942 Western Avenue
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.
December 10, 1867
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)
John lrwin died intestate while owning Out Lot 276. He was survived by his widow Mary and four children, Margaret, John, William and Elizabeth.
(Deed Book Volume 2, Page 97)
March 2, 1870
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)
June 5, 1881
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)
April 23, 1887
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.
June 27, 1898
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)
June 7, 1921
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)
April 14, 1923
John Andrews of Pittsburgh conveyed 942 Western Avenue to William H. and Emma Burnett of Pittsburgh for $9,500.
(DBV 2157 P 210)
June 25, 1969
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)
January 3, 1980
John F. and Emma Elder Sweetman conveyed 942 Western Avenue to Jon-Rock Two, a limited partnership, for $50,000.
(DBV 6208 P 835)
February 26, 2001
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)
October 2, 2002
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Street Name and 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.
Pittsburgh city directories, an obituary, and U.S. census records provide information on Hugh and Sarah McKelvy, the first owners of 942 Western Avenue.
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
n 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.
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.
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
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all photos by Chris Siewers, unless otherwise noted