If you want to buy the Gilded Age mansion in Oakland that has been the home of five Pittsburgh bishops, you'll need $2.5 million and enough extra cash to update a large kitchen and six bathrooms.
Sitting atop Morewood Heights on a street called Warwick Terrace, the Edwardian Tudor home was officially put up for sale two weeks ago by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh.
Inside the massive wrought-iron gates at the main entrance, Bishop Donald Wuerl received President George W. Bush, and Cardinal Giovanni Montini, who later became Pope Paul VI, visited Cardinal John Dearden.After he was appointed bishop of Pittsburgh in 2007, David Zubik lived there for two weeks before moving to a two-room apartment at St. Paul's Seminary in Crafton. The house is for sale because Bishop Zubik did not wish to live there, said the Rev. Ron Lengwin, a diocesan spokesman.
"Each bishop has to decide how his lifestyle is going to influence ministry in the church," said the Rev. James Wehner, pastor of St. Thomas More Church in Bethel Park.
Father Wehner lived in the house from 1996 through 1998 and several summers afterward when he assisted Bishop Wuerl. He also wrote a history of the house and its valuable furnishings, all of which have been removed. He said church leaders had to ask themselves:
"Is there a real, practical use for that house that benefits the church? The conclusion was there really isn't."
There's also a growing trend among U.S. bishops to live in seminaries where priests are trained. The archbishop of Houston has done that, too, Father Wehner said.
"The bishop is ultimately responsible for the formation and training of priests. Some bishops are taking that personally," he said.
Regina Callahan of O'Hara served as president of St. Lucy's Guild for the Blind in 2006. The guild hosts the annual Medallion Ball, where the bishop receives young women who have volunteered. Before the ball, a tea was traditionally held on the lawn of the property.
"We can have it at a club and the bishop can come," she said.
"I think it's a nice thing that he's doing, living at the seminary."
The mansion's assessed market value is $1.49 million on Allegheny County's real estate Web site and its annual taxes are $44,067. The house was built in 1910 by Herbert DuPuy, owner of Pennsylvania Rubber Co., and designed by architect Olaf M. Topp, who also designed the Jenkins Arcade and Mt. Lebanon Presbyterian Church.
The 24-room building looks like a great English country house, with a porte-cochere, baronial woodwork, silver and brass wall sconces, massive carved stone fireplaces, beamed ceilings and hardwood floors. The wine cellar has room for at least 650 bottles, with racks marked especially for Goosecross Cabernet and Rutherford Merlot, Italian reds, French reds and Sauvignon blanc. The racks are empty, as are the rooms.
Except for staircase carpets, all valuable furniture, rugs and paintings have been removed, appraised, documented and placed in storage, Father Wehner said, adding that he oversaw this task last summer. Some housewares, kitchen appliances and second-hand bedroom furniture were donated to the St. Vincent DePaul Society.
The home occupies an acre of land and its level back yard features a large flagstone patio, lots of mature trees and a brick paver path laid in a herringbone pattern. There's enough room on the lawn to throw a party for 500 people. So far, two potential buyers have visited the house.
The home, which is on Oakland's border with Shadyside, wound up in the hands of the diocese through the generosity of the McCahill family. David McCahill, a prominent Pittsburgh lawyer and civic leader, purchased the property in 1928. A generous supporter of charities and the Roman Catholic church, Mr. McCahill invited Bishop Hugh C. Boyle to dinner in 1949. The hostess, Marie McCahill, asked the bishop to lift up a china plate in the dining room; underneath the cleric found the key to the mansion and its deed.
At the time, Bishop Boyle was living in the St. Paul Cathedral rectory. He died before he had a chance to move into the mansion.
Nancy Donahue, a Realtor in the Shadyside office of Howard Hanna Real Estate Services, is the listing agent. For information, call 412-361-4000, Ext. 259.
Marylynne Pitz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1648.