858 Beech Avenue
Local historical records indicate that Thomas M. and Nancy R. Lyons commissioned construction of 858 Beech Avenue in 1867 or 1868. The house was built in an urban version of the Italianate style, the most popular architectural style in the Pittsburgh area between the early 1860s and about 1885. Italianate features of 858 Beech Avenue include the brackets below the box gutter and within the side gable facing Galveston Avenue and the prominent window hoods and front door surround.
The house at 858 Beech Avenue was one of the first houses to be built on that street. The lot on which the house stands was part of property in Allegheny West that Elizabeth F. Denny had subdivided in the 1850s or 1860s, after receiving the property in an inheritance.
Thomas M. Lyons was a self-employed tailor while he lived at 858 Beech Avenue. Lyons owned and operated a tailor shop on Federal Street near the Allegheny River during most of the time that he lived in the house. His firm, Elliott & Lyons, produced $15,000 worth of goods annually around the time that 858 Beech Avenue was built.
Thomas M. and Nancy R. Lyons were both bom in Ohio. The couple had five children, all of whom lived at 858 Beech Avenue. Census records also show that the Lyons family employed a servant who lived in their home.
The Lyons family lived at 858 Beech Avenue until 1884. In that year, Thomas M. Lyons died and Nancy R. Lyons and her children left Pittsburgh. The Lyons family owned 858 Beech Avenue until 1902, using the house as a rental property. Their tenants included Thomas P. Roberts, an engineer.
The former Lyons house at 858 Beech Avenue has now had a total of nine owners. Detailed information on the history of 858 Beech Avenue is contained in the following report.
August 18, 1870
Elizabeth F. Denny of Pittsburgh conveyed the lot on which 858 Beech Avenue now stands to Thomas M. Lyons of Allegheny City (now the North Side) for $1100. The lot was described as being located at the northeastern comer of Beech Street (now Beech Avenue) and Grant Street (now Galveston Avenue) in Allegheny City and measuring 20′ wide by 100′ deep. The lot was known as Lot 1 in Block 3 in Mrs. Elizabeth F. Denny’s Plan of Lots (Allegheny County Plan Book Volume 6, Page 193).
(Deed Book Volume 264, Page 545)
February 22, 1884
Thomas M. Lyons died on February 22, 1884. He was survived by his widow, Nancy R. Lyons, and their children.
November 4, 1902
Nancy R. Lyons, Cora D. Lyons and Maurice E. Lyons, all of Cincinnati, Ohio, conveyed 858 Beech Avenue to Dennis Hayes of Avalon for $5500.
(DBV 1203 P 576)
September 21, 1909
The South Side Trust Company, trustee in bankruptcy for Dennis Hayes, conveyed 858 Beech Avenue to Una E. Newell of Willock, Allegheny County, for $4600.
(Deed Book 1656 P 186)
October 29, 1909
Joseph R. and Una E. Newell conveyed 858 Beech Avenue to Frances Rose Hayes of Pittsburgh, wife of Dennis Hayes, for $5187.50.
(DBV 1656 P 190)
May 26, 1921
Title to 858 Beech Avenue was placed in the names of Dennis and Frances Rose Hayes.
Frances Rose Hayes died on October 16, 1929.
(Deed Book 2074 P 47,48)
September 22, 1924
Dennis Hayes of Pittsburgh conveyed 858 Beech Avenue to Anna Werner and Edward A. and Elizabeth Werner for $1.
(DBV 2490 P 521)
December 14, 1938
Anna Werner conveyed her interest in 858 Beech Avenue to Edward A. and Elizabeth Werner.
(DBV 2611 P 367)
August 16, 1968
Edward A. and Elizabeth Werner of Pittsburgh conveyed 858 Beech Avenue to Edward R. and Gay L. Hilderhoff of Pittsburgh for $8000.
(DBV 4592 P 581)
March 13, 1970
Edward R. and Gay L. Hilderhoff of Bellevue conveyed 858 Beech Avenue to Thomas J. Lapinski of Pittsburgh for $11,000.
(DBV 4824 P 41)
October 27, 1978
Thomas J. Lapinski of Allegheny County conveyed 858 Beech Avenue to James R. Harvey for $29,500.
(DBV 6025 P 867)
April 17, 1981
James R. Harvey conveyed 858 Beech Avenue to Joseph A. Buongiomo for $47,500.
(DBV 6363 P 858)
July 8, 1987
Title to 858 Beech Avenue was placed in the names of Joseph A. and Pamela D. Buongiomo.
(DBV 7593 P 134)
January 29, 1999
John C. McDanel purchased 858 Beech Avenue from Joseph A. and Pamela D. Buongiomo on January 29, 1999.
(DBV 10397 P 5)
Age of the House
Historical records indicate that Thomas M. and Nancy R. Lyons commissioned construction of 858 Beech Avenue in 1867 or 1868. The couple had the house built two to three years before they acquired title to the lot on which the house stands from Elizabeth F. Denny, who had subdivided property on and around Beech Avenue.
Thomas M. Lyons purchased the lot on which 858 Beech Avenue now stands from Elizabeth F. Denny on August 18, 1870. Lyons paid $1100 for the lot, measuring 20’ wide along Beech Avenue by 100′ deep along Galveston Avenue. This purchase, at 55 cents per square foot, was slightly lower than prices paid for other undeveloped lots on Beech Avenue at the time.
Pittsburgh city directories listed Thomas M. Lyons as living at the corner of Beech and Grant streets (now Beech and Galveston Avenues) for the first time in 1868. Lyons was listed at the corner of Beech and Grant streets in 1869, and at 63 (now 858) Beech Avenue in 1870. An 1872 plat map confirms that 858 Beech Avenue had been built.
Thomas and Nancy Lyons had 858 Beech Avenue built in the Italianate style.
In urban neighborhoods like Allegheny West, where high land costs discouraged construction of homes with more than about 25′ frontage,Italianate house exteriors were characterized primarily by side-gabled roofs, arched door and window openings, prominent or projecting door and window hoods, and decorative brackets supporting box gutters.
Interior details of Italianate homes often included flared newel posts and spindles, marble or wood mantels with arched openings, four-panel doors with porcelain knobs and ornamented cast iron hinges, and non-symmetrical door and window trim with diagonally mitered comers.
In Pittsburgh, many Italianate homes were built with stairways that incorporated landings located about three steps below the main level of the second floor. Most local Italianate homes also featured two-over-two double hung windows, although some later or larger examples were constructed with one-over-one double-hung windows.
The Italianate style and the related Second Empire style were the most popular architectural styles for homes and commercial buildings constructed in the Pittsburgh area between the early 1860s and about 1885.
Available records do not identify an architect who is credited with design of 858 Beech Avenue.
Pittsburgh city directories, U.S. population and manufacturing census records, and Allegheny County land records provide information on Thomas M. and Nancy R. Lyons, the first owners of 858 Beech Avenue.Elizabeth F. Denny inherited property that included land on both sides of Beech Avenue from her father, Harmar Denny, in the 1850s or 1860s. Elizabeth F. Denny subdivided the land into building lots and began selling the lots. Maps published in 1852 and 1862 show that no houses had yet been built on Beech Avenue. An 1872 plat map shows that about 22 houses had been built on the street in the preceding decade. Elizabeth F. Denny sold most of the lots fronting on Beech Avenue in the 1860s and 1870s, although a few of the lots continued to be owned by her heirs in the early 20th century.
Review of early sales of lots on Beech Avenue by Elizabeth F. Denny between 1866 and 1872 and city directory listings suggests that 858 Beech Avenue is among at least three houses on the street that were built before their owners acquired title to the lots on which they stand. Other houses that are known to have been built in this way are 908 Beech Avenue, occupied beginning in 1867-1868 by real estate agent John Sterritt, who bought the lot on which the house stands for $2200 in 1872, and 922 Beech Avenue, occupied beginning in 1868-1869 by James Hamilton, a jeweler who bought the lot for $2900 in 1871.
It appears that Elizabeth F. Denny allowed these early Beech Avenue residents to build houses on the lots in association with unrecorded agreements that the home builders would purchase the lots within specified periods of time. It should be noted that Elizabeth F. Denny was a member of a family that owned large amounts of land in many city neighborhoods, including valuable properties in Downtown Pittsburgh and holdings of value in the North Side, Strip District, Lawrenceville, Polish Hill, Hill District, and other areas.
In addition to construction of rows of rental houses, the Denny family is known to have leased land to manufacturers who built factories on their land in the Strip District. It appears likely that Elizabeth F. Denny was following real estate practices pursued by other members of her family when she permitted pre-purchase construction on some of her Beech Avenue lots. She probably also realized that construction of substantial houses on a few of the lots would increase the value of the remaining lots that she hoped to sell on Beech Avenue.
Pittsburgh city directories, U.S. population and manufacturing census records, and Allegheny County land records provide information on Thomas M. and Nancy R. Lyons, the first owners of 858 Beech Avenue.
Pittsburgh city directories listed Thomas P. Roberts as living at 858 Beech Avenue between 1887 and 1891. Roberts was the chief engineer of the Monongahela Navigation Company during most of the time that he lived at 858 Beech Avenue. The Monongahela Navigation Company’s offices were at the comer of Forbes Avenue and Grant Street in Downtown Pittsburgh.
In 1887, the first year that he was listed at 858 (then 63) Beech Avenue, Roberts was the chief engineer of the Pittsburgh East End Railroad Company. He and his family had lived on Logan Street in the lower Hill District (on or near the present site of the Mellon Arena) before they moved to 858 Beech Avenue.
Records of the 1890 manuscript census, which would provide information on the Roberts family and any other residents of 858 Beech Avenue in that year, were destroyed in a warehouse fire following the completion of the census.
The Roberts family moved from 858 Beech Avenue to North Craig Street near Centre Avenue in Oakland in 1891-1892.
The 1900 Census
In 1900, according to census records, 858 Beech Avenue contained two occupied apartments.
The first apartment at 858 Beech Avenue was rented to Eliza McCracken. McCracken was 69 years old and had no occupation. She was single and lived alone. She had been born in Ohio to parents bom in Ireland and Pennsylvania.
The second apartment was rented to Nancy Ridgeley, 53, a widow with no occupation. Ridgeley had been married for 27 years and had had two children. Both of her children lived with her. They were Frank, 25, a student, and Carrie, 21, a music teacher. Both had been born in Colorado.
Residential development of Allegheny West began by the middle of the nineteenth century. An 1852 map shows that a number of houses stood on both sides of present Western Avenue between Brighton Road and Allegheny Avenue. A few buildings had been constructed along Brighton Road between Ridge and Western Avenues, on what was then the grounds of the Rope Walk.
The following materials accompany this report:
- a copy of part of an 1852 map depicting Allegheny City
- a copy of part of an 1872 plat map of the area around 858 Beech Avenue
- copies of parts of fire insurance maps of the area around 851 Beech Avenue, published in 1884, 1893, 1906 and the 1925 map, updated by the publisher to 1950
- information on Thomas P. Roberts, from Century Cyclopedia of History and Biography, Pennsylvania (1910)
- a copy of a photograph of Thomas P. Roberts, from Notable Men of Pittsburgh and the Vicinity (1901)
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all photos by Chris Siewers, unless otherwise noted