Buying here: New Brighton

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Victorian homes, often referred to as “grand old ladies” with towers, turrets and rounded porches, were designed to impress, expressing a sense of exuberance on the part of the industrial age.

A glorious example of a Queen Anne Victorian at 1301 Third Ave., New Brighton, Beaver County, is on the market for $324,000 (MLS No. 991505).

The brick-and-stone, five-bedroom home with its own carriage house is listed with Michael Bassillios of Howard Hanna West Suburban Office, ( or 412-445-1352).

This is a Victorian inside and out thanks to its owners, Terri and Arnie Gradek, who furnished the home with distinctive period pieces and curiosities that reflect the essence of the era.

“I looked up and down the East Coast and couldn’t find anything I liked or could afford,” Mr. Gradek said.

He had retired from the Navy in 1990 and had always wanted a Victorian. One day his brother in Ambridge called saying he had the perfect one.

The Gradeks bought the house in 1990, started renovation and moved in three years later. It had been broken into three apartments by a previous owner and they wanted to restore it to the single-family home it had been when it was built in 1889.

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“Lucky me. One day a guy came strutting across the lawn, stuck out his hand and said, ‘My name is Ed Spratt and I used to own this place,’  ” Mr. Gradek said.

Not only did Mr. Spratt know all about the house, he had plans and drawings of its former glory. Those drawings helped guide the Gradeks’ work.

Today, the walls stretch high to the curves of the cove ceilings. Many of the rooms are enhanced by elegant wallpaper, bands of color and decorative trim.

Everywhere you turn is another vintage crystal chandelier sprouting from ceiling medallions that have been hand-painted by Mr. Gradek.

The entry itself is larger than most rooms in a new house. At 21 by 12 feet, it is a study in fine woodwork and beauty. Tall windows flood the hall with light and a small nook to one side of the door offers a place to drop a hat or umbrella.

The intricate work of the newel posts, spindles and balustrade of the main staircase showcases the fine craftsmanship of the time.

On the first landing, a stained-glass window has an arched top.

The 18- by 15-foot living and dining rooms are on either side of the entryway through tall pocket doors — oak on one side and chestnut on the other.

The living room’s fireplace commands attention with its rich wood, ceramic tiles and mirrored overmantel. The same oak trims the tall windows throughout the house and oak shutters add drama while keeping the hot sun out in summer and warmth in during winter. Behind a pair of pocket doors is the library or den, which measures 20 by 15 feet.

Built-ins flanking a large fireplace run down one side of the dining room with a bank of windows on the opposite wall. An oak door at one end leads to the 14-by-14-foot kitchen.

Next to that door is a large back bar, a piece that the Gradeks might be willing to sell to the house’s new owner since it fits perfectly along the one wall, appearing like a built-in.

The kitchen is not large, but its layout takes full advantage of the minimal space. An island holds an electric stove on one side and breakfast bar on the other. There is a refrigerator, dishwasher and microwave.

Ceramic tiles are both inside the large fireplace and on the surround, making a perfect home for a chest of drawers and extra storage.

As in many older houses, stairs lead from the kitchen to the second floor and on to the third floor, which was once the servants’ quarters.

The 18-by-17-foot master bedroom features three large windows along one wall, a large decorative fireplace and a stained-glass window. The master bathroom has a separate tiled shower with a whirlpool bathtub, double vanity and toilet.

Each of the second-floor bedrooms has its own decorative fireplace, tall windows and wall-to-wall carpeting. The fireplaces haven’t been used in years, Mr. Gradek said.

“Sure you could use them, but [the new owner] would want a chimney sweep to come in and check them,” he said, adding that the chimneys were all re-pointed when he bought the house.

“John Fullard of New Brighton, a renowned old house restorer, has done all the outside work on my house — the porches, the brick work, the chimneys, anything that needed to be done.”

The third-floor suite includes a living room, two sitting rooms, a full bathroom and a 14-by-10-foot bedroom with ornated wallpaper.

There is a full bathroom and a powder room on the first floor and another half bathroom on the second floor.

Across the large backyard is the carriage house where the carriage keeper would have lived. Mr. Gradek noted that there are two rooms in the carriage house but they are not heated. He used part of the carriage house to park cars and the rest for storage and to work on the antique pieces he restored.

Both the main house and the carriage house have slate roofs. Mr. Gradek had the carriage house roof repaired in the 1990s. The main roof was constructed with brass nails, which lasted longer than the iron ones used on the carriage house, he said.

The Gradeks replaced the gas-fired water heater, installed three high-efficiency furnaces (one for the third floor) and added insulation throughout the house.

The property has a market value of $54,000 and an assessed value of $27,000 ( Over the past three years, 22 properties have sold on Third Avenue for prices ranging from $10,000 in June 2012 to $185,500 in January 2012 (


New Brighton at a glance


Size: 1.1 square miles

Population: 6,016 (2010 census)

School district: Beaver Area (

Enrollment: 1,992

Average 2013 SAT scores: 506 Verbal, 525 Math, 483 Writing

Annual 2014 property taxes on 1301 Third Ave.: $2,748.60; Borough: $675 (25 mills); School: $1,474.20 (54.60 mills); County: $599.40 (22.2 mills)

History: Laid out in 1815, New Brighton saw early prosperity with the opening of the Pennsylvania Canal in 1834. By the 1860s, many industries were flourishing. Residents made their livings in flour mills, carriage works, foundries, a horseshoe-nail factory, lumber and paper mills, pottery works, brick yards and glass companies.

-- Gretchen McKay, Post-Gazette

Lizabeth Gray:

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