842 Beech Avenue
842 Beech Avenue is a large three-story brick Italianate style house occupying a 43’9-3/4″ wide by 100′ deep lot located in the Allegheny West section of Pittsburgh’s Northside.
842 Beech Avenue was built between late 1873 and 1874 for Robert M. Gibson, an attorney who had gained prominence despite never having attended college or law school. Robert M. Gibson lived with his family and servants at 842 Beech Avenue, then known as 81 Beech Street, between 1875 and 1882, when he died from lung disease and overwork. Shortly after Gibson’s death, his widow Eliza lost 842 Beech Avenue through foreclosure.
J. Bowman Sweitzer, an attorney and decorated Civil War veteran, bought 842 Beech Avenue in 1884. J. Bowman Sweitzer lived at 842 Beech Avenue for only four years before his death in 1888, but members of his family occupied 842 Beech Avenue until 1912 and owned the house until 1925.
The Sweitzer family maintained 842 Beech Avenue as rental property between 1913 and 1925.
Detailed information on the ownership history, age, and first owner of 842 Beech Avenue follows.
December 27, 1872
Elizabeth F. Denny of the city of Pittsburgh to Robert M. Gibson of Allegheny City, $5,000. This deed conveyed a 40′ wide lot in the Second Ward of Allegheny City (now in the 22nd Ward of the city of Pittsburgh) The property was located on the northern side of Beech Street (now Beech Avenue), 180′ east of Grant Avenue (now Galveston Avenue), and extended 100′ to Buttercup Alley (now Buttercup Way). The property was known as Lots 10 and 11 in Block 3 of a plan of lots laid out by Elizabeth F. Denny and recorded in Plan Book Volume 6, Pages 193 and 194.
(Deed Book Volume 299, Page 357)
September 1, 1873
Elizabeth F. Denny of the city of Pittsburgh to Robert M. Gibson of Allegheny City, $667.18. This deed conveyed a 3’9-3/4″ wide lot on the northern side of Beech Street, bordering and immediately to the east of the 40′ wide lot that Robert M. Gibson had purchased on December 27, 1872. The property was known as part of Lot 12 in Block 3 of the plan of lots laid out by Elizabeth F. Denny. With this purchase, the lot on which 842 Beech Avenue stands took on its present dimensions.
(DBV 315 P 539)
December 19, 1883
Allegheny County Sheriff William McCallin to Wilson Beall, $6,500. The property was sold at sheriff’s sale as the result of a suit filed by Wilson Beall against Robert M. Gibson, resulting from an unpaid debt of $14,268.76. The deed stated that the lot contained “a brick dwelling house, 26′ front on Beech Street and 84′ deep, the front to the extent of 38′ being three stories high and the back being two stories high with an attic.”
(DBV 483 P 18)
February 19, 1884
Wilson and Mary J. Beall of Wellsburg, West Virginia to J. Bowman Sweitzer of the city of Pittsburgh, $15,500.
(DBV 487 P 143)
March 27, 1925
Anna B. and Peter S. Duncan of Hollidaysburg, Blair County, Pennsylvania, Elizabeth S. Park, widow, of Westbury, New York and Samuel S. and Mary Sweitzer Pierce of East Williston, Long Island, New York, to William G. Fullerton of the city of Pittsburgh, $13,000. J. Bowman Sweitzer had died and in his will left 842 Beech Avenue to his wife, Mary Holmes Sweitzer, who died on May 15, 1912. In her will, dated September 21, 1911, Mary Holmes Sweitzer left one-quarter interest in the house to her daughter Anna B. Duncan, one-quarter interest to her daughter Elizabeth S. Park, one-quarter-interest to her son J. Bowman Sweitzer, and one-quarter interest to the Union Trust Company of Pittsburgh, in trust for her son O’Hara Denny Sweitzer. Mary Holmes Sweitzer’s son J. Bowman Sweitzer died intestate, unmarried and without issue, in New York City on or about July 14, 1915, vesting his one-quarter interest in Mary Holmes Sweitzer’s other heirs. O’Hara Denny Sweitzer died intestate in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, on or about July 13, 1916, survived only by his daughter Mary Stevenson Sweitzer, now of full age and the wife of Samuel S. Pierce.
(DBV 2231 P 510) (Will Book Volume 34, Page 180) (WBV 116 P 128)
June 6, 1947
William G. and Stella S. Fullerton of the city of Pittsburgh to Alberta Shipe of Whitaker, Allegheny County, $1.
(DBV 2967 P 91)
June 6. 1947
Alberta Shipe of Whitaker, Allegheny County, to William G. and Stella S. Fullerton of the city of Pittsburgh, $1.
(DBV 2967 P 92)
December 27, 1963
Stella S. Fullerton, widow, of the city of Pittsburgh to Henry R. Byers of the city of Pittsburgh, $22,000. William G. Fullerton had died on November 17, 1955.
(DBV 4112 P 184)
June 23, 1973
F.E. Rose and the Virginia Trust Company, co-executors of the estate of Henry R. Byers, deceased, to Thomas Lapinski, unmarried, of the city of Pittsburgh, $16,000. Henry R. Byers had died on October 25, 1972.
(DBV 5262 P 693)
February 1, 1991
Rita O’Brien, administratrix of the estate of Thomas Lapinski, late of the city of Pittsburgh, to Michael R. Bozzone, $37,900. Thomas Lapinski had died on February 20, 1990.
(DBV 8418 P 6)
October 28, 1992
Michael R. Bozzone, unmarried, by his attorney-in-fact Frederich E. Liechti, to Stanton H. and Kathryn G. McKibbin, $53,000.
(DBV 8839 P 47)
Age of the House
All available information indicates that 842 Beech Avenue was built between 1873 and 1874.
The December 27, 1872 sale of a 40′ wide by 100′ deep lot on Beech Avenue for $5000, at $1.25 per square foot, was comparable to other sales of undeveloped property in Allegheny West and nearby and indicates that the lot did not contain a house. An 1872 plat map of the Beech Avenue area also shows that the lot was undeveloped.
Allegheny County mortgage records show that on November 3, 1873 (Mortgage Book Volume 170, Page 240), Robert M. Gibson borrowed $11,365 from Wilson Beall of Wellsburg, West Virginia against the lot on which 842 Beech Avenue now stands. This loan, which was to be repaid in three years, indicates that 842 Beech Avenue was about to be built.
Robert M. Gibson was listed in the Pittsburgh city directory as living at 81 Beech Street (now 842 Beech Avenue) beginning in 1875.
ittsburgh city directories, U.S. census records and biographical materials provide information on Robert M. Gibson and his family.
The Sweitzer family lived at 101 Fourth Avenue until 1884, when J. Bowman Sweitzer bought 81 Beech Avenue.
In January 1884, Wilson Beall advertised 81 Beech Avenue in the Pittsburgh Commercial Gazette:
For sale – That fine residence,
Lot 44×100 feet, No 81 Beech Street, near
the parks, Allegheny, the Property Formerly of
the late R.M. Gibson, deceased, an excellent
residence, substantially built, modern in all its
parts; will be sold at public sale on Thursday,
January 17, at 2 o’clock p.m., on the premises.
Terms and full information from Jas. W. Drape
& Co., auctioneers and real estate agents,
98 Fourth Avenue, Pittsburgh or Geo. Alexander
& Co., 134 Federal Street, Allegheny.
Occupants in 1920
The 1900 manuscript census shows that 842 Beech Avenue had been divided into two apartments. One apartment was rented to Anna M. Price, a widow who took in boarders, and the other to John E. Fairfield, assistant manager of a coke company.
Anna M. Price, 43, was a native of Germany who had immigrated to the United States in 1886. She was not a naturalized citizen. The census gave her occupation as lodging house keeper. Three of her sons lived with her: Harold C., 18, who had no occupation, Meyer C., 16, an advertising clerk, and Edward, 12, attending school.
The Price family shared their quarters at 842 Beech Avenue with three single boarders at the time of the 1920 census. Harry Wentz, 38, was a salesman who had been born in Pennsylvania to parents born in Pennsylvania. Arthur Rutgers, 31, was a street car conductor who had been born in Pennsylvania to parents born in Ohio. James McGivern, 42, was an accountant who had been born in Pennsylvania to Irish immigrant parents.
John E. Fairfield, 48, had been born in Illinois to parents born in Massachusetts and New Jersey. His wife
Seana C., 47, was a native of New York. Her parents had been born in Connecticut and New Jersey.
One child lived with John E. and Seana C. Fairfield at the time of the 1920 census: John E. Jr., 14, who did not attend school. John E. Fairfield Jr. had been born in Ohio.
842 Beech Avenue was built a few years after Beech Avenue and nearby streets 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 1870. Most of the original residents of the houses of the type that line Beech Avenue were merchants or owners of small manufacturing firms who previously lived in older sections of Allegheny City. Many had moved to Allegheny City from Downtown Pittsburgh around the time of the Civil War.
The following materials accompany this report:
- a copy of an 1852 map of Allegheny City and adjacent areas
- a copy of an 1872 plat map of part of the Allegheny West area
- a copy of a 1910 plat map of part of the Allegheny West area
- information on Allegheny West, from Landmark Architecture of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County
- information on Robert M. Gibson, from The Twentieth Century Bench and Bar of Pennsylvania
- the obituary of Robert M. Gibson, from the Pittsburgh Commercial Gazette, November 27, 1882
- “The Bar Action on R.M. Gibson’s Death“, from the Pittsburgh Commercial Gazette, November 28, 1882
- an advertisement for the sale of 81 Beech Street (842 Beech Avenue), from the Pittsburgh Commercial Gazette, January 1884
- information on Mary Holmes Sweitzer and 842 Beech Avenue, from The Social Mirror
- information on J. Bowman Sweitzer, from Biographical Encyclopedia of Pennsylvania
- information on J. Bowman Sweitzer, from The Twentieth Century Bench and Bar of Pennsylvania
- the obituary of J. Bowman Sweitzer, from the Pittsburg Press, November 9, 1888
- the obituary of Mary Holmes Sweitzer, from the Pittsburgh Bulletin-Index, March 16, 1912
- information on J. Bowman Sweitzer Jr., from The Twentieth Century Bench and Bar of Pennsylvania
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- The Alexanders
- The Bells
- The Biancos
- The Butzes
- The Childlses
- Josephine Dale
- The Darlingtons (Harry)
- The Darlingtons (Henry)
- The Diffenbachers
- The Elliotts
- The Fraziers
- The Gerlachs
- The Gibsons
- The Grahams
- The Grays
- The Hamiltons
- The Hoffstots
- The Holmeses (Charles)
- The Holmeses (Letitia)
- The Joneses
- The Kaufmanns
- The Klees
- Max Klein
- The Knoxes
- The Lyonses
- The McKelvys
- The Milligans
- The Nevins
- The Prices
- The Rhodeses
- The Rosenbachs
- The Scullys
- The Siebenecks
- The Singers
- The Sweitzers
- The Teufels
- The Torrances
- The Trauermans
- The Watsons
- The Weihls
- The Willocks
all photos by Chris Siewers, unless otherwise noted