Buying Here: Leetsdale


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The house at 15 Valley Lane in Leetsdale has an interesting past and is looking for someone to take it into the future.

"I've lived here 14 years and we affectionately call ourselves caretakers," says owner Myra Jenkins. "You're just somebody who lives there for a time, in this house's lifetime."

She and her husband, Gary Mignogna, have listed the four-bedroom home (MLS No. 983938) for $599,000 with Jill Stehnach of Prudential Preferred Realty (412-716-8634 or www.prudentialpreferred.com). An open house is scheduled at 1-3 p.m. Sunday.

Built in 1927, the house was purchased by Glen and Mary Sutherland in 1929 at the start of the Great Depression. As wealthy dairy farmers, they survived the economic hardships of the time quite well and went on to transform the Tudor-style house into what locals called the Sutherland Mansion.

The two-story, brick-and-timber house with a slate roof sits on a lot slightly larger than a quarter-acre with mature trees and shrubs. The large rear terrace surrounded by hostas and other perennials is a delightful retreat with space for lounging or entertaining.

The interior reflects elements of three styles -- Arts & Crafts, English Tudor and art deco -- a unique combination effortlessly combined through the skills of the homeowner.

Twenty-two varieties of wood were used in the house, a rarity even then, and the hardwood flooring has the rich yet imperfect patina that comes with age. Stained woodwork, leaded glass and gorgeous ironwork is found throughout the house and especially in the appropriately named great room.

At 28 by 25 feet, this is a room meant to impress, with a coffered ceiling that is a piece of art in its own right. The 22-foot high walls are splashed with color here and there from tall leaded-glass windows with stained-glass emblems. The substantial stone fireplace is flanked by built-ins and adorned with elk heads. Adding to the romance of the room is the Juliet balcony with wrought-iron railings. It would be a great place for a home office or a very private reading nook. The great room is one of three additions made by the Sutherlands.

A great guide to the home's many features is a homework assignment from 1965. The son of one of the previous owners wrote the history of his home for English class, and it has been handed down to each owner.

"We're restorers not renovators," Mrs. Jenkins said. "We try to fix something instead of replacing it."

Some of her best work is found in the two full bathrooms and two powder rooms, each with their original glass tile and art deco in style. When Mrs. Jenkins was looking for replacement tile, she went online and found Tim Dunn of St. Louis, also known as Mr. Vitrolite (www.vitrolitespecialist.com/faqs.html). Vitrolite is one of the several trade names for structural pigmented glass sometimes known as Carrera. Working with Mr. Dunn, she managed to restore the rooms to their original glory.

"It's so precise. I would have to measure each piece of tile I needed and he would cut it [to size] and ship it," she said. "He's like the Construction Junction of just this tile."

The 23- by- 18-foot kitchen is equipped with a Jenn-Air gas cook top, a Magic Chef electric oven, a stainless-steel dishwasher and a Sub-Zero refrigerator. In addition to the white cabinets, there is storage space in a walk-in pantry. The eating area has more built-in cabinetry and large picture window framed by mirrors, offering a charming view of the rear garden.

The large living room (31 by 18 feet) features hardwood floors and leaded-glass French doors leading to the rear patio. The 14- by- 14-foot formal dining room has a wall of built-in mahogany cabinets with a large mirror in the center and curved glass doors.

The house holds more secrets downstairs in the 25- by- 25-foot game room. A section of the room built during Prohibition has a speakeasy bar hidden behind a hinged wall.

"A real speakeasy from the day," said Mrs. Stehnach. "This house is amazing."

Mrs. Jenkins' daughter was married in the house in January 2013. "She came down the steps in the living room and waltzed into the great room."

The speakeasy was set up as a nightclub with tall bar tables, chairs and a dance floor where everybody "cut loose" at what Mrs. Jenkins describes as "the most fun wedding" ever.

"It's an entertainer's delight. ... People who buy this house should entertain constantly," she said.

Upstairs on the second floor is a 17- by - 11-foot den and three bedrooms ranging in size from 14 by 11 feet to 31 by 12 feet.

The 21- by- 14-foot master bedroom includes a spacious dressing room, a bathroom with beautiful Vitrolite tile, leaded-glass windows and tile floor in a basket-weave pattern.

The home is a 15-minute walk to the Village of Sewickly, a 2-minute drive to Rt. 65 and 17-20 minutes from Downtown or the airport, Mrs. Stehnach said.

The property has a 2014 county assessed value of $433,500 (www2.county.allegheny.pa.us/RealEstate/Default.aspx). Over the last three years, one property has sold on Valley Lane for $315,000 in February 2012 (www.realstats.net).

 

 


Lizabeth Gray: lgray@post-gazette.com.

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