Brighton Heights house miraculously intact after a century

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As a plumber who lives in Brighton Heights, Tim Murphy gets to see the interiors of lots of houses on the North Side. But the one that really caught his eye was just two houses down from his own house on Davis Avenue.

The yellow-brick Foursquare at 1125 Davis wasn’t for sale then. Besides, he and his wife, Stephanie, had their hands full renovating their own house, a brick duplex, and raising their two children. When it was done, they bought a smaller house across the street and flipped it.

Then last year, the owner of 1125 decided to downsize and alerted the Murphys. Although they didn’t close on the property until last month, the owner let them start work earlier. Now the house is on the market for $189,900 and on the 10th annual Brighton Heights House Tour on Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. It’s one of nine stops open on the fundraiser for the Brighton Heights Citizens Federation.

Brighton Heights is not as well known as the North Side’s historic districts of Allegheny West, Mexican War Streets and Manchester, but its real estate market is beginning to catch up, according to the Murphys. They note that the house next-door sold recently for $189,300, and that others nearby went for $209,000 and $250,000.

But do those houses have woodwork in this condition?

“I love all the woodwork and hardwood floors,” Mrs. Murphy said. “This was untouched for almost 100 years.”

Whoever built the house around 1915 didn’t cut corners. Dark-stained oak wainscoting, fireplace mantels, window seats, and boxed-beam ceilings that have never been painted or refinished set off the dining room and den The living room boasts a slate mantel that has been faux-painted to look like marble. Decorative gas fireplaces are also found in two of the four second-floor bedrooms. None work, but Mr. Murphy said they could be connected to lines in the basement.

Nearly all of the windows – some with stained, leaded or beveled glass – are original. The double-hungs are either 8 panes over 1 or 6 over 1. There is also a full bathroom on the first floor, an anomaly in a nearly 100-year-old house. The Murphys installed a new pedestal sink in that bathroom and are awaiting granite counter tops for the kitchen. They also have rewired the entire house.

So who was the house’s original owner?

It may have been Hugh F. McKnight, who bought the house in 1918. His family owned Samuel McKnight Hardware Co. on Federal Street, and he was listed as a vice president of the Allegheny Trust Co. and Brighton Heights Building and Loan Association. His son, Hugh Jr., was a decorated lieutenant in the Navy and died during World War II when his submarine, the USS Robalo, hit a mine in the Pacific and all aboard were lost in 1944. The house remained in the family until the mid-1950s.

The servants quarters were on the third floor, which includes four more bedrooms and a period bathroom tucked into the front dormer. The bath has its original pedestal sink and frosted globe light fixture, the only one that remains. The third floor also has a unique catwalk that leads to a storage area. Every bedroom has a deep closet.

“It has lots of storage space for an old house,” Mrs. Murphy said.

Even the radiators are beautiful, with cast-iron swirls. Mr. Murphy flushed the entire heating system. He and his wife painted the exterior but had to do relatively few repairs on the century-old plaster. The two-car detached garage has its original folding doors, another feature that rarely survives intact on old houses.

Mrs. Murphy, an attorney who is handling the house’s sale, is hoping she can find a buyer who will treasure and preserve this house as its previous owners have.

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The 10th annual Brighton Heights House Tour runs 1-5 p.m. Sunday.  Participants will enjoy chocolate treats, get to meet local artists and learn some history of the houses and neighborhood. Tickets are  $15 on tour day at the starting point, Legion Park on Brighton Road near Davis Avenue (15212). Information: For information on 1125 Davis Ave., call 412-400-2239 or email


Kevin Kirkland: or 412-263-1978.

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