The Willocks

William Walter Willock was born in Allegheny City (now the North Side of Pittsburgh) on March 9, 1863. He was one of at least four children of John S. Willock, a coal merchant, and Josephine Hays Willock, born in Pennsylvania to American-born parents. When William W. Willock was born, his family lived in a house that John and Josephine Willock owned at 73 Isabella Street in Allegheny City. The Willock home was near the present site of the Andy Warhol Museum, and was directly across a narrow alley from the Eagle Cotton Mills, which occupied an entire city block.

In 1873-1874, the Willock family moved from Isabella Street to 905 (then 44) Beech Avenue in what is now Allegheny West. The family’s move was part of a post-Civil War movement of middle-class and wealthy families from neighborhoods with commercial and industrial components, such as Downtown Pittsburgh and lower Allegheny City, to neighborhoods or streets that were at least generally residential. William W. Willock lived at 905 Beech Avenue until he was married.

William Willock, according to his obituary, attended Allegheny City public schools, the Chester Military Academy (predecessor of Widener University in Chester, Pennsylvania), and the Western University of Pennsylvania (predecessor of the University of Pittsburgh). In the early 1880s, Willock began working for the Third National Bank of Pittsburgh on Wood Street at Virgin Way, Downtown, as a messenger. He advanced to a position as a clerk in about 1884 and held that job for over a decade.

On April 16, 1889, William Willock, 26, married Alice B. Jones, 23. Alice Jones was born on April 18, 1866 in Downtown Pittsburgh. Her parents were Benjamin Franklin Jones, a prominent iron and steel manufacturer, and Mary McMasters Jones. B.F. Jones was a founder of Jones & Laughlin (later the Jones & Laughlin Steel Company; later the Jones & Laughlin Steel Corporation), which operated iron and steel mills in and near Pittsburgh. During approximately the last three decades of the nineteenth century and the early twentieth century, the Jones family lived in a mansion at the northwestern corner of Brighton and North Lincoln Avenues.

William and Alice Jones Willock lived with the Jones family for approximately the first four years after they were married. Their first child, Franklin Jones Willock, was born in January 1891. The Willocks moved from the Jones residence to their newly constructed house at 705 Brighton Road in 1892 or 1893.

William Willock worked as a clerk until about 1894, when he became the general manager of the Monongahela Connecting Railroad. The Monongahela Connecting Railroad was a subsidiary of the Jones & Laughlin Steel Company, and was headquartered in the parent company’s offices at Third Avenue and Try Street, Downtown. The railroad crossed the Monongahela River on the Hot Metal Bridge near South 29th Street, connecting Jones & Laughlin’s Soho Iron Works and its Hazelwood operations on the northern side of the river with its American Iron and Steel Works on the South Side.

William W. Willock (far right. courtesy University of Pittsburgh)

William W. Willock Jr., the Willocks’ second and last child, was born in the early 1900s.

William Willock was the general manager of the Monongahela Connecting Railroad until 1901, when he became its vice president. He joined the board of directors of the Jones & Laughlin Steel Company in 1902.

The Willocks became the owners of a summer home, Gladmore Farm in Sewickley Heights, in about 1901. In about 1905, they began using Gladmore Farm as their primary residence. The Willocks continued to own 705 Brighton Road.

A 1912 social directory listed three addresses for the Willocks: their Pittsburgh residence at 705 Brighton Road, their summer home at Gladmore Farm and a winter home called Billswood on Forest Avenue in Lakewood, New Jersey. Although the 1912 social directory listed 705 Brighton Road as the family’s first address, Pittsburgh and Sewickley directories published after 1906 consistently listed William Willock’s home as Sewickley Heights. Willock was listed in Pittsburgh directories sporadically after 1910, suggesting that he may have been semi-retired or that he spent much of his time at the family’s Lakewood, New Jersey home. The Willocks later had a second home at 998 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan and a summer home in Syosset, Long Island.

The Willock family began to rent 705 Irwin Avenue to tenants at some point between 1912 and 1919. Their first known tenants at 705 Brighton Road were Charles F. Patterson, an attorney, and his family. The house remained a single-family home through at least 1923. It became a rooming house by 1927-1928, when the Willocks rented it to Anna E. Barbe, an established North Side rooming house operator. Anna Barbe lived at 705 Brighton Road and used the property as a rooming house until the early 1940s. Pittsburgh directories show that William Willock maintained an office in room 1926 of the Oliver Building, Downtown, in the 1920s and 1930s.

William Willock served on the board of directors of the Jones & Laughlin Steel Corporation until he died on March 8, 1939. Willock died at age 76 in Syosset, Long Island, at or near his summer home there.

Alice Jones Willock survived her husband by less than three months. She died on May 30, 1939, at age 73. Her executors sold 705 Brighton Road in 1944.