Buying Here: East McKeesport

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The Methodist Church, East McKeesport's first church, was built in 1896 and destroyed by fire on Dec. 31, 1918.

PG map: McKeesport
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"Although this was a severe blow, it did not prove fatal," the church's golden anniversary booklet says. "The loyal members, encouraged by their new pastor, met within a few hours while the ashes were still warm and decided to rebuild with a more modern and ample church plant."

The new church was built on a different site across the highway, at 1128 Fifth Ave., and in 1925, a house was constructed on top of the former church's foundation at 394 Lincoln Highway. Now that two-bedroom, 1 1/2-bath home (MLS No. 974484) is on the market for $109,000 through Cathy S. Petrulli of Howard Hanna Real Estate Services' Norwin office (724-863-3300, ext. 250 or An open house will be held 1-4 p.m. March 16.

Janet Wiggins and her husband, the current owners, kept many of the Cape Cod-style home's charming features, including two cats. When the previous owners had to move into a rental unit that didn't allow pets, the couple agreed to keep their cats, now 8 years old. This time, the cats will not stay with the house, Ms. Wiggins said.

"There are a lot of unique things in the house that you have to be living here to notice," she said.

The home's original doorknobs, hardwood floors and many light fixtures, including the crystal chandelier in the 15- by 14-foot dining room, are still in place. Built-in Craftsman-style bookcases can be found in the dining room and the 25- by-13-foot living room, which features a gas fireplace with remote starter.

The kitchen measures 15 by 12 feet and has a newer oven and Bosch dishwasher. The house's original 1920s oven, still functional but not connected, is in the dining room. It will stay with the house, according to Ms. Wiggins. "It works perfectly for baking."

Windows brighten the whole home but the three French doors surrounding the 13- by 9-foot den create a wall of windows and a focal point.

"When my grandchildren come to visit, this is where they'll sit. It attracts the kids so much," she said.

A set of doors from the den lead to a fenced-in side yard with gates on each end that would be perfect for pets. Another set of French doors in the living room opens to a front concrete patio.

The master bedroom measures 15 by 12 feet and boasts one of two bay window seats. The other is in the dining room. The spacious basement shows the home's oldest part, the stone foundation of the original church.

Among the improvements the Wigginses made are new, multi-dimensional shingled roofs on the house and the detached two-car garage. A gas line was put in during the reconstruction of the front retaining wall and the furnace was added less than two years ago.

New windows, Roman blinds and custom blinds for the dining room's bay window have also been added. All of the rooms on the main floor of the home were recently painted. Green and white stripes were painted in the bathroom to match the tile walls. The house has central air-conditioning.

The property has an assessed value of $63,300 ( No sales have been recorded over the last three years on this stretch of the Lincoln Highway.

Ms. Wiggins said one of her favorite things about the home is its comfort. Since her husband's death a year ago, she has always felt safe in the house. The well-insulated walls keep heating bills low and traffic barely audible despite its location on Route 30.

"I've never had any reason to feel frightened," she said.

East McKeesport at a glance


Size: 0.4 square miles

Population: 2,126 (2010 census)

School district: East Allegheny (

Enrollment: 1,725

Average 2013 SAT scores: Verbal 491, Math 501, Writing 480

Annual 2014 property taxes on a house assessed at $100,000:
Borough: $790 (7.9 mills)
School: $2,754 (27.54 mills)
County: $388* (4.73 mills)

History lesson: Think we’ve had a bad winter? In November 1950, East McKeesport recorded 28 inches of snow, stranding a thousand motorists on Lincoln Highway. Many of their abandoned vehicles were completely buried in giant drifts, but “the citizens of the town turned everything over to the unwilling guests, and the firehouses, churches, and movie theaters were filled with refugees,” Richard Bissell wrote in his 1952 book, “The Monongahela,”

* Includes the Act 50 Homestead Exclusion, which allows the owners of their primary residence to reduce the value of their assessment by $18,000.

— Gretchen McKay, Post-Gazette

Sara Payne:

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