Rivalry is too strong a word when it comes to siblings Joan and David Russell. But it is a little unusual that she bought and restored an old house in the North Side neighborhood of Spring Hill 11 years after he did, then put it on the market at the same time.
"It was kind of surprising," said Mr. Russell, the younger of the two. "My wife has a job opportunity in California. I knew my sister was considering moving, but I didn't expect her to put it on the market."
Now David and Cynthia Russell's house at 1208 Haslage Ave. (MLS No.923273) is for sale for $298,900 and Joan Russell's house at 2115 Rockledge St. (MLS No.923297) is priced at $239,900, both through Karl Owens of Howard Hanna Real Estate Services (412-741-2200, ext. 526 or www.howardhanna.com). Open houses will be held from 1 to 4 p.m. Dec. 9 at both houses.
Mr. and Mrs. Russell were living in Edgewood and accumulating furniture for a pre-Civil War house when they found this one, a brick Greek Revival with a widow's walk. It was finished in 1855 for Adam Reinemann, a North Side jeweler who became a real estate baron, first in Spring Hill and later in nearby Troy Hill.
"The fact that it was untouched was one of its big attractions," he said. "Everything needed to be updated, but that was no problem."
When they bought it in 1991, eight of nine fireplace mantels were intact, as was nearly all of the original woodwork. The wide-plank pine floors on the first floor had been covered with tongue-and-groove oak flooring, which the Russells decided to leave in place.
The three-story house's floor plan, a center hall with four rooms over four rooms, also made it possible for the Russells and their two sons to live there while working on the house, closing off sections at a time. Mr. Russell painted, wallpapered and refinished woodwork while professionals replaced all the electrical, plumbing and other mechanicals. The house, which now has four bedrooms and two full baths, took 15 years to restore.
"It allowed us to take the time to understand the period of the house," he said. "If we had done it all at one time it wouldn't have turned out as good as it did."
Joan Russell, meanwhile, had recently retired while living in Washington, D.C., and was looking to move closer to her brother. When he heard she wanted to restore an old house like his, he told her about the house on Rockledge about six blocks away.
"It was an Italinate with good bones," she recalled. "The outside showed that at one time it was a nice house. I realized I would have to restore it inside and out."
Built in 1867, the house had Insulbrick over wooden clapboard and no longer had its ornamental brackets, shutters and other wood trim. Although Ms. Russell had never restored a home, she knew she could turn to her brother for advice. Also, their parents. Frederick and Helen Russell, had restored two old houses in Ohio. So the handy gene apparently ran in the family.
Ms. Russell bought the house in 2002 and got an apartment nearby because it wasn't habitable. After nine months of intensive work, including refinishing four mantels, she moved in. The living room, which measures 19 by 15 feet, has a variety of modern wallpapers and borders that seem to fit the house's style. The dining room, which is the same size, has reproduction Victorian red wallpaper. Both rooms have restored light fixtures.
The new medallion in the living room ceiling was hand-painted by Spring Hill artist Linda Wallen. The updated kitchen features a kerosene light that has been wired for electricity. It came from the Russells' parents' kitchen in Ohio after their mother died.
The house now has three bedrooms and two full baths. When it was finished, David Russell's Christmas gift for his sister was a house history by Carol Peterson. In it, Ms. Russell learned that the house was built by and for John Hetzel, brother of the famous Pittsburgh painter George Hetzel. The family owned several houses in Spring Hill and there is a street there named for them.
1208 Haslage Ave. has a county assessed value of $91,500 and 2115 Rockledge St., $56,400 (www2.county.allegheny.pa.us/RealEstate/Search.aspx). Over the past three years, six houses have sold on Haslage Avenue for prices ranging from $48,000 in March 2009 to $85,000 in December 2010. In that period, three houses have sold on Rockledge Street for prices ranging from $32,000 in April 2010 to $90,000 in March 2010 (www.realstats.net).
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|23RD WARD/EAST ALLEGHENY|
|24TH WARD/TROY HILL|
|25TH WARD/CENTRAL NORTH SIDE|
|26TH WARD/PERRY HILLTOP|
|27TH WARD/BRIGHTON HEIGHTS|
|BEN AVON HEIGHTS|
Kevin Kirkland: email@example.com or 412-263-1978.