The tale of town homes: Allegheny West Wine Tasting, House and Garden Tour

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Two Victorian-era town houses sit side by side on Denny Row on the North Side, their exteriors mirror images of each other. But they are very different when it comes to their interior decor.

One is casual, the other formal. One filled with antiques and Victorian furnishings, the other houses an eclectic collection.

Both homes will be on “A Taste of Italy,” the Allegheny West Wine Tasting, House and Garden Tour on June 6-7. This is the fifth year for the event, which supports the efforts of the Allegheny West Civic Council to buy abandoned homes and restore them. Both houses are examples of what happens when the community gets involved. They were rescued when the AWCC acquired Denny Row in 1992. In keeping with the Italian theme, ticket holders will be treated to wines from various regions as they tour the seven homes.  

”My husband and I spent a few weeks driving around Tuscany last year exploring Italian wines and have a new appreciation for the many styles of wine they have there,“ said event co-chair Debra Kelly.

She and co-chair Trish Burton along with some of the homeowners and volunteers conducted tastings to come up with red, white and dessert wines that would complement different hors d'oeuvres.   

Mary Callison at 942 W. North Ave. will be serving a Ruffino Lumina Pinot Grigio 2012 to complement her very Victorian-style interior. She has been in the house for 16 years and bought it as a shell.

Her neighbor, Ann Gilligan, also bought 944 W. North as a shell and will be offering Coli Chianti Classico 2010. Her collection of art and furnishings includes a mix of traditional and contemporary furnishings.

“Most of the art is done by family or friends,” said the former San Francisco resident who has been in her home for 12 years.

Both interiors reflect the personalities of the occupants. Ms. Gilligan displays things inherited, found and purchased. Of Irish descent, she gave her kitchen the ambiance of a local pub with butcher block counters and deep cushioned seating on the other side of a counter so guests could sit and enjoy a pint.  

Ms. Callison’s kitchen is the only room in her home that has a modern feel. White cabinets and granite counters give it a sleek, functional and family-friendly vibe and there’s a fireplace to cozy up to in the winter months.  

According to Carol Peterson’s recent book “Allegheny City: A History of Pittsburgh’s North Side,” Harmar D. Denny of nearby Ridge Avenue built the nine homes of Denny Row in 1888-89. Each has a large center window that at one time could slide up and allow access to the front porch. Sadly, they no longer work.

There are other differences between the homes. Ms. Gilligan’s second-floor back bedroom crumbled during the restoration. Instead of rebuilding, she opted to put in a second-floor porch that looks over her small city garden. 

“It’s very interesting to see what the homes looked like before they were restored,” Ms. Callison said,

She has pictures showing the nearly completely gutted interiors.

“Most of the original banister in this house was gone so we rebuilt it using the one newel post that was left,” she said.

Hours for the tour are 5-9 p.m. Tickets are $65 per person. Order tickets by phone by calling: 1-888-71-TICKETS or go to

Correction (posted May 31): An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Denny Row was named for Ebenezer Denny, that he was the first mayor of Allegheny City and that he lived on Denny Row. The story has been updated to show that Denny Row was built by Harmar D. Denny in 1888-89. Ebenezer Denny, who died in 1822, was the first mayor of Pittsburgh.

Patricia Sheridan:

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