to stop me on the street and ask me how the bylaws are coming along. I promise not to deluge you with the minutiae of current best practices around conflicts of interest for Board of Directors for nonprofits. (Unless you really want to know…) A couple of more areas we also want to address are things like defining more clearly eligibility for voting memberships and the accountability and management of funds. If you’re interested in our current Bylaws they are posted on our site. Gloria, Jim and Bob M. have also put in a lot of effort on this project which will hopefully end soon.

Also, the grant for the Buhl Foundation came through, so you’ll start hearing a lot more from Martha and I about how we can improve quality of life. I have some other goals: sell all the real estate! Organize the filing in the office! But the bylaws and the Buhl grant will be my main focus for this year. Stay tuned to hear more from new and returning Committee chairs for their plans as well.

Finally, I hope to see you all at the first meeting of the new year. We’ll have presentations from the folks who are purchasing the Stables (yay!) about their plans for it, as well as our annual update from Calvary. We’ll also be welcoming the new Board members and thanking Board members who are rolling off the Board or changing positions. Hope to see you all there!

Catherine Serventi
President, AWCC

The 2015 Old Allegheny Victorian Christmas House Tour

We Still Need Your Help

The 2015 tour will be on Friday, December 11th from 5:00-8:00 pm, and Saturday, December 12th from 10:00 am-8:00 pm. Tour tickets are now $35 and Train Museum tickets are now $15.

Ticket Sales

Continue to encourage friends, relatives and coworkers to attend the tour. To purchase tickets, or for more details, check our website.

Training for Tour Guides and Train Guides

All guides are asked to make every effort to attend a training session—there are 4 new houses on the tour this year!

Tour Guides

Wednesday, 12/9 from 6:00-7:00 pm at Calvary UMC (Beech Avenue entrance)
Thursday, 12/10 from 6:00-7:00 pm at Calvary UMC

Train Guides

Wednesday, 12/9 at 7:30-8:30 pm at Holmes Hall, (719 Brighton Road)

Greens “Bunching” and Street Decorating

We will be decorating the streets on Saturday, December 5th, starting at 9:00 am. Volunteers will be bunching greens to create the lamppost swags in the Serventi/Wilson garage on Dounton Way. This is a fun way to get in the holiday spirit—and we can finish quickly with 20 volunteers.


Also on Saturday, December 5th, join your neighbors and pick up litter and leaves around the neighborhood (and in front of your house!) If each of us fills just one bag, our streets will be clean!

Cookies for Party

Please contact Trish Burton if you can bake two dozen cookies for the volunteer party.

More Ways to Help!

There are many opportunities to volunteer. During the tour, be a greeter at Calvary, a tour guide, a house sitter for a homeowner on tour, a conductor at the train museum or be ready to help tour houses with salting and shoveling should we get snow that weekend. Or, help with the volunteer party or set up the luminaria. If each of us helps in just one way, then our neighbors don’t have to do all the work to make this, our biggest fundraiser (that pays for all of our fun events, as well as preservation activities), successful. AND, you get to attend the party!

Volunteer Party

All volunteers are invited to our Holiday Party. This year, Carol Gomrick and Brett Kempf at 940 W North Avenue will host on Saturday, December 12th, beginning at 9:00 pm. This will be a “seventh” house for volunteers to get to see, and it’s a gem! To help with party, please contact Carrie Doyle at (412) 337-6020.