Not all stories have a happy ending; this one does. Not everyone has the ability to see beyond the years of disrepair to what can be. George Anthou did, even though he was far from thrilled when he first saw the house at 132 Greenside Ave., Canonsburg.
"I went down to see it and I was discouraged. It was unkempt inside and out," Mr. Anthou remembers saying so to his late brother Sam E. Anthou. In the real estate business, Sam knew of his brother's interest in the historical Mexican War Streets district on Pittsburgh's North Side and figured the fine old Victorian was a challenge his brother was up for and the perfect place for his expanding law practice.
Now, after years of work on the home, the Queen Anne Victorian (ML#980204) is on the market for $179,000. Listed with Susan Accetta of Northwood Reality (412-953-0686, www.northwood.com), an open house is scheduled from 1 to 3 p.m. next Sunday.
For Ms. Accetta, it is the amazing attention to detail that sets the house apart. That he "didn't take any shortcuts."
Even though it has lived as law offices for the past 40 years, Mr. Anthou and his wife Joan stayed true to the house's historical character, even when it meant hours of hard work for themselves.
Walking in the front door, the beautiful staircase with carved spindles and solid newel post is striking. The couple spent more than 21/2 months removing numerous layers of paint to get to the oak buried beneath, using string to clear away the paint hidden in the crevices.
When Mr. Anthou purchased the house in 1980, he determined to use the best material and the best craftsmen he could find to help bring the grand lady back to life. It also meant a few trips back to school.
At the time, Washington and Jefferson College, Mr. Anthou's alma mater, was in the process of tearing down several older homes to make room for expansion and accepting bids on architectural salvage prior to demolition.
Borrowing a truck from a neighbor, Mr. Anthou set off on a rescue mission, returning with a treasure trove of architectural salvage including doors, fireplace surrounds and crown molding, all rescued from one of the old Victorians before the wrecking ball hit.
The double doors leading to the secretary's office or dining room (14-by-14-foot) were part of the rescued treasure. Large and imposing, the solid oak doors are wrapped with a deep frame and topped with a massive header. In the dining room you find one of the three fireplaces in the house. Oak with a large mirror above, this one is wood burning while the others (living room and den) are decorative.
The interior carpentry work, done by the late master carpenter Richard Phillips of Hickory, Pa., ranged from repairing the oak flooring in the 15-by11-foot entryway and Mr. Anthou's office to the installation of a half bath on the first floor.
For Mr. Anthou getting Mr. Phillips to do the work was as he sees it a "miracle."
"He said, "George, I'm busy but if it gets cold, below 32 degrees, I can come work on it. And miracle of miracles, it did and he came over," recalled Mr. Anthou.
Mr. Anthou uses the living room (16-by-14-foot) as his office. The decorative fireplace is cherry with marble inset that sets a more formal tone to the room. The two glass paned doors to the office were another one of Mr. Anthou's finds.
Bought from an antique dealer in New Castle, the panes started out as plain glass. Always thinking about the finer details, Mr. Anthou had the panes engraved, adding another touch of Victoriana to the home.
The den (used as a copy room) is 15-by-14-foot and situated next to the small kitchenette (14-by-8) that holds a few cabinets, a four-burner stove top, no oven and a small refrigerator. Ms. Accetta said several people have suggested that the two rooms be combined to create a larger eat-in kitchen.
Upstairs there are three sizable bedrooms: the master is 18 by 13 feet and the other two are 15 by 13 feet. There is also a full bathroom.
"The bathtub upstairs is a claw bathtub. I didn't remove it ... figured someone would want it," said Mr. Anthou. The tub sits under a window with a double set of shutters, another one of his finds.
"She [the previous owner] didn't have any blinds on them, just curtains hanging on a rod," said Mr. Anthou. "We went into the attic and we found the shutters."
Enter the master carpenter again. Having been stashed in the attic for some time, many of the shutters needed to be repaired, not an easy job but worth it. Mr. Anthou bought new ones for the second floor so that the whole house had shutters that showed off the decorative wood trim of the window frames.
There is a full attic with a floor that is not refinished, along with a large basement that Mr. Anthou uses for office storage. Over the years, the house has had the trim repainted several times while the roof is the original. Part of the sales agreement includes a credit, which the seller will give at purchase for a new roof.
The hot water heater is two years old, while the heating system and air conditioning are older. There is off-street parking for four cars and a large level backyard.
As Ms. Accetta sees it, "When you walk into that house you're walking back in history. Everything is just like when it was built." That is testimony to Mr. Anthou's passion for the house. From the high ceilings to the beautiful stained glass panes in the hallway crowned by louvered shutters, it's all in the details.
The "cherry on top" is the home's location, a one-block walk to the annual Fourth of July parade, a Canonsburg institution that gains national attention for the residents' use of chairs to save their space on the parade route for the second largest Independence Day parade in the state.
Over the years, the Queen Anne Victorian became more than just an office for Mr. Anthou. The house was "therapeia," or therapy, to a lawyer with a busy practice.
Mr. Anthou pretty much summed up his love for his 40-year house project saying, "I don't brag in general but I do brag about my wife because she's an angel, about my grandchildren and my house."
Canonsburg at a glance ...
Size: 2.3 square miles
Population: 8,992 (2010 census)
School district: Canon-McMillan (http://cmsd.k12.pa.u)
Average 2013 SAT scores: 506 Verbal, 508 Math, 492 Writing
Annual 2014 property taxes on 132 Greenside Ave., which is assessed at $10,710: $1,792
Borough: $402 (38.33 mills)
School: $1,123 (107 mills)
County: $267 (24.9 mills)
History lesson: Laid out in 1789, Canonsburg was incorporated on George Washington's birthday, Feb. 22, in 1802.
Lizabeth Gray: firstname.lastname@example.org.