High atop a hill in the city's Knoxville neighborhood is a charming old Victorian with arched leaded-glass windows and a stately porch. If the walls of 718 Brownsville Road could talk, they would have a wonderful tale to tell.
"We bought the house in 1993, but we are only the third owners," Karen Jones said.
She and her husband, Dennis, purchased the home with the intention of restoring it to a single-family dwelling. It's still divided into five apartments and back on the market for $80,900 (MLS No. 904769) with Century 21 Rise/McIlrath agent Kim Smozski (412-884-1600, ext. 11. or www.c21risemcilrath.com.) The house is open by appointment.
Mrs. Jones said she was able to trace the home back to Jeremiah Knox, a farmer famous for his strawberries who owned all of the land now known as Knoxville. In 1872, he began to subdivide his farm to build homes. Charles Gettler bought a parcel from Mr. Knox and built this large brick house in the late 1800s, Mrs. Jones said.
At least four generations of Gettlers lived in the house, she said. After World War II, a family member received some type of government grant to divide the home into apartments to provide housing for returning veterans.
"They had an architect come in and do it. They didn't destroy the home. They removed the main staircase but just about everything else is intact," Mrs. Jones said.
What a smart move that was. Nearly all of the period details remain, inside and out. Beautiful leaded-glass windows are still in place along with the original arched front door with leaded-glass panels and its carved oak frame. The brick is in good condition and the front porch is very solid, with cast-iron railings.
There are two apartments on the first and second floors and one on the third floor. Each unit has one bedroom, a living room, bath and kitchen with the exception of the third floor unit, which has two bedrooms.
In the main entry, leatherlike paneling has been painted white. As in most Victorians, the original house had parlors on the right and left, closed off from the central hall with pocket doors. The architect removed the doors but left the door frames and trim intact when the openings were plastered over. A new owner could easily remove the plaster and restore the doors. You can see where the main staircase once was.
The hardwood floors are intact and many have another wood as an inlay, possibly mahogany. Upstairs, many of the rooms have wall-to-wall carpet, but floors are intact underneath, said Mrs. Jones.
The home also has all six original fireplace mantels -- three each on the first and second floors.
"At least four of them have carved oak paneling to the ceiling with turned wood corbels," she said. "They are all in great condition."
Some other features that remain include the original bathroom on the second floor with a clawfoot tub, hexagonal and subway tile and a big porcelain pedestal sink.
All of the house's wood shutters are in storage and can be put back on. "They still have the original brass fixtures to attach them to the home" Mrs. Jones said.
So why didn't the Joneses ever restore the house?
"When we bought the house in 1993, all of the apartments were occupied by senior citizens. They got very upset with our plans and we didn't have the heart to make them move. So we stayed put, and so did they."
One of the original tenants still lives there. Mrs. Jones said that all of her tenants have taken great care of the home. Three of the five apartments are occupied; rents range from $500 to $550 per month.
A back staircase provides access to the upper floors.
"It is a really interesting house," Mrs. Jones said. "The milk door is still in the wall in the old back pantry."
The property has a 2012 assessed value of $106,100 (www2.county.allegheny.pa.us/RealEstate/Search.aspx).
Over the past three years, 14 properties have sold in this block of Brownsville Road for prices ranging from $10,000 in April 2011 to $240,000 in March 2012 (www.realstats.net).
|16TH WARD/SOUTH SIDE|
|17TH WARD/SOUTH SIDE|
|18TH WARD/MOUNT WASHINGTON|
|20TH WARD/WEST END|
|31ST WARD/LINCOLN PLACE|
Rosa Colucci: 412-263-1661 or firstname.lastname@example.org.