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

Good News: Western Avenue Project

The much-anticipated next phase of relocating electric services for 806-816 Western Avenue has already begun!

Duquesne Light recently addressed the necessary vegetation pruning and bungeeing in order to bring power down Brighton Road from W North Avenue. The PA One Call has been placed and pole and equipment installation could start any day! This work will take 4-6 weeks and, once completed, will allow us to finish the electric service relocations at 806-816 Western Avenue. We aim to coordinate the relocation of Verizon infrastructure at the same time to minimize impact on the property owners.

If you have any questions, please feel free to email me, Gloria Rayman, at glowalks@comcast.net. Thank you for your continued patience!

Western Avenue Update

Submitted by Gloria Rayman

It seems like it’s been years since we finished the actual construction of the sidewalks and replaced the trees and most of the lights on Western Avenue…and it has been! However the last pieces of the Western Renewed! puzzle seem to finally be coming together. All it took was a face to face meeting with State Senator Fontana (remember that Duquesne Light is regulated by the state…buy me a drink at the Memorial Day picnic and I’ll tell you about the meeting!). A great big thank you to Senator Fontana for meeting with us and to the North Side Leadership Conference for herding the participants to make the meeting happen.

So, after 10 years of pushing Duquesne Light to do their part of the project, we’re coming close to finishing it up! What’s left to do?

If you remember, the original plan was not only to make our sidewalks safe (no more skate board ramps created by tree roots) and to plant trees appropriate for a city sidewalk; the plan also included removing all of the overhead wires from Western Avenue. We’ve accomplished that in the 900 block of Western because all of the buildings on the north curb of the street already had their electric service entering from the Dounton Way; the few buildings on the south curb of the 900 block that had electric service coming from the front were relatively easy to move to Maolis Way. Wires gone!! All of the street lights were installed in the 900 block of Western. However the 800 block of Western is another story completely. From my point of view, a horror story! 😉

Approximately 12 properties on the north curb of the 800 block of Western Avenue receive power from the front. Not a big deal until you realize that most of these properties are land locked! The 800 block of Dounton Way has houses fronting Dounton creating a land locked courtyard area in between the “front” and “back” houses. And McIntosh Row (806-818 Western Avenue) is landlocked by the properties fronting Brighton Road. No big deal, just run some new wires in the back, right? Um, no.

Thank heavens the city electric code is completely different now than it was when most of these houses were built. No more running wires just a few feet over a roof or stringing it between buildings where there is most likely a window (even if a human couldn’t hang out of it to grab onto the high voltage wire). Safety first! Did I mention that the city electric code has been updated almost every year for the past 10 years and this year it seems likes it’s a major upgrade…

The south curb of the 800 block of Western has been completed. It’s just these last few properties on the north curb that need to have their electric service relocated to the rear of the property in order to nally take down all of the wires and install approximately 8 new light posts (did you ever notice that both blocks of the south curb and the north curb of the 900 block have taller pendant street lights in addition to the regular street lights?) We can’t install these last few pendant lights on the north curb of the 800 block until the wires come down; the tops of these lights would be in the high voltage wires – that’s a problem.

So you’re going to see some movement over these next few weeks. Some of it will make absolutely no sense to you (it’s hard for me to grasp at times) but the electric grid in the city is very complex and in my humble opinion, just crazy. We’re going to tackle a few issues at the same time so that some temporary equipment can be installed, new poles can be installed and new wires run – quickly and efficiently. There will be at least one temporary pole installed and removed.

    1. Duquesne Light will install a temporary pole in the sidewalk on the property line in front of 942 & 944 W North Avenue. It will be a 60’ pole, roughly as tall as the neighboring existing poles. It will host temporary equipment and will be removed and the sidewalk returned to its current condition once the work is done to get power down Brighton Rd. to Western Ave. No trees will have to be removed; the only tree affected is the one on the property line of 942 & 944 W North Avenue. One branch that is currently in the electric wires will have to be trimmed while the rest of the limbs will be temporarily bungeed while the pole is being installed so as to not break any additional branches. Duquesne Light will bungee it again for a short time when the pole is being removed. There will be traffic restrictions on W North Avenue the day the pole is installed and removed. It shouldn’t take them very long to do this.
    2. At the southwest corner of Brighton Road and W North Avenue, a new pole will replace the existing rusty steel pole at that same corner with a new guide wire that will clear the sidewalk and be anchored in at the property-side of the sidewalk. This decreases the impact that pole will have on any future development at that property.
    3. Three new poles will be installed on the east curb of Brighton Road between W North and Western Avenues. The poles that are being replaced have white X’s on them right now. City Forester Lisa Ceoffe is coordinating with Duquesne Light and the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy to make sure that the trees along Brighton Road in Allegheny Commons are trimmed sensitively and aesthetically to allow the work to happen. Some of us expect to see Erin Tobin from the Parks Conservancy right alongside the folks trimming these trees to make sure they are trimmed carefully, not the usual gut job. Erin rocks!
    4. We will install a pole in the garden at the corner of Western Avenue and Brighton Road and remove the one shrub that is marked with white spray paint. It’s in the back corner of the garden and will not cause us to have to remove any of the beautiful plantings. We also have one other pole to install off of Dounton Way but nothing needs to be removed to install this pole.
    5. Duquesne Light’s work will start in the next week or two, with new poles going in along Brighton Road, but nothing can be energized until the drawings are revised and approved; the temporary pole and equipment is installed; and the trees in Allegheny Commons are trimmed. We have an architect and electrician already working on the drawings.
    6. Duquesne Light and the North Side Leadership Conference (our project manager) will make sure to coordinate with the owners of 907 and 913 Brighton Road whenever their power has to be switched over. We didn’t have any issues switching over any of the other 15+ properties; we don’t expect any with these either – these actually should be easier. The temporary pole on W North Avenue will come down and we will then move on to actually powering up McIntosh Row and the final few gridlocked properties.

As we get closer to removing the wires and poles from Western Avenue, I’ll be sending out another email. Thank you to everyone for their patience and cooperation as this long-planned project draws to a close.

Gloria Rayman
housing-planning@alleghenywest.org
WANID Chair (and obvious glutton for punishment)

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.

The Rosenbachs

Caroline Rosenbach was born in Maryland in 1849, and her sister, Clarissa (known as Clara, except in property ownership records) was born in Maryland in 1851. The Rosenbach sisters were daughters of Henry and Famiie Rosenbach, Jewish immigrants who had been born in Prussia. The Rosenbach family lived in Maryland as late as 1858, when Henry and Fannie Rosenbach’s youngest child, Isador, was born. The family did not yet live in western Pennsylvania when the 1860 census was taken, but began living in Pittsburgh by 1861, when Hemy Rosenbach was listed in the Pittsburgh city directory.

The Rosenbach family began renting a house at 63 Wylie Avenue (demolished; on or near the present site of the USX Building). Henry Rosenbach opened a dry goods store at 70 Market Street (at the southeastern comer of Fourth Avenue and Market Street), within walking distance of his home. By 1862, however, Rosenbach left this business and became an oil dealer with an office at 4 Hand Street (now Ninth Street), at the comer of Pemi Avenue, Downtown. City directories listed Rosenbach as an oil dealer at this addr ess through the rest of the 1860s.

Hemy Rosenbach’s entry into the oil industry came three years after the discoveiy of oil at Titusville in northwestern Pennsylvania. Rosenbach and thousands of other men intent on profiting from extracting, transporting, refining, and selling oil invested their time and available capital in this industry. Pittsburgh shared in the oil boom as a center of river transportation and as the site of several refineries. During this time, a number of Pittsburgh men traveled to growing northwestern Pennsylvania communities such as Titusville, Franklin, Warren, Oil City, and Pithole to participate in the oil business. Hemy Rosenbach appears to have had limited success in the highly risky and capital-intensive oil industry, and was not among the many who made or lost fortunes.

In 1869, Fannie Rosenbach purchased a home for her family at 34 Anderson Street in Allegheny City for $8750. The 1870 census enumerated the Rosenbach family at this address. Henry Rosenbach, 55, was enumerated as an oil merchant, and Fannie, 53, had no occupation. The Rosenbachs’ son Louis, 21, was a druggist, and Solomon, 16, was a trunk maker. Caroline, 21, Clara, 19, Jeannette, 14, and Isador, 12, had no occupation. Two servants lived with the Rosenbach family: Elizabeth Shaffer, 23, born in Saxony, and Kate Kline, 20, born in Pennsylvania.

The 1870 manuscript census, the last census to provide information on assets of persons enumerated, reported that Henry Rosenbach owned real estate worth $20,000 and had a personal estate of $5000. The Rosenbach home on Anderson Street may have been worth about $10,000.

Henry Rosenbach’s office was listed at 145 Smithfield Street in city directories published in 1871 and 1872. The Rosenbach family left the Pittsburgh area by 1873.

The 1880 census enumerated Hemy, Fannie, Caroline, and Clara Rosenbach in an un-numbered house on Centre Street in Oil City, Venango County. Herman Mayer, 34, a German-born cigar merchant who was Jeannette Rosenbach’s husband, was enumerated as the head of the household. Hemy Rosenbach, 65, was still an oil dealer. Caroline and Clara Rosenbach, ages 31 and 29, were reported to have no occupation. Others enumerated in the house were Jeannette Mayer, 24, and the Mayers’ three children, Della, six, Philip H., four, and Elsie, two. Louis, Solomon, and Isador Rosenbach no longer lived with their parents by 1880.

Henry Rosenbach died between 1880 and 1885. The first indication of the Rosenbachs’ return to the Pittsburgh area was the 1885 city directory, which listed Fannie Rosenbach as the widow of Henry Rosenbach and living at 838 (then 36) Western Avenue in Allegheny City. The 1885 directory also listed Miss C. Rosenbach as a dressmaker at the same address. Clara and Caroline Rosenbach were both listed as dressmakers during the next 40 years, with Clara Rosenbach appealing in directories more frequently than her older sister. The Rosenbach sisters worked at home at 838 Western Avenue, which they and their mother rented, and later at 836 Western Avenue.

Fannie, Caroline, and Clara Rosenbach lived at 838 Western Avenue until late 1889 or early 1890, then moved into the newly completed 836 Western Avenue (known as 317 Western Avenue until 1899).

The 1890 manuscript census, which would provide information on Clara, Caroline, and Fannie Rosenbach, and any other occupants of 836 Western Avenue in that year, was destroyed in a warehouse fire following its completion.
Allegheny County records show that Caroline and Clara Rosenbach purchased a 52′ by 110′ lot on Hutchinson Avenue in Edgewood in 1891. The sisters never lived in Edgewood, and may have made this purchase as an investment. The sisters sold the lot in 1914 for $3000, suggesting the property remained undeveloped.

Fannie Rosenbach died at home at 836 Western Avenue at age 83 on Independence Day, 1897.

The 1900 census enumerated Caroline and Clara Rosenbach as dressmakers living at 836 Western Avenue. Although the Rosenbach sisters may have had live-in help at 836 Western Avenue at some times, the 1900 census enumerated only the sisters, and no other related or unrelated persons, at 836 Western Avenue.

Herman and Jeannette Rosenbach Mayer moved to Pittsburgh in about 1906, renting a house at 230 South Aiken Avenue (then South Rebecca Street) in Friendship. Caroline and Clara Rosenbach moved from 836 Western Avenue to their sister’s home within a short time, and moved their dressmaking operations to room 302 of the Wemer Building at 631 Penn Avenue, Downtown. Herman Mayer was still a cigar merchant in 1906 and later years, with a shop at 211 Forbes Avenue (then Diamond Street), Downtown.

The 1910 census enumerated Caroline and Clara Rosenbach in the home of Herman and Jeannette Mayer at 230 South Aiken Avenue. Living in the house were Herman Mayer, 63, a cigar merchant, Jeannette Mayer, 54, who had no occupation, Eric Mayer, 32, a traveling salesman of cigars, Elsie F. Mayer, 32, who had no occupation, Caroline and Clara Rosenbach, dressmakers, a son-in-law whose name is illegible in handwritten census records, who was 40 and a cigar salesman, his wife, Della, and their daughters, Jeannette L., seven, and a six-month-old whose name is also illegible.

Two servants, Nellie (last name illegible), born in Pennsylvania to German immigrant parents, and Theresa (last name illegible), an Irish immigrant, also lived at 230 South Aiken Avenue in 1910.

The Mayer family and Caroline and Clara Rosenbach moved from South Aiken Avenue to another rented home at 413 South Pacific Avenue in about 1911. The Rosenbach sisters continued to made dresses in the Wemer Building throughout the 1910’s and into the 1920s.

Caroline and Clara Rosenbach sold 836 Western Avenue in 1913 to Josephine Hanson. Josephine Hanson and her husband, Octavius Hanson, a clerk, owned and occupied 836 Western Avenue for four years.

After selling their property in Edge wood in 1914, Caroline and Clara Rosenbach purchased another small property on Susquehanna Street in Homewood. The sisters continued to live at 413 South Pacific Avenue, and sold this property in 1919.

Living at 413 South Pacific Avenue in 1920, according to census records, were Herman Mayer, 73, a cigar merchant, Jeannette Rosenbach Mayer, 63, and Elsie Mayer, 42, who had no occupation, Caroline and Clara Rosenbach, 71 and 69, dressmakers, and one servant: Josephine Wisner, 16, born in Pennsylvania to Polish immigrant parents.
The 1920 census is the most recent census that provides detailed information on the Rosenbach sisters or the Mayer family. Manuscript census records are withheld from the public for 72 years, to protect the privacy of persons enumerated.

Clara Rosenbach was listed in the city directory as a dressmaker in the Wemer Building and living at 413 South Pacific Avenue as late as 1925. She moved to 5546 Darlington Road in Squirrel Hill shortly before her death on
June 18, 1927, at age 76. Caroline Rosenbach died in New York City on April 28, 1931. Both sisters were buried in West View Cemetery.

836 Western Avenue

836 Western Avenue

Introduction

836 Western Avenue was built in 1889 for Clara and Caroline Rosenbach, unmarried sisters who were dressmakers. The Rosenbach sisters commissioned the prominent architectural firm of Longfellow, Alden & Harlow to design 836 Western Avenue, an untypically modest home for the firm. The sisters’ new home at 836 Western Avenue took the place of an earlier and smaller house that had stood on its site.

Clara and Caroline Rosenbach, who had been born in Maryland, were among six children of Hemy Rosenbach, an oil dealer who died in the early 1880s, and Fannie Rosenbach, both Prussian Jewish immigrants. The Rosenbach sisters lived at 836 Western Avenue and operated their dressmaking business in their home between 1889 and 1906. Fannie Rosenbach also lived at 836 Western Avenue between 1889 and 1897, when she died.

In 1906, the Rosenbach sisters moved from Western Avenue to live with family members on South Aiken Avenue in Friendship, joining many other Allegheny City families who were moving to East End neighborhoods. The sisters owned 836 Western Avenue until 1913, maintaining the house as a rental property after they moved.

Detailed information on the ownership history and age of 836 Western Avenue, and on Clara and Caroline Rosenbach, is contained in the following report.

Ownership

  • November 4, 1853
  • March 30, 1857
  • March 31, 1866
  • April 3. 1866
  • May 1, 1876
  • May 16, 1877
  • April 26, 1888
  • August 28, 1961
  • February 20, 1913
  • January 3, 1917
  • August 13, 1932
  • December 24, 1945
  • February 12, 1946
  • August 23, 1946
  • November 22, 1946
  • June 10, 1947
  • June 21, 1993

Elizabeth F. Denny of the city of Pittsburgh conveyed property on Western Avenue (then Water Lane), including the present site of 836 Western Avenue, to William Anderson Sr. of Allegheny City for $750. The property was described as located on the northern side of Water Lane, 348′ west of the West Commons (later Irwin Avenue, now Brighton Road), and measuring 36’ wide along Water Lane and 120’ deep to Pasture Alley (later Douglas Alley, now Dounton Way). The property was part of a larger tract of land that Elizabeth F. Denny had inherited from her father, James O’Hara, in 1829.

(Deed Book Volume 122, Page 376)

Martha and William Anderson Sr. of Allegheny City conveyed property on Western Avenue to William Anderson Jr. of Allegheny City for $1000. The property conveyed, measuring 36′ wide by 60′ deep, was the southern half of die property that William Anderson Sr. had purchased on November 4, 1853.

(DBV 161 P 463)

Malazena and William Anderson Jr. of Allegheny City conveyed the 36′ by 60′ lot that William Anderson Sr. had purchased on November 4, 1853 to James McKinney of Allegheny City for $2800.

(DBV 205 P 77)

James and Mary A. McKinney of Allegheny City conveyed a lot measuring 18′ wide by 60′ deep, comprising the western half of the lot conveyed on November 4, 1853, to Isaac M. Kitchin of Allegheny City for $1600. The lot was located on the northern side of Western Avenue, 366′ west of the West Commons.

(DBV 205 P 79)

Isaac M. and Jemima Kitchin of the Village of Wilkinsburg (sic) conveyed the 18′ wide by 60′ deep lot described in DBV 205, P 79 to John C. Smith of Allegheny City for $1800. This deed, one of a very few deeds that indicated the occupation of a purchaser or seller, described John C. Smith as “a grocery merchant, now and for some years past doing business as such on the northwestern comer of Irwin and Western Avenues in the Second Ward of Allegheny City.”

(DBV 350 P 471)

John C. Smith, a single man, a grocer and provision merchant of the Second Ward of Allegheny City, conveyed the 18′ wide by 60′ deep lot described in DBV 205, P 79 to Mrs. Margaret Scanlon, wife of Mr. James Scanlon of Akron, Ohio, for $2100.

(DBV 371 P 84)

James and Margaret Scanlon of Akron, Ohio conveyed the 18′ wide by 60′ deep lot described in DBV 205 P 79 to Miss Caroline Rosenbach and Miss Clarissa Rosenbach of Allegheny City for $3000.

(DBV 605 P 64)

Richard S. Nichols and William Fletcher, executors of the will of Jane Nicholls, deceased, late of Allegheny County, conveyed an 18’ wide by 60′ deep lot on Pasture Alley to Miss Caroline Rosenbach and Miss Clarissa Rosenbach of Allegheny City for $1550. Jane Nicholls had purchased the lot from Isaac M. and Jemima Kitchin on April 11, 1883 (DBV 556 P 212). With this conveyance, made one year after the construction of 836 Western Avenue, Caroline and Clarissa Rosenbach owned a 18’ wide by 120′ deep lot extending from Western Avenue to Pasture Alley, and containing 836 Western Avenue and a wood frame alley house.

(DBV 725 P 468)

Clarissa Rosenbach, unmarried, and Caroline Rosenbach, unmarried, both of the city of Pittsburgh, conveyed 836 Western Avenue and a wood frame alley house, occupying an 18′ wide by 120′ deep lot, to Josephine Hanson of the city of Pittsburgh for $5000.

(DBV 1768 P 305)

Josephine and Octavius Hanson of the city of Pittsburgh conveyed 836 Western Avenue and a wood frame alley house, occupying an 18′ wide by 120′ deep lot, to Martha A. Vorwerck of the city of Pittsburgh for $5000.

(DBV 1887 P 151)

Paul Vorwerck, unmarried, and Martha A. Vorwerck, unmarried, both of the city of Pittsburgh, conveyed 836 Western Avenue and a wood frame alley house, occupying an 18’ wide by 120’ deep lot, to George W. Kemerer, unmarried, of Delmont, Westmoreland County, for $1 and other valuable considerations. This deed also conveyed property at the southeastern corner of Allegheny Avenue and Behan Street.

(DBV 2458 P 641)

Mark W. McGaffey and the Union Trust Company of Pittsburgh, executors of the estate of Martha A. Vorwerck, deceased, conveyed 836 Western Avenue and a wood frame alley house, occupying an 18′ wide by 120′ deep lot, to Harry L. Rumstay of the city of Pittsburgh for $4500. Paul Vorwerck had died on November 15, 1938, survived by Martha A. Vorwerck, who died later.

(DBV 2869 P 652)

Harry L. and Helen Rumstay of the city of Pittsburgh conveyed 836 Western Avenue and a wood frame alley house, occupying an 18′ wide by 120′ deep lot, to Thomas M. Waters and James P. Casey of the city of Pittsburgh for $6000.

(DBV 2880 P 177)

Thomas M. and Helen M. Waters and James P. and Marie W. Casey of the city of Pittsburgh conveyed 836 Western Avenue and a wood frame alley house, occupying an 18’ wide by 120′ deep lot, to Thomas M. and Catherine M. Casey of the city of Pittsburgh for $1 and other valuable considerations.

(DBV 2907 P 580)

Thomas M. and Catherine M. Casey of the city of Pittsburgh conveyed 836 Western Avenue to Gail B. and Clover M. Amos of the city of Pittsburgh for $1 and other valuable considerations.

(DBV 2927 P 742)

Gail B. and Clover M. Amos of the city of Pittsburgh conveyed 836 Western Avenue, occupying the property described in the November 22, 1946 deed, to Charles J. and Dorothy N. Milauskas of the city of Pittsburgh for $1 and other good and valuable considerations.

(DBV 2945 P 668)

The city and school district of Pittsburgh acquired 836 Western Avenue on June 21, 1993 to satisfy unpaid tax liens (Treasurer’s Deed Book 15, Page 424).

Age of the House

All available information indicates that Clara and Caroline Rosenbach had 836 Western Avenue built in 1889.

Plat maps of the Allegheny West area published in 1872 and 1882 show that a small house occupied the present site of 836 Western Avenue. The house occupied a lot measuring 18′ wide by 60′ deep.

Clara and Caroline Rosenbach purchased the 18′ wide by 60′ deep lot on Western Avenue for $3000 on April 26, 1888. This purchase, at $1.67 per square foot, was comparable to prices paid for other undeveloped lots in Allegheny West at the time, and indicates that 836 Western Avenue had not yet been built. The price also suggests that the earlier house on the lot may have been demolished, or was so small or deteriorated that its existence had no effect on the lot’s market value.

Allegheny County mortgage records contain no record of any loan taken by Clara and Caroline Rosenbach to finance their purchase of the property on which the Rosenbach sisters had 836 Western Avenue built.
Allegheny County mortgage records show that on June 28, 1889 (Mortgage Book Volume 490, Page 365), Clara and Caroline Rosenbach borrowed $4000 against the property they had purchased on April 26, 1888. This loan, for an amount greater than the purchase price of the property, indicates that 836 Western Avenue had been built or was about to be built.

In its July 1889 issue, The Inland Architect and News Record reported that architects Longfellow, Alden & Harlow were preparing plans for a three- story pressed brick front residence in Allegheny City for Miss Rosenbach.

An 1890 plat map of the Western Avenue area shows that 836 Western Avenue had been built. The 1890 Pittsburgh city directory listed Fannie Rosenbach, the mother of Clara and Caroline Rosenbach, as living at 836 (then 317) Western Avenue for the first time; Clara and Caroline Rosenbach were listed at the house within a few years.

Construction Financing

Clara and Caroline Rosenbach’s $4000 mortgage was for a term of five years, with two payments per year. This financing arrangement was typical in the late 1800’s and in the early 1900’s. Mortgages made for purchases of existing homes often required down payments 40% or more; in the Rosenbachs’ case, the sisters’ full equity in the lot apparently substituted for a down payment.
The Rosenbach sisters borrowed their $4000 mortgage from Josiah Cohen, then one of the most prominent Jewish residents of western Pennsylvania. Cohen, an attorney, then lived at 1240 (then 114) Sheffield Street in Manchester. In 1900, Cohen lived at 1334 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Construction Cost

Allegheny City building permit dockets, available beginning in 1894, contain no record of issuance of a permit for construction of 836 Western Avenue. However, the amount of the Rosenbach sisters’ mortgage, and information on construction costs for brick houses of comparable size, suggest a likely construction cost for 836 Western Avenue of $4000 to $5000. This assumes a slightly higher cost per square foot than other homes of comparable size, in order to execute design specifications of Longfellow, Alden & Harlow.
Other brick houses built between 1890 and 1895 include:

  • 930 West North Avenue, Allegheny West, for $5317 in 1895
  • 4017 Northminster Street, Brighton Heights, for $3200 in 1895
  • 176 Home Street, Lawrenceville, for $4000 in 1890
  • 4041 Penn Avenue, Lawrenceville, for $2000 in 1890
  • 355 Fisk Street, Lawrenceville, for $3200 in 1890

Residents

The Rosenbachs

U.S. census records and Pittsburgh city directories provide information on Clara and Caroline Rosenbach, the first owners of 836 Western Avenue.

Learn More

The 1910 Census

Records of the 1910 census show that 836 Western Avenue was rented to a household headed by Daniel Johnson.

Daniel Johnson, 28, was an accountant who worked for a baking company. His wife, May M., 29, had no occupation. Both had been born in Pennsylvania to parents born in Pennsylvania. In 1910, the Johnsons had been married one year and had one child: Robert L., who was less than one month old when the census was taken on April 19, 1910.

At the time of the census, the Johnsons shared their home at 836 Western Avenue with four lodgers:

  • Phebe M. Lombard, 67, a Canadian-born widow (year of immigration unknown) with no occupation
  • Russell Lombard, 30, a bookkeeper for a gas company, who had been born in Wisconsin to parents born in Maine and Canada
  • Martha Bopp, 21, a waitress in a restaurant, born in Pennsylvania to parents born in Pennsylvania
  • Agnes Bopp, 24, a waitress in a restaurant, born in Pennsylvania to parents born in Pennsylvania

Neighborhood Development

836 Western Avenue was built more than two decades after the Allegheny West area began to develop as a genteel alternative to sections of Allegheny City like the east and south commons and the Anderson Street area, which were crowded and contained mixed residential, commercial and industrial uses by the end of the Civil War. While Ridge Avenue and Brighton Road became the home of some of the wealthiest residents of the Pittsburgh area, and Beech Avenue homes were built for middle-class families, Western Avenue developed as a somewhat unlikely mixture of mansions, homes of middle-class and working-class families, and small industrial sites. North Lincoln Avenue was developed with a mixture of mansions and middle-class housing.

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 of the area around Western Avenue
  • a copy of a 1910 plat map of the Western Avenue area
  • the notice of Longfellow, Alden & Harlow’s design of the Rosenbach house, from The Inland Architect and News Recordd, July 1889
  • information on Longfellow, Alden & Harlow, from Pittsburgh & Allegheny Illustrated Review
  • the obituary of Fannie Rosenbach, from the Allegheny Evening Record, July 6, 1897
  • a copy of a photograph of the Oil Exchange Building in Oil City, from a 1971 centennial history of Oil City
  • the obituary of Clara Rosenbach, from the Pittsburgh Gazette-Times, June 21, 1927

A Researched History
By: Carol J. Peterson

all photos by Nick Smerker, unless otherwise noted

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

The Weihls

Charles George Berthold Weihl was born in Darmstadt, Germany, in 1833 or 1834. Available records provide no information on Weihl’s activities before the late 1850’s, when he settled in Pittsburgh.

Weihl was first listed in the Pittsburgh directory in 1859, as a clerk living at 132 Smithfield Street, Downtown. Weihl was not listed in the 1860 directory, and does not appear to have been enumerated in Pittsburgh in the 1860 census. Weihl, still employed as a clerk, lived at 161 Smithfield Street in 1861.

In about 1862, Charles G.B. Weihl formed a wholesale liquor firm with John Seiferth, who had previously operated a saloon at 87 Third Avenue. The new partnership, John Seifert & Company, began operating in a double commercial-residential building at 27-29 Market Street, Downtown (demolished; at the southwestern comer of Market Street and Boulevard of the Allies). Weihl moved to 27-29 Market Street, also the home of John Seifert.

Charles GB Weihl

Charles GB Weihl

Charles G.B. Weihl purchased property in Allegheny County for the first time in February 1866, when he and John Seiferth bought the 34′ by 70′ lot that their building occupied for $16,050. Over the next 12 years Weihl and Seiferth acquired other property in East Liberty, Lower Saint Clair Township (now the South Side Slopes area), Mifflin Township (now the West Mifflin area) and the Woods Run area of Allegheny City. Weihl and Seiferth acquired most of these parcels in foreclosure proceedings, and it is possible that the two were settling business debts.

Charles G.B. Weihl and Katharine J. Beisel were married no later than 1870. Katharine J. Beisel, about 15 years younger than Charles G.B. Weihl, was born in Pennsylvania, apparently outside the Pittsburgh area, in September 1848. Her parents were born in Wurtemburg, Germany.

Available records suggest the possibility that Charles G.B. Weihl’s marriage to Kate J. Biesel was his second. Weihl’s will, made in 1883, left his estate to his wife and “to all children of mine born from the body of my present beloved wife, Kate J. Weihl.” Although the censuses of 1870 and 1880 document that Weihl had a daughter, Kate, born in about 1867 (when Kate J. Weihl would have been 18), the younger Kate Weihl did not share in her father’s estate. The younger Kate Weihl was still alive in 1885, two years after her father made his will, as documented by her February 17, 1885 wedding to Edmund H. Brackemeyer of Braddock, reported in the Pittsburgh Commercial Gazette.

Local records, including indices of weddings and deaths that were noted in the Pittsburgh Commercial Gazette and its successors, provide no information on any earlier marriage of Charles G.B. Weil.

After marrying, Charles G.B. and Kate J. Weihl lived at 27-29 Market Street. The 1870 federal census of population enumerated the Weihl family at this address. Charles G.B. Weihl, 36, was enumerated as a liquor dealer, and Katharine J. Weihl, 21, had no occupation. The Weihls then had one child, Katharine, three.

Ettie Mathilda Weihl

Ettie Mathilda Weihl as a Girl

In 1870, the Weihl family shared their living quarters with Katharine Weihl’s mother and sister, a boarder, and a servant. Katharine Beisel, 51, was a widow with no occupation, and Louisa Beisel, 17, was a dressmaker. Boarder Emil Walther, 19, worked in a bottling house. He was an immigrant from Darmstadt, Germany. The Weihls’ servant was Barbara Studler, 21, a Bavarian immigrant.

The 1870 manuscript census, the last census to provide information on assets of persons enumerated, reported that Charles G.B. Weihl owned real estate valued at $20,000 and had a personal estate of $15,000. Weihl’s worth of $35,000 was comparable to $1 million or more in the last decade of the twentieth century.

Census records report that Clara L. and Ettie Mathilda, the second and third children of Charles G.B. Weihl, were born at 27-29 Market Street in February 1876 and November 1876 (sic).

Charles G.B. Weihl remained a partner in John Seifert & Company, still at 27-29 Market Street, until 1879. In that year, Weihl left the partnership and founded his own wholesale liquor business at 307 Liberty Avenue, Downtown (on the northern side of Liberty Avenue, halfway between Ninth and Tenth Streets).

At the same time, the Weihl family moved from 27-29 Market Street to a rented house at 31 Federal Street in the lower Hill District (later Fernando Street; on the site of the Civic Arena redevelopment project).

Records of the 1880 census show that the five members of the Weihl family – Charles, 46, Katharine, 31, Katharine, 13, Clara, five, and Ettie, four – lived at 31 Federal Street with Catharine Beisel, 59 (sic), and a servant, Fredericka Weber, 19. Weber was a native of Hesse Cassel, Germany.

Ettie Mathilda Weihl as a Young Woman

Ettie Mathilda Weihl as a Young Woman

The Weihl family moved from Federal Street to 942 Western Avenue after Charles G.B. Weihl purchased the house in June 1881.

Charles G.B. Weihl’s wholesale liquor business moved to 339 Liberty Avenue (at the northwestern comer of Tenth Street and Liberty Avenue) in about 1881. Weihl, however, closed this business by 1883.

The 1883 Pittsburgh directory listed Charles G.B. Weihl as a partner in Weihl & Lippert, which operated a saw factory, the Penn Saw Works, on the present site of the U.S. Steel Building on Grant Street in Downtown Pittsburgh. Weihl’s partner was E. Theodore Lippert of Shaler. Weihl withdrew from this partnership by the following year, and lived in retirement at 942 Western Avenue.

Clara L Weihl Swindell

Clara L Weihl Swindell

An 1886 description of the Penn Saw Works and a 1904 biography of E. Theodore Lippert omitted any mention of Weihl as a partner in the firm.

In 1886, Charles G.B. Weihl acquired a 25′ by 126’ lot on the Temperanceville and Noblestown Plank Road in the West Mansfield section of Robinson Township for $1.

Charles G.B. Weihl died at age 53 on April 23, 1887. His death was not noted in The Alleghenian, a weekly Northside newspaper, and received only brief notices in the daily Pittsburgh newspapers. Allegheny Cemetery records give the cause of Weihl’s death as dropsy.

In his will, Weihl left his estate, including 944 Western Avenue, to his wife and his daughters Clara and Ettie, in equal thirds. Katharine J. Weihl’s interest in the estate required that she not remarry. A widow at 38, she chose not to accept the terms of the will and instead was granted an unconditional one-third interest under Pennsylvania intestate law. In 1898, Clara and Ettie conveyed their interest in the property to their mother.

Ettie Weihl Ridinger with Children

Ettie Weihl Ridinger with Children

Extensive research on the period of construction of 944 Western Avenue does not establish whether construction of the house began before or after Charles G.B. Weihl’s death. Documentation of Weihl’s affluence suggests it is likely that Weihl commissioned the house as a larger residence for himself and his family. It is also possible that Weihl anticipated his death and had the house built as an income-producing property for his wife. Kate J. Weihl may have had the house built after she was widowed for the same reason.

Katharine J. Weihl lived at 942 Western Avenue for over a decade after her husband’s death. In about 1899, she began living with her daughter and son-in-law, Ettie and Charles W. Ridinger, after they moved to a house they purchased or had built at 3418 Perrysville Avenue, Observatory Hill. Charles W. Ridinger, who married Ettie Weihl in 1898, was an electrical engineer.

Edward H Swindell & Charles W Ridinger

Edward H Swindell & Charles W Ridinger

Clara Weihl and Edward H. Swindell were also married in 1898. Edward H. Swindell was a partner in a family-owned business, William Swindle & Brothers, which manufactured and installed regenerative gas furnaces. The Swindells boarded in an un-numbered house in Lincoln Avenue in Bellevue at the time of the 1900 census, and moved to 407 South Pacific Avenue in Friendship by the following year. The family lived at 2228 Perrysville Avenue between 1905 and 1910, and at 6334 Forbes Avenue and 5847 Northumberland Street in Squirrel Hill during the following decade.

In about 1908, the Ridinger family and Kate J. Weihl moved to 5830 Marlborough Street in Squirrel Hill. Kate J. Weihl lived with the Ridinger family for about another decade. In her last years she lived with her daughter, Clara Swindell, and her family. She died in the Swindell home at 5888 Marlborough Avenue in Squirrel Hill on October 16, 1921, at age 73.

944 Western Avenue

944 Western Avenue (Front)

Introduction

944 Western Avenue was constructed between 1884 and 1888, and probably in 1887. The house was built on the western half of a double lot that Charles G.B. Weihl had purchased in 1881. Members of the Weihl family lived at 942 Western Avenue between 1881 and 1898.

Charles G.B. Weihl was a German immigrant and a wholesale liquor dealer. Weihl died in April 1887, and it is not known whether construction of 944 Western Avenue began before or after his death. His widow, Kate J. Weihl, used 944 Western Avenue as a rental property between 1888 and 1921.

Dr. Amasa F. Chandler and his family appear to have been the first occupants of 944 Western Avenue, living in the house in 1888 and 1889. Dr. Chandler, a physician in Ohio for a number of years, did not practice medicine while he lived at 944 Western Avenue. Dr. Chandler was a founder of Charleroi, Washington County, and the Charleroi Plate Glass Company, while he lived at 944 Western Avenue or within a few months afterward.

Later tenants at 944 Western Avenue included the families of Christopher Flinn, a superintendent, and James G. Conner, a fraternity organizer. The house was divided into three apartments between 1910 and 1920.

Detailed information on the ownership history and age of 944 Western Avenue, and on Charles G.B. and Kate Weihl, is contained in the following report.

Ownership

  • December 10, 1867
  • March 2, 1870
  • June 15, 1881
  • April 23, 1887
  • June 27, 1898
  • October 16, 1921
  • April 10, 1923
  • October 9, 1974
  • January 3, 1980
  • August 24, 1995

Elizabeth F. Denny of Pittsburgh conveyed property that included the lot on which 944 Western Avenue now stands to Sarah McKelvy of Allegheny City (now the Northside) for $2,500. The property conveyed was located on the northern side of Western Avenue, 106′ east of Allegheny Avenue, and measured 48′ wide along Western Avenue by 120′ deep to Pasture Alley (now Dounton Way). The property was known as Lots 6 and 7 in Block No. 2 in a plan of lots laid out in the Second Ward of Allegheny City by Mrs. Elizabeth F. Denny (Plan Book 6, Page 193). Lot 6 contained the present site of 944 Western Avenue, and Lot 7 contained the present site of 942 Western Avenue.

(Deed Book Volume 228, Page 207)

Sarah and Hugh McKelvy of Allegheny City conveyed Lots 6 and 7 to Frederick Andriessen of Allegheny City for $11,850. The property contained a house now known as 942 Western Avenue and the present site of 944 Western Avenue.

(DBV 252 P 427)

Frederick and Louisa Andriessen of Allegheny City conveyed Lots 6 and 7 to Charles G.B. Weihl of Pittsburgh for $9,000. The property contained a house now known as 942 Western Avenue and the present site of 944 Western Avenue.

(DBV 418 P 366)

Charles G.B. Weihl died April 23, 1887. Weihl left his estate in equal thirds to his widow, Katharine J. Weihl, so long as she remained his widow, and daughters, then Clara L. Weihl and Ettie Mathilda Weihl (Will Book Volume 31, Page 468). Katharine J. Weihl subsequently declined to accept the terms of the will, and filed her intention to take under the intestate laws of Pennsylvania.

Edward H. and Clara L. (Weihl) Swindell and Charles W. and Ettie M. (Weihl) Ridinger, all of Allegheny City, conveyed their interest in 944 and 942 Western Avenue to Kate J. Weihl, widow, of Allegheny City for $5. This deed also conveyed interest in other property in the Woods Run section of Allegheny City, on Penn Avenue in East Liberty, and on East Carson Street on the South Side.

(DBV 1005 P 153)

Kate J. Weihl died intestate on October 16, 1921. She was survived by Clara L. Swindell and Ettie M. Ridinger. Ettie M. Ridinger died February 27, 1922. In her will dated November 12, 1921 (Will Book Volume 173, Page 300) she left her interest in 944 and 942 Western Avenue to her husband, Charles W. Ridinger.

Clara L. and Edward H. Swindell and Charles W. Ridinger, widower, all of Pittsburgh, conveyed 944 Western Avenue to Julia Augusta Hill, unmarried, of Pittsburgh for $11,000.

(DBV 2164 P 9)

Julia Augusta Hill conveyed 944 Western Avenue to Donald Harrison Cowen for $10,000.

(DBV 5391 P 435)

Donald Harrison Cowen conveyed 944 Western Avenue to Jon Rock Two, a Pennsylvania limited partnership, for $50,500.

(DBV 6208 P 831)

Timothy G. Zinn purchased 944 Western Avenue from Jon Rock Two on August 24, 1995.

(DBV 9527 P 492)

Age of the House

Construction

All available information indicates that 944 Western Avenue was constructed between 1884 and 1888, and probably in 1887.

An 1872 Hopkins plat map shows that 944 Western Avenue had not yet been built. In 1872, the lot on which 944 Western Avenue now stands was owned by Frederick Andriessen, who also owned 942 Western Avenue. Andriessen’s house at 942 Western Avenue is depicted on the 1872 map.

Charles G. B. Weihl purchased the double lot that contained 942 Western Avenue and the site of 944 Western Avenue for $9,000 on June 15, 1881. This purchase price was consistent with or slightly lower than prices paid for other houses in Allegheny West at the time, and indicates that the double lot still contained only 942 Western Avenue.

An 1882 Hopkins plat map and an 1884 Sanborn Map Company insurance map show that 944 Western Avenue remained unbuilt.

The 1887 Pittsburgh city directory listed no residents of 243 (now 944) Western Avenue. The 1888 Pittsburgh city directory listed Dr. Amasa F. Chandler at 243 (944) Western Avenue for the first time.

The 1890 Hopkins plat map confirms that 944 Western Avenue had been built.

Pittsburgh directories show that the family of Charles G.B. Weihl lived at 942 Western Avenue before and after construction of 944 Western Avenue, making it impossible to use the Weihls’ residence to help document when 944 Western Avenue was built.

Allegheny County mortgage records contain no record of any mortgage taken by Charles G.B. Weihl or Ms wife, Kate Weihl, that appears to have financed construction of 944 Western Avenue.

Architectural Style

944 Western Avenue was built in a transitional style, with an exterior that incorporated elements of the Second Empire and Queen Anne styles. The house’s shape, with a depth about three times its width and a mansard roof, is characteristic of an urban version of the Second Empire style that was popular in middle-class and upper-middle-class neighborhoods in Pittsburgh between about 1870 and 1885. Smooth, unomamented stone lintels like those used at 944 Western Avenue are typical of later houses with mansard roofs that were constructed in urban Pittsburgh neighborhoods through the early 1890’s.

The Queen Anne influence at 944 Western Avenue is shown in the elaborate woodwork of the front porch and the ornamentation of the main dormer.

The egg-and-dart terra cotta below the front cornice line and the dentil trim on the porch roof are both atypical of houses built in the Pittsburgh area in the 1880’s.

Interior architectural details of 944 Western Avenue also illustrate a transition between the Second Empire and Queen Anne eras. The house was built with four-panel doors, highly ornamental hinges and round backplates behind doorknobs, all typical of Second Empire and Italianate houses built in Pittsburgh before about 1885. However, the corner blocks, symmetrical door and window trim, handrail, spindles and newel posts of the main stairway and marbleized slate mantels with Eastlake incising are of the type used in construction of homes for upper-middle-class, middle-class and upper-working class families in Pittsburgh between about 1885 and 1895. The Queen Anne style was most popular locally during this period.

Available records do not identify an architect who was credited with design of 944 Western Avenue.

Street Numbering

The present house numbering on Western Avenue is the fourth on the street.

Pittsburgh directory listings of Western Avenue residents indicate the first street numbers on the street were put in place in the late 1860’s. The 1872 Hopkins plat map depicts what appears to have been the earliest street numbers on Western Avenue; the present 942 Western Avenue was numbered 203, and if 944 Western Avenue had been built, it would have been numbered 201.

A second numbering system was in place by 1884, as shows by a Sanborn fire insurance map published that year. The present 942 Western Avenue was known as 100 Western Avenue, and 944 Western Avenue would have been assigned number 102.

Directory listings suggest the next numbering change on Western Avenue took place in 1886. The present 944 Western Avenue is shown as 243 Western Avenue on the 1890 Hopkins map, and 942 Western Avenue was numbered 247.

The present street numbering system was put in place in Allegheny West and other lower North Side neighborhoods in 1899.

Nearby streets such as Beech and North Lincoln Avenues have had only two house numbering schemes. The first, in place between the late 1860’s and 1899, numbered houses in ascending order from 1 to about 101 eastward from Allegheny Avenue. Known records do not provide information on any reason for the frequent numbering changes on Western Avenue.

The Home Today

Photos by Chris Siewers

Residents

The Weihls

Pittsburgh city directories, U.S. census records, and other materials provide information on Charles G.B. Weihl and his wife, Katharine J. Weihl.

Learn More

1888-1889

Pittsburgh city directories and the 1889 social register show that Dr. Amasa F. Chandler and his family rented 944 Western Avenue from Kate J. Weihl in 1888 and 1889. Dr. Chandler and his family appear to have been the first residents of 944 Western Avenue.

Dr. Amasa F. Chandler lived in Ohio prior to his 1888 move to Allegheny City. After he moved to Allegheny City, he helped found the Charleroi Plate Glass Company and the city of Charleroi, Washington County. Dr. Chandler moved from Western Avenue to Charleroi in 1889 or 1890, and died in Charleroi in 1890.

More information on Dr. Amasa F. Chandler and his family is contained in biographical materials and information on the history of Charleroi, included with this report.

1890

The 1890 manuscript census, which would provide information on residents of 944 Western Avenue in that year, was destroyed in a warehouse fire following its completion.

1900-1905

The family of Christopher Flinn rented 944 Western Avenue at the time of the 1900 census.

Christopher Flinn, 45, was enumerated as a superintendent. He had been born in Pennsylvania to Irish immigrant parents. His wife, Lucy, 40, had been born in Ohio to parents born in Maryland.

In 1900, Christopher and Lucy Flinn had been married for 20 years and had had six children. Five of their children were alive at the time of the census, and lived at home.

Francis, 19, was the oldest child of Christopher and Lucy Flinn. He was employed as a draftsman. Marie, 17, Antonette (sic), 16, Margarette, 10, and Julia, eight, attended school.

The 1900 census did not enumerate any servants or other non-family members at 944 Western Avenue.

Pittsburgh city directories listed Christopher Flinn as a superintendent living at 944 Western Avenue between 1900 and 1905. The 1902 directory shows that Flinn was employed at 3335 Preble Avenue in the Woods Run section of Allegheny City. This address does not correspond to any Preble Avenue addresses depicted in a 1905 Sanborn fire insurance map. Other directories did not list Flinn’s work address.

Christopher Flinn was not listed in Pittsburgh directories published before 1900 or after 1905.

1910

In 1910, according to census records, 944 Western Avenue was rented to James G. Conner.

James G. Conner, 57, was a fraternity organizer. He and his wife, Narcissa E., 52, had both been born in Pennsylvania, as had their parents.

In 1910, James G. and Narcissa E. Conner had been married 36 years and had had two children. Both of their children, Frank F. and Narcissa B., were single and lived at home. Neither had an occupation.

Pittsburgh directory listings suggest the Conner family’s stay at 944 Western Avenue was very short. James G. Conner was never listed in directories at 944 Western Avenue. The 1910 directory listed Conner at 918 Beech Avenue, and with no occupation. Conner had lived at 1905 Saint Clair Terrace (now Saint Ives Street, near the General Mail Facility on California Avenue) a year earlier, and was listed as a clerk. He was not listed in the 1911 directory.

1920

The 1920 census enumerated a total of 11 persons living in three apartments at 944 Western Avenue.

The first apartment at 944 Western Avenue was occupied by a family headed by Jerry Cochran, a single 52-year-old machinist. Cochran shared his living quarters with his widowed sister, Lula Hulego, 53, and widowed mother, Margaret Cochran, 76. Both women had no occupation. All three family members had been born in Pennsylvania.

Joseph Sullivan, 41, was the head of the second household at 944 Western Avenue. Sullivan was a traveling salesman who had been born in Massachusetts. His wife, Sarah, 33, had been born in New York State. Sarah Sullivan had no occupation. The couple had two children, Frances, three, and Bettie, 19 months.

The third apartment at 944 Western Avenue was rented to George Jones, a 35-year-old plumbing superintendent. Jones was a native of Ohio. Mary T., 29, his wife, had been born in Canada, and came to the United States in 1905. She had no occupation.

George and Mary T. Jones were childless, and shared their living quarters with two lodgers at the time of the 1920 census. Their lodgers were Catherine Glosser, 32, and Margaret Harshaw, 30. Both were single and worked as salesladies in department stores. Both lodgers had been born in Pennsylvania.

1930

Records of the 1930 census show that 944 Western Avenue was rented to George and Grace E. Everett. The Everetts paid $130 per month to rent 944 Western Avenue, and shared the house with nine roomers.

George Everett, 46, was a laborer in a piano store. Grace E. Everett, 48, managed 944 Western Avenue, which the Everetts used as a rooming house. George and Grace E. Everett had both been born in Pennsylvania, as had their parents. The couple had no children who lived at home.

Roomers who lived at 944 Western Avenue in 1930 were:

  • Cecelia A. Mathews, 29, who was divorced and worked as saleslady in a department store
  • Elizabeth J. Mathews, eight, a daughter of Cecelia A. Mathews
  • David Harris, 37, a laborer employed in building construction
  • Margaret Harris, 30, his wife, who had no occupation

  • Robert J. Clarke, 31, a clerk employed by a mine and mill supply company
  • Zada A. Clarke, 25, his wife, who had no occupation
  • Doris M. Clarke, six, their daughter
  • Bessie M. Thomas, 36, a divorced woman who was a saleswoman in a dry goods store
  • Gladys G. Thomas, 16, her daughter, an operator in a beauty parlor

George and Grace E. Everett, Cecelia A. and Elizabeth J. Mathews, and David and Margaret Harris were all natives of Pennsylvania. Robert J. Clarke had been born in Pennsylvania, and Zada A. Clarke had been born in Ohio. Their daughter Doris was born in Pennsylvania. Bessie M. and Gladys G. Thomas were both natives of Maryland.

Census records also indicate that Robert J. Clarke was the only resident of 944 Western Avenue who owned a radio.

Neighborhood Development

944 Western Avenue was built more than two decades after the Allegheny West area began to develop as a genteel alternative to sections of Allegheny City like the east and south commons and the Anderson Street area, which were crowded and contained mixed residential, commercial and industrial uses by the end of the Civil War. While Ridge Avenue and Brighton Road became the home of some of the wealthiest residents of the Pittsburgh area, and Beech Avenue homes were built for middle-class families, Western Avenue developed as a somewhat unlikely mixture of mansions, homes of middle-class and working-class families, and small industrial sites. North Lincoln Avenue was developed with a mixture of mansions and middle-class housing.

Learn More

Supplementary Materials

The following materials accompany this report:

Maps

  • a copy of an 1852 map of the Allegheny City area
  • a copy of an 1872 plat map of part of Allegheny West
  • a copy of an 1884 Sanborn fire insurance map of the area around 944 Western Avenue
  • a copy of a 1925 plat map of the area around 944 Western Avenue

Dr. Amasa F. Chandler

  • a copy of the 1889 Pittsburgh social register listing of members of the Chandler family at 243 (944) Western Avenue
  • information on Amasa F. Chandler and his sons, Lee L. and Sellers McKee Chandler, from Encyclopedia of Pennsylvania Biography (1916)
  • articles on early development of Charleroi, from the Pittsburgh Press, December 20, 1925 and March 11, 1934
  • information on development of Charleroi, from Charleroi – the First 100 Years (1990)

Charles G.B. and Kate Weihl

  • information on John Seiferth, former partner of Charles G.B. Weihl in John Seifert & Company, from Industries of Pittsburgh, 1879-80
  • a copy of the 1880 Pittsburgh directory listing of Charles G.B. Weihl
  • the notice of the wedding of the younger Kate Weihl and Edmund H. Brackemeyer, from the Pittsburgh Commercial Gazette, February 19, 1885
  • information on the Penn Saw Works, from Pennsylvania Historical Review (1886)
  • the death notice of Charles G.B. Weihl, from the Pittsburgh Post, April 25, 1887
  • information of William Swindle & Brothers, from Pittsburgh of Today (1896)
  • a biography of E. Theodore Lippert, former partner of Charles G.B. Weihl in the Penn Saw Works, from Memoirs of Allegheny County (1904)
  • the obituary of Katherine J. Weihl, from the Pittsburgh Press, October 18, 1921

William Lyons

  • an article about the sucicide of William Lyons from The Pittsburgh Daily Post, October 19, 1891

A Researched History
By: Carol J. Peterson

all photos by Chris Siewers, unless otherwise noted

The McKelvys

Hugh McKelvy was born in 1817 in Wilkinsburg, and was raised in Allegheny City (now the Northside) from the age of three. McKelvy probably grew up near the present site of Allegheny General Hospital, as his obituary reported that he attended a log school building that stood on or near the hospital’s present site.

Hugh and Sarah McKelvy were married by the early 1840s. Sarah McKelvy was born in 1821 in Pennsylvania. Wesley McKelvy, the first child of Hugh and Sarah McKelvy, was bom in 1844. He was followed by William in 1847, Emma in 1852, Ella in 1856, Dale in 1858 and Hugh Jr. in 1860.

By 1850, Hugh McKelvy was employed as an engineer, and lived with his wife and children on Reedsdale Street (then Rebecca Street) in Allegheny City. McKelvy became a riverboat captain within a short time. The McKelvy family moved from Reedsdale Street to a house that Hugh and Sarah McKelvy owned at 208 West North Avenue (then an un-numbered house on Allegheny City’s North Commons) in the mid-1850s.

In 1859, McKelvy became a partner in Burgess & McKelvy, grocers, located on Forbes Avenue (then Diamond Street) in Downtown Pittsburgh. McKelvy’s partner was John Burgess of Sandusky Street in what is now the Allegheny Center Mall area. McKelvy remained in that business until 1862.

The 1860 census of population enumerated seven members of the McKelvy family – Hugh, 43, Sarah, 39, Wesley, 16, William, 13, Emma, eight, Ella, four and Dale, two – in their home on the North Commons. The census reported that Hugh McKelvy owned real estate worth $4,000, probably the value of the McKelvy family’s home, and had a personal estate of $1,200.

The 1863 Pittsburgh city directory listed Hugh McKelvy as a steam boat captain, and as a partner in two businesses: McMahon & McKelvy, oil refiners, of 44th Street at the Allegheny Valley Railroad in Lawrenceville, and McKelvy & Moore, barrel manufacturers, of Diamond Street in Allegheny City. McKelvy may have found the oil refinery to be more profitable than his other enterprises, and ended his involvement in riverboats and barrel manufacturing by 1864.

Hugh McKelvy’s 1863 entry into the oil industry came four years after the discovery of oil at Titusville in northwestern Pennsylvania. McKelvy and thousands of other men intent on profiting from extracting, transporting, refining, and selling oil invested their time and available capital in this industry. Pittsburgh shared in the oil boom as a center of river transportation and as the site of several refineries. During that time, a number of Pittsburgh men traveled to growing northwestern Pennsylvania communities such as Titusville, Franklin, Oil City, and Pithole to participate in the oil business. Hugh McKelvy appears to have enjoyed moderate success in the highly risky and capital-intensive oil industry, and was not among those who made or lost fortunes.

In 1864, the McKelvy family lived at 1203 Boyle Street in Allegheny City. The family moved to a new house they had built at 846 Western Avenue in 1865. By 1865, Hugh McKelvy operated an oil depot or refinery at Ninth Street and Fort Duquesne Boulevard, Downtown.

In 1866, the Pittsburgh city directory listed Hugh McKelvy as an oil dealer on Fort Duquesne Boulevard, but with no home listing. It appears likely that McKelvy’s work in the oil industry may have caused him to leave the city in order to tend to his business interests in Pennsylvania’s oil towns for a short time. McKelvy returned to Allegheny City by 1867, when he was appointed Allegheny City postmaster. He held that position while living at 942 Western Avenue in 1868 and 1869. McKelvy could walked to work in the Allegheny City Post Office, in the city hall on Diamond Square in the present Allegheny Center Mall area, or could have taken one of the horse-drawn streetcars that passed in front of his house.

McKelvy returned to the oil business in 1870, as a partner in McKelvy, Brother & Company, at Fort Duquesne Boulevard and Eighth Street. McKelvy’s partners included his brother, William M. McKelvy, of 44th Street in Lawrenceville. After selling 942 Western Avenue in early 1870, the McKelvy family began renting a house at 846 Beech Avenue. The 1870 census, the last census to provide information on assets of persons enumerated, shows that Hugh McKelvy owned no real estate and had a personal estate of $1,000.

Hugh McKelvy and his wife and children lived in a house they owned at 910 Beech Avenue, or in an earlier house on the site, between 1871 and 1874. Hugh McKelvy was listed in directories as an oil broker and oil merchant during that time. McKelvy did not appear in Pittsburgh city directories published after 1874. Available records do not document where the McKelvy family went immediately after leaving Pittsburgh.

Hugh McKelvy died on May 24, 1894, at the home of a daughter on Linden Street in Allegheny City. An obituary published in the Pittsburgh Press stated that McKelvy had been a resident of Parker’s Landing, Armstrong County, a center of oil production.

942 Western Avenue

942 Western Avenue (Front)

Introduction

Hugh McKelvy, the postmaster of Allegheny City (now the Northside), and his wife, Sarah McKelvy, commissioned construction of 942 Western Avenue in 1868. The couple had the house built on a double lot that Sarah McKelvy had purchased for $2,500 in December 1867. The house, whose front section originally had a side-gabled roof, was constructed in the Italianate style, as shown in its arched, projecting window hoods and front door surround.

The McKelvy family lived at 942 Western Avenue for no more than two years, selling the house for $11,850 in 1870. The next owner, wholesale liquor dealer Frederick Andriessen, was probably responsible for the construction of the first rear addition to the house in the early or mid-1870s. Charles G.B. Weihl, also a wholesale liquor dealer, purchased 942 Western Avenue in 1881, and was likely responsible for the second rear addition to the house, built by 1884. Either Weihl or his widow, Katherine, updated and enlarged the house with the addition of its mansard roof and front porch in 1887 or 1888.

Members of the Weihl family owned 942 Western Avenue until 1921, although they began to use the house as a rental property by 1900. The Weihls’ tenants in the early 20th century are typical of the changing residential nature of Allegheny West during that time. In 1900, 942 Western Avenue was rented to Leon S. Klein, the last wholesale liquor dealer known to have been associated with die house. By 1910, 942 Western Avenue was divided into apartments and was rented to tenants of lower socioeconomic status.

The house at 942 Western Avenue deteriorated later in the 20th century. It stood empty for a number of years before it was purchased by Eric Kukura and Dru Imler in 2001, and renovated.

Detailed information on the history of 942 Western Avenue is contained in the following report.

Ownership

  • December 10, 1867
  • March 2, 1870
  • June 15, 1881
  • April 23, 1887
  • June 27, 1898
  • June 7, 1921
  • April 14, 1923
  • June 25, 1969
  • January 3, 1980
  • February 26, 2001
  • October 2, 2002

Elizabeth F. Denny of Pittsburgh conveyed the present site of 942 and 944 Western Avenue to Sarah McKelvy of Allegheny City (now the Northside) for $2,500. The property that was conveyed was located on the northern side of Western Avenue, 106′ east of Allegheny Avenue, and measured 48′ wide along Western Avenue by 120′ deep to Pasture Alley (now Douglas Way). The property was known as Lots 6 and 7 in Block No. 2 in a plan of lots laid out in the Second Ward of Allegheny City by Mrs. Elizabeth F. Denny (Plan Book Volume 6, Page 193). Lot 7 contained the present site of 942 Western Avenue, and Lot 6 contained the present site of 944 Western Avenue.

(Deed Book Volume 228, Page 207)

Sarah and Hugh McKelvy of Allegheny City conveyed Lots 6 and 7 to Frederick Andriessen of Allegheny City for $11,850. The property contained 942 Western Avenue and the present site of 944 Western Avenue.

(DBV 252 P 427)

Frederick and Louisa Andriessen of Allegheny City conveyed Lots 6 and 7 to Charles G.B. Weihl of Pittsburgh for $9,000. The property contained a 942 Western Avenue and the present site of 944 Western Avenue.

(DBV 418 P 366)

Charles G.B. Weihl died on April 23, 1887. Weihl left his estate in equal thirds to his widow, Katharine J. Weihl, so long as she remained his widow, and daughters, then Clara L. Weihl and Ettie Mathilda Weihl (Will Book Volume 31, Page 468). Katharine J. Weihl declined to accept the terms of the will, and filed her intention to take under the intestate laws of Pennsylvania.

Edward H. and Clara L. (Weihl) Swindell and Charles W. and Ettie M. (Weihl) Ridinger, all of Allegheny City, conveyed their interest in 944 and 942 Western Avenue to Kate J. Weihl, widow, of Allegheny City for $5. This deed also conveyed interest in other property in the Woods Run section of Allegheny City, on Penn Avenue in East Liberty, and on East Carson Street on the South Side.

(DBV 1005 P 153)

Katherine J. Weihl, widow, Clara L. and Edward H. Swindell, and Ettie M. and Charles W. Ridinger, all of Pittsburgh, conveyed 942 Western Avenue to John Andrews of Pittsburgh for $8250. This deed and subsequent deeds conveyed Lot 7 in the Denny plan, measuring 24.08′ wide by 120′ deep.

(DBV 2106 P 409)

John Andrews of Pittsburgh conveyed 942 Western Avenue to William H. and Emma Burnett of Pittsburgh for $9,500.

(DBV 2157 P 210)

The estate of William H. Burnett conveyed 942 Western Avenue to John F. Sweetman. The house was valued at $22,500. This deed also conveyed a house at 232 Langley Avenue on the North Side, valued at $12,300.

(DBV 4502 P 468)

John F. and Emma Elder Sweetman conveyed 942 Western Avenue to Jon-Rock Two, a limited partnership, for $50,000.

(DBV 6208 P 835)

Jon-Rock Two, a limited partnership, Paul D. Zavarella, executor of the estate of Jonathan Mills Westin, general partner, and John E. Roney, limited partner, conveyed 942 Western Avenue to Mary Dru Imler and Eric W. Kukura for $15,000.

(DBV 11065 P 464)

Kukura, Simeone & Associates purchased 942 Western Avenue from Mary Dru Imler and Eric W. Kukura on October 2, 2002.

(DBV 11471 P 543)

Age of the House

Construction

Hugh and Sarah McKelvy had 942 Western Avenue built in early 1868, shortly after Sarah McKelvy purchased property containing the site of the house.

Sarah McKelvy purchased a double lot containing the present site of 942 and 944 Western Avenue on December 10, 1867. McKelvy paid $2,500 for the double lot, which measured 48′ wide along Western Avenue by 120′ deep to Douglas Way. This purchase, at 43 cents per square foot, was comparable to prices paid for other undeveloped lots in Allegheny West at the time, and indicates that 942 and 944 Western Avenue had not yet been built.
The 1868 Pittsburgh city directory listed Hugh McKelvy, the husband of Sarah McKelvy, as living at 203 (now 942) Western Avenue for the first time. Sarah and Hugh McKelvy sold the same lot for $11,850 in 1870. The significant increase in price is consistent with a house having built on the lot. An 1872 plat map shows that the house at 942 Western Avenue had been built, and the site of 944 Western Avenue remained undeveloped.

Rear Additions

Two rear additions to 942 Western Avenue bring the house’s rear wall to approximately 25′ from Douglas Way at the rear of the lot. The first fire insurance map of the area around the house, published in 1884, shows that both additions had been built. An 1872 plat map, with somewhat less detail than the 1884 map, does not make clear whether the first addition had been built, and indicates that the second addition had not been built.

It appears likely that the first addition to 942 Western Avenue was constructed not long after Frederick Andriessen purchased the house in 1870, and the second addition was constructed between 1881, when Charles G.B. Weihl purchased the house, and 1884. The brief period of ownership of the house by Hugh and Sarah McKelvy, between early 1868 and March 1870, suggests it is unlikely that they had the first addition constructed. Pittsburgh city directories indicate that Frederick Andriessen lived at 942 Western Avenue immediately after he purchased the house in 1870, but moved away and began to rent the house to tenants by about 1875. Andriessen, a wholesale liquor dealer on East Ohio Street, would probably have been more likely to commission a significant expansion of the house while it was his home than when he no longer lived there.
The house became owner-occupied again in 1881, when it was purchased by Charles G.B. Weihl. The nearly flat roof of the second addition to the house supports the likelihood that Weihl had the second addition built. Houses built on narrow urban lots in Pittsburgh in the 1880s were more likely to have rear ells with nearly flat roofs, like the second addition to 942 Western Avenue, rather than shed roofs with steeper slopes, like the house’s first addition.

Roof and Porch Addition

The front section of 942 Western Avenue had a side-gabled roof until the house’s mansard roof was added, most likely in 1887-1888. The house’s front porch appears to have been added at the same time.

An 1884 fire insurance map shows that the front section of 942 Western Avenue then had a side-gabled roof, rather than the mansard roof that the house now has. The house also had no front porch. The house next door at 944 Western Avenue, whose mansard roof and front porch are nearly identical to those of 942 Western Avenue, had not been built, and its site was the side yard of 942 Western Avenue. Local historical records indicate that 944 Western Avenue was constructed in 1887-1888. The double lot was owned between 1881 and 1921 by members of the Weihl family. The nearly identical mansard roofs and front porches of 942 and 944 Western Avenue, together with the joined ownership of the houses, strongly suggests that the mansard roof and front porch of 942 Western Avenue was added at or very close to the time that 944 Western Avenue was built.
The next fire insurance map of the area around 942 Western Avenue, published in 1893, confirms that the mansard roof and front porch of 942 Western Avenue had been added.

Charles G.B. Weihl, who purchased 942 Western Avenue in 1881, may have commissioned construction of the mansard roof and front porch of 942 Western Avenue and the new house at 944 Western Avenue before his death in April 1887. Weihl, a wholesale liquor dealer in Downtown Pittsburgh, left the property to his wife, Kate Weihl, and daughters, Clara and Ettie. Kate, Clara and Ettie Weihl would have been responsible for the mansard and porch if they were added after Charles G.B. Weihl’s death.

Stable at Rear of Lot

Plat maps published between 1872 and 1901 depict a two-story stable at the rear of the lot at 942 Western Avenue. The stable was of wood frame construction, and measured approximately 24’ wide by 15′ deep. The stable was demolished between 1901 and 1906.

Architectural Style

The house at 942 Western Avenue was constructed in the Italianate style, as shown in its arched, projecting window hoods and front door surround. The house would have originally had brackets beneath its box gutters, like a number of houses in Allegheny West, rather than the egg-and-dart brickwork with which 944 Western Avenue was built approximately 20 years later. In urban neighborhoods like Allegheny West, most Italianate houses built on narrow lots were constructed with front sections with side-gabled roofs, like 942 Western Avenue. Interior details of Italianate homes often included four-panel doors with porcelain knobs and ornamented cast iron hinges, marble, marbleized slate, or wood mantels with arched openings, flared newel posts and spindles and non-symmetrical door and window trim with diagonally mitered comers.
The ornate details of the mansard dormer and front porch of 942 Western Avenue show the influence of the Queen Anne style, which became popular locally around 1885 and remained in favor for a decade.

Known records do not identify an architect who is credited with design of 942 Western Avenue or the historic alterations to the house.

House Numbering

Historic plat maps and fire insurance maps show that Western Avenue had three house numbering systems before the modem present house numbers were put in place in 1899. The house at 942 Western Avenue was numbered 203 immediately after it was built for Hugh and Sarah McKelvy in 1868. The number 203 remained in use until 1880-1881, when the house was renumbered 100 Western Avenue. The house number was changed to 247 in the mid-1880s. That number remained in use until the present Northside house numbering system was put in place in 1899.

Residents

The McKelvys

Pittsburgh city directories, an obituary, and U.S. census records provide information on Hugh and Sarah McKelvy, the first owners of 942 Western Avenue.

Learn More

The 1870 Census

Records of the 1870 census do not provide information on occupants of 942 Western Avenue, suggesting that the house was temporarily vacant.
The census was taken a few weeks after Frederick Andriessen purchased 942 Western Avenue from Hugh and Sarah McKelvy, and it appears likely that Andreissen had not yet moved to the house.

The 1880 Census

The 1880 census enumerated a family headed by Moses Herzog at 942 (then 203) Western Avenue. Moses Herzog, 35, was a Bavarian immigrant and the owner of a store that sold gentlemen’s furnishings, dry goods and trunks and satchels on Wood Street in Downtown Pittsburgh. His wife, Mollie, 28, was an immigrant from Baden, Germany. The couple’s children were Daisy, eight, and Mary, two, both born in Pennsylvania.
The Herzog family employed two servants who lived at 942 Western Avenue. Their servants were Mary Garris, 15 and M. Swatshartell, 25, both born in Pennsylvania to German immigrants.

The 1890 Census

Records of the 1890 manuscript census, which would provide information on occupants of 942 Western Avenue in that year, were destroyed in a warehouse fire following the completion of the census.

The 1900 Census

In 1900, according to census records, 942 Western Avenue was rented to Leon S. and Jessie Klein. Leon S. Klein was a 27-year-old wholesale liquor dealer, and Jessie Klein, 22, had no occupation. Both had been born in Pennsylvania to German immigrants.
The Kleins had been married for one year, and had no children. They employed one servant who lived at 942 Western Avenue: Maggie DeCoursey, 22, who had immigrated from Ireland in 1897.

The 1910 Census

In 1910, 942 Western Avenue contained two apartments, which were rented to families headed by Frank Ressler and Elmano Da Costa.

Frank Ressler was a 39-year-old grocery salesman who had been bom in New York State to parents bom in Germany and Pennsylvania. His wife, Margaret, 35, was born in Pennsylvania to parents bom in Ireland and
Pennsylvania. The Resslers had been married for 12 years, and had no children.
Elmano De Costa, 25, had immigrated from Portugal in 1905, and worked as a bookkeeper for a construction company. Mary, his wife, had come to the United States from Canada in 1905. The couple, married three years, had no children. They shared their apartment with Alipio E. Da Costa, 19, a brother of Elmano. Alipio Da Costa had immigrated earlier in 1910, and had no occupation at the time of the census.

The 1920 Census

S.G. Gurley, a railroad brakeman, was enumerated as the head of the household at 942 Western Avenue in the 1920 census. Gurley, 32, had been born in Pennsylvania to parents born in Pennsylvania. His wife, Blanche, 36, had been born in Pennsylvania to parents born in Iowa and Pennsylvania. The couple had no children, and took in boarders.
Two boarders, Isadora Weber and Agnes D. Camp, lived with the Gurleys when the census was taken. Weber, 67, was a widow born in Ohio, and Camp, 63, was an unmarried Pennsylvania native. Neither had an occupation.

The 1930 Census

William and Emma Burnett, who had purchased 942 Western Avenue in 1923, were enumerated in the house with their two children and four roomers in the 1930 census.

In 1930, William Burnett, 42, was employed by a publishing company as an office manager. A native of Northern Ireland, he had come to the United States in 1905. Emma Burnett, 42, was the proprietor of the rooming house at 942 Western Avenue. She had been bom in Pennsylvania to German immigrant parents. Their children were William Jr., 17, born in New York State, and Emma, 13, born in Pennsylvania.
Boarders living at 942 Western Avenue in 1930 were R.E. Young, 35, an unmarried salesman working in a paint factory, and Pennsylvania native; Mary Pacer, 55, a widowed German immigrant employed as a wrapper in a candy factory; and Matilda Pacer, 22, a telephone operator, and Edward Pacer, eight, both born in Pennsylvania. Although the last three roomers were apparently members of a single family, census records indicate that they and R.E. Young occupied the same dwelling unit as the Burnett family.

The 1930 census is the most recent census that provides detailed information on occupants of 942 Western Avenue. Manuscript census records are withheld from the public for 72 years, to protect the privacy of persons enumerated.

Neighborhood Development

The house at 942 Western Avenue was built a few years after the Allegheny West area began to develop as a genteel alternative to sections of Allegheny City like the East and South Commons and the Anderson Street area, which were crowded and contained mixed residential, commercial and industrial uses by the end of the Civil War. While Ridge Avenue and Brighton Road became the home of some of the wealthiest residents of the Pittsburgh area, and Beech Avenue homes were built for middle-class families, Western Avenue developed as a somewhat unlikely mixture of mansions, homes of middle-class and working-class families, and small industrial sites. North Lincoln Avenue developed with a mixture of mansions and middle-class housing.

Learn More

Supplementary Materials

The following materials accompany this report:

  • a copy of part of an 1852 map depicting Allegheny City
  • copies of parts of plat maps of the area around 942 Western Avenue, published in 1872 and 1901
  • copies of parts of fire insurance maps of the area around 942 Western Avenue, published in 1884, 1893 and 1906
  • the obituary of Hugh McKelvy, from the Pittsburgh Commercial Gazette, May 26, 1894

A Researched History
By: Carol J. Peterson

all photos by Chris Siewers, unless otherwise noted