849 N Lincoln Avenue
In 1907, retired Pittsburgh industrialist George Harton Singer created the house that is today known as 849 North Lincoln Avenue when he combined two attached 40-year-old homes at 847 and 849 Lincoln Avenue. Singer spent $8,000, greater than the entire construction cost of a typical middle-class Pittsburgh home at the time, in converting 849 North Lincoln into a Colonial Revival mansion. In late summer 1907, Singer also had a garage built at 849 North Lincoln Avenue. Singer’s permit for construction of the garage was the last Allegheny West building permit issued before the late 1907 annexation of Allegheny City by the city of Pittsburgh.
George Harton Singer was a son of William H. Singer, a founder of the iron manufacturing firm of Singer, Nimick & Company. William H. Singer was a long-time resident of Western Avenue in Allegheny City.
George Harton Singer and his family lived at 849 North Lincoln Avenue for only a few years before joining other wealthy Allegheny City residents in fleeing to the clean air and tranquility of Sewickley. Singer and his wife,
Charlotte, sold 849 North Lincoln Avenue in 1920 to John R. McGinley president of the Gary Screw & Bolt Company, and his wife, Jennie. After John R. McGinley’s death, Jennie McGinley transferred 849 North Lincoln Avenue to a firm that converted it to a rooming house.
849 North Lincoln Avenue was owned by a succession of rooming house operators until 1977. In that year, 849 North Lincoln Avenue was purchased by its present owners, Harold E. Dixler and Nicholas F. Duerlinger, who are restoring the house to the period of its occupancy by the George Harton Singer family.
Detailed information on the history of 849 North Lincoln Avenue is contained in the following pages.
849 North Lincoln Avenue occupies part of the site of a rope walk, or factory, that was operated by members of the Irwin family until 1858.
Lot Owners (1858-1867)
On June 26, 1858 (Deed Book Volume 135, Page 382), John Irwin and his wife, Abigail, sold Lots 66 and 67 in the Plan of the Rope Walk Property to Daniel Euwer for $2,950. Both lots measured 48′ wide along Central Avenue (now North Lincoln Avenue) and Ridge Street (now Ridge Avenue), and 285’6″ deep. Daniel Euwer, of Ridge Avenue, was listed in city directories as a “gent,” or property owner who did not work. Euwer was the first of three short-term owners whose interest in the property was speculative, during a time of rising land values.
Daniel Euwer sold the western half of Lot 67 to William B. Smith, a “gent,” of Western Avenue on March 18, 1863 (DBV 159 P 500). On the same day, Euwer sold the eastern half of the lot to Alexander Pitcairn, a weaver who lived on Rebecca (now Reedsdale) Street (DBV 159, P 502). Both sales were for $1,000. Alexander Pitcairn sold the western half of the lot to William B. Smith for $1500 on September 10, 1864 (DBV 176 P 340).
William B. Smith doubled his investment in Lot 67 when he sold it to John W. Simpson, who would build the original double house at what is now 849 North Lincoln Avenue, in 1866.
Original Structures (1867-1906)
John W. Simpson, a Downtown Pittsburgh flour dealer who lived in an earlier house on the present site of 841 North Lincoln Avenue, purchased Lot 67 on March 16, 1866 (DBV 201 P 84). Simpson paid $5,000, or 36 cents per square foot, indicating the property remained undeveloped. Simpson had the two party wall houses that now comprise 849 North Lincoln Avenue built during the next 17 months.
On August 15, 1867 (DBV 222 P 71), John W. Simpson sold the eastern half of Lot 67, containing a house then known as 62 Lincoln Avenue, to Samuel P. Shriver for $15,000. Shriver, a wholesale grocer, lived in an un-numbered house on Ridge Avenue before moving to 62 Lincoln Avenue. The lot that was conveyed measured 24′ wide and 285’6″ deep between Lincoln and Ridge Avenues.
John W. Simpson sold the western half of Lot 67, containing a house known as 60 Lincoln Avenue, to Thomas Dawson for $15,500 on October 4, 1867 (DBV 220 P 436). Dawson, who previously lived in Rochester, Beaver County, was subsequently listed in city directories as a gent living at 60 Lincoln Avenue.
An 1872 plat map of the North Lincoln Avenue area shows that Lot 67 was occupied by a double house known as 60 and 62 Lincoln Avenue. Outbuildings, probably stables or carriage houses, faced Ridge Avenue.
62 Lincoln Avenue
After purchasing 62 Lincoln Avenue from John W. Simpson in 1867, Samuel P. Shriver owned and lived at 62 Lincoln Avenue for 27 years. On June 30, 1894, Shriver and his wife, Rachel, sold 62 Lincoln Avenue to John M. Montgomery of Glenfield, near Sewickley, for $12,750. Montgomery owned 62 Lincoln Avenue for nine months, selling the house to James W. Scully for $14,000 on March 23, 1895 (DBV 887 P 530).
Two months later, on May 22, 1895 (DBV 890 P 368), James W Scully and his wife, Ida, sold 62 Lincoln Avenue to William H. Singer for $14,000. William H. Singer owned 62 Lincoln Avenue (known as 847 Lincoln Avenue after late 1899) for nine years before his purchase of the western half of the double house.
John M. Montgomery, who may not have lived at 62 Lincoln Avenue during the brief time that he owned the house, was president of the Consolidated Stock and Produce Exchange of Pittsburgh. Montgomery, whose office was located at 410 Smithfield Street, Downtown, lived on Union Avenue, near the present site of Allegheny Center Mall, in the late 1890’s and early 1900’s.
James W. Scully, owner of 62 Lincoln Avenue for two months during 1895, lived in a house now known as 845 North Lincoln Avenue in the 1800’s andearly 1900’s. Scully was president of the First National Bank of Birmingham, 1201 East Carson Street.
60 Lincoln Avenue
Thomas Dawson owned and occupied 60 Lincoln Avenue until September 2, 1872, when he sold the house to John Kirkpatrick for $22,000 (DBV 294, P 314). Kirkpatrick was the general agent of the Armenia Insurance Company. After Kirkpatrick’s death, legal actions among his heirs resulted in appointment of a special master to partition his property.
On July 28, 1906, C.S. Crawford, the court-appointed master for partition of the estate of John Kirkpatrick, sold 60 Lincoln Avenue (known since late 1899 as 849 Lincoln Avenue) to Karl E. Wilson for $10,000 (DBV 1463 P 572). Wilson owned the house for only three days before selling it to Frederick C. Ewart for $10,000 (DBV 1463, P 576). Ewart, a manager who had rented the house between the early 1890’s and 1904, sold the house on the same day – July 31, 1906-to William H. Singer for $10,000.
The Singer Mansion (1907)
With William H. Singer’s purchase of the western half of 849 North Lincoln Avenue in 1906, Singer owned both halves of what remained a party wall house. Under Singer’s ownership, the two houses were combined as a mansion in a 1907 remodeling.
William H. Singer appears to have purchased both halves of 849 North Lincoln Avenue as residences for his children. A son, William H. Singer Jr., occupied 62 (847) Lincoln Avenue between 1896 and 1901. Another son, George Harton Singer, occupied 849 North Lincoln Avenue after its remodeling as a mansion. George Harton Singer is recorded as the owner of the property in building permit records, although his father owned 849 North Lincoln Avenue until his death in 1909. The elder Singer left the house to George Harton Singer.
Allegheny City building permit dockets show that George Harton Singer received a permit for an $8,000 alteration of a brick dwelling on Lincoln Avenue on March 6, 1907. Existing records provide no information on dimensions of any additions made to the structure. On July 31, 1907, Singer received a permit for construction of a one-story brick garage in the rear of the property. The garage was to measure 44′ wide by 25′ wide, and had an estimated construction cost of $3,700.
The $8,000 that George Harton Singer spent for remodeling of 849 North Lincoln Avenue was greater than the typical construction cost of about $7,000 for a new middle-class house of about 10 rooms – including servants’ rooms – in Pittsburgh in 1907.
George Harton Singer hired the contracting firm of John H. Trimble & Brother for alteration of 849 North Lincoln Avenue and construction of the garage. City directories show that John H. Trimble & Brother was located at 2022 Chartiers (now Chateau) Street in Manchester in the early 1900’s. The firm was a partnership of John H. Trimble of Ben Avon and James Trimble of Bellevue.
Other work of John H. Trimble & Brother included an addition to the William Thaw Jr. house at 930 North Lincoln Avenue, a carriage house at 930 North Lincoln Avenue, and a house for iron manufacturer James B. Laughlin at 400 Devonshire Street in Shadyside. A related firm, W.F. Trimble & Sons, built the Harry Darlington Jr. house at 709 Brighton Road and its carriage house.
The July 31, 1907 permit for construction of the garage at 849 North Lincoln Avenue was the last building permit issued in Allegheny West before Allegheny City’s annexation into the city of Pittsburgh in late 1907.
George Harton Singer had 849 North Lincoln Avenue remodeled in the Colonial Revival style. Colonial Revival homes, common in Pittsburgh between the late 1890’s and the 1920’s, used features common to Georgian, Adam and Dutch Colonial houses built in the American colonies and United States until the 1840’s. Colonial Revival features of 849 North Lincoln Avenue include the shape of its front section, its front porch with columns and capitals, dentils at cornice level, and window configuration, keystone lintels, and blind arches. In and around Pittsburgh, most Colonial Revival homes were built of brick rather than wood frame.
A Field Guide to American Houses (Virginia and Lee McAlester, 1992) is a useful tool for identifying features of Colonial Revival homes, and provides abundant photographs of Colonial Revival, Georgian and Adam homes with accompanying text.
The Singer Family
George Harton Singer, born in Pittsburgh in 1859, was 48 when he and his father commissioned the remodeling of 849 North Lincoln Avenue. Singer’s father, William H. Singer, lived at 934 Western Avenue for many years. William H. Singer, a partner in iron manufacturing firms since the 1850’s, was a founder of the firm of Singer, Nimick &Company. The elder Singer also sold the Pittsburgh Bessemer Steel Company (later U.S. Steel’s Homestead Works) to the Carnegie Steel Company, and served on the boards of the latter firm and the Crucible Steel Company.
George Harton Singer worked for Singer, Nimick & Company and the Crucible Steel Company during the 1880’s and 1890’s. Singer was apparently able to retire in about 1900, at 41, and city directories published during the 20th century never listed Singer as having an occupation or maintaining a Downtown office for any purpose.
Although George Harton Singer invested a considerable amount of money in the 1907 remodeling of 849 North Lincoln Avenue, Singer and his family lived there for a relatively short time. Singer apparently began living in Sewickley at least during summers by the early 1910’s, and a biographical caption in Prominent Men of Pittsburgh (1915) indicated Singer’s home was in Sewickley. Singer and his wife, Charlotte, sold 849 North Lincoln in 1920.
Marguerite Singer, a sibling of George Harton Singer, and her husband, Dr. Robert Milligan, were the second owners of the Harry Darlington Jr. mansion at 709 Brighton Road.
Through the Years
Decline and Restoration (1920-Present)
After living in Sewickley for a number of years, George Harton and Charlotte Singer sold 849 North Lincoln Avenue to John R. and Jennie A. McGinley for $20,000 on April 21, 1920 (DBV 2049, P 123). The McGinleys, previously living in New York City, lived at 849 North Lincoln Avenue through 1932. John R. McGinley served as president of the Gary Screw and Bolt Company in the early 1920’s, and later maintained an investment brokerage office in the Westinghouse Building, Ninth Street, room 1200.
After her husband’s death, Jennie A. McGinley transferred ownership of 849 North Lincoln Avenue to the Eaglis Corporation, of which she served as secretary, for $1 on June 3, 1932 (DBV 2470 P 189). The Eaglis Corporation then converted 849 North Lincoln Avenue into a rooming house.
On February 10, 1937 (DBV 2561 P 134), the Eaglis Corporation sold 849 North Lincoln Avenue to Northside rooming house operators Chris and Nellie Christensen for $6,000. Chris Christensen, by then a widower, transferred the house to his son and daughter-in-law, Oskar H. and Yeiva J. Christensen, in consideration of $1 and love and affection on December 28, 1960 (DBV 3955, P 453). After her husband’s death, Yelva Christensen sold 849 North Lincoln Avenue to Carl E. and Nancy R. Floyd for $39,500 on February 22, 1974 (DBV 5386 P 399).
On January 19, 1976 (DBV 5572, P 553), Nancy R. Floyd, widowed, sold 849 North Lincoln Avenue to William Hubeaut for $40,000. Hubeaut owned 849 North Lincoln Avenue for 21 months, then sold it to its present owners, Harold E. Dixler and Nicholas F. Duerlinger, on November 11, 1977 (DBV 5865, P 623).
Allegheny West in the Early 1900’s
When George Harton Singer had 849 North Lincoln Avenue remodeled as a mansion, the Allegheny West housing market was characterized by steady demand for mansions and a declining market for middle-class homes.
In 1907, middle-class homeowners had been slowly leaving Allegheny West for nearly 20 years. Beech and West North Avenues were primarily a mix of owner-occupied and rented single family homes, with a few homes already divided into apartments. Although wealthy Allegheny West residents had begun to move to Sewickley in the 1860’s, most larger homes on North Lincoln and Ridge Avenues and Brighton Road remained single-family residences. Two of the neighborhood’s largest surviving houses – the Harry Darlington Jr. house at 709 Brighton Road and the William Penn Snyder house at Ridge and Galveston Avenues – were not yet built in 1907.
In the early 1920’s, almost all of the millionaire residents of Allegheny West moved to the Sewickley era. A few, such as the McGinley family, successors to the Singers at 849 North Lincoln Avenue, remained through the end of the decade.
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all photos by Chris Siewers, unless otherwise noted