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Pittsburgh’s Mansions

Signals, April 2017

Wednesday, April 26th, 2017

at 7:30 p.m. Old Sewickley Post Office

A Presentation by Melanie Gutowski, Author


In the 19th century, the positioning of Pittsburgh as a major manufacturing center and the subsequent rise of the area’s steel industry created a wave of prosperity that prompted the beneficiaries of that wealth to construct extravagant residences. Wealthy enclaves sprang up in the city’s East End, across the river in neighboring Allegheny City, and into the countryside. Pittsburgh’s Mansions explores the stately homes of the area’s prominent residents from the 1830s through the 1920s. Businessmen such as H.J. Heinz, Henry Clay Frick and members of the Mellon family commissioned elaborate homes from the preeminent architects of their day. Firms such as Alden & Harlow, Janssen & Abbott, and Rutan & Russell left their marks on the city’s landscape, often contributing iconic public buildings as well as expansive private homes. Though many of the residences have since been lost, Pittsburgh’s Mansions offers a look back at the peak of the city’s prominence.


Melanie Linn Gutowski is a writer, historian, and lifelong resident of the Pittsburgh area. She has published history features in various western Pennsylvania and national publications and holds a bachelor’s degree in history of art and architecture and a master’s degree in professional writing.

 

The Residences of the Sewickley Valley

Our lecture this month on Pittsburgh’s Mansions reminds us that many of the mansion owners in Pittsburgh’s Allegheny City and East End neighborhoods found the Sewickley Valley to be a popular location to build country retreats from the 1890s into the 1930s. They joined others who had come here earlier, especially after the railroad was constructed beside the Ohio River in 1851. Some structures were initially only summer homes but were converted to year round use. Virtually all bore picturesque names. Naming a house or property is not a new trend. It has long been a custom in England and other parts of the world to name castles, halls, manors and even small structures. Naming can raise the profile of a property. It makes it appear prestigious. Recently our list of named properties in the Valley has been revised and updated. It is quite a collection of evocative names. Please share with us any errors that you may find.




 

Above: A photograph of Sewickley Methodist Episcopal Church Sunday School Class #18 on a field trip out Little Sewickley Creek Road for a watermelon party. It is obvious who ate all the watermelon. This comes from a wonderful album donated by Kristin Gratton, dated 1899.


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