In 1806, in what was then St. Clair Township, Revolutionary War veteran Joseph Philips had a stone house built for himself and his wife
August 3, 2014 12:00 AM
The exterior of the home, showing the log cabin addition.
The living room in the 208-year-old farm house in Upper St. Clair.
The kitchen has granite counter tops and modern appliances.
The master bedroom in the original house.
By Matt Nussbaum / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
In 1806, Thomas Jefferson was president, Napoleon’s French Empire reigned in Europe and the population of Pittsburgh hovered somewhere around 3,000. That same year, in what was then St. Clair Township, Revolutionary War veteran Joseph Philips had a stone house built for himself and his wife, Mary.
Through the Civil War and two world wars, while empires fell and new centuries dawned, the stone house stood at 170 Seegar Road, Upper St. Clair (MLS No. 1006297). The property has shrunk over time as neighboring homes popped up and the area developed into one of Pittsburgh’s marquee suburbs.
Now the home, fully refurbished for a 21st-century family, is for sale for $899,900 through Vera Purcell of Howard Hanna Real Estate Services (www.howardhanna.com or 412-561-7400 ext. 250). The buyer will be only the sixth family to own the house during its long history.
Standing on 1.8 hilly acres, the house is connected to a circa 1840 log house that was moved from Speers, Washington County, in 1986. The property also has an outdoor stone oven, spring house, carriage house and miniature log cabin.
On the outside, the conjoined house appears authentic for the period, but it’s a hybrid on the inside. Exposed logs and 200-year-old woodwork suggest museum more than home, but the granite counter tops, modern appliances and sleek bathrooms make it very livable.
Three bedrooms, a loft in the cabin, 2 1/2 baths, a fully finished basement and central heating and air-conditioning are all features common in this suburban neighborhood. But how many also have five fireplaces, original walnut windowsills and shelving, oak floors and stone walls that are more than 2 feet thick?
“You have high-quality construction that you can’t find today,” said Susan Silver, who lives in the house with her husband, Sam Bertenthal, and their son. “I’d like to pick the house up and move it.”
The family modernized the house in recent years with careful work by Mike Cummings Restoration.
“We retained the character, the historical aspects,” said Dr. Silver, who’s an anatomic pathologist.
Renovations included granite counter tops in the kitchen, a basement laundry room and the complete remodeling of the two full baths. One is in the basement and the other is on the second floor. They feature glass shower stalls, custom cabinetry made with original walnut, jetted tubs and heated flooring.
The 16- by-10-foot kitchen and 13- by-11-foot dining room are smaller than most of their modern counterparts, but both have views into the sloping backyard which stretches back amid the trees. The current occupants’ taste for art, particularly colorful Impressionist works, lend an added spark to the interior.
The master bedroom was renovated recently to allow for more closet space, and dresser drawers are now built in to the wall. Still, those used to today’s suburban homes -- with master bathrooms and large closets -- may be disappointed by the small second-floor bedrooms, one of which could easily be converted to an office.
The log section has the most rustic interiors. Its first floor is well-suited for a family room, with an attached powder room. Up a steep flight of stairs is the loft, which could serve as a bedroom, office or both.
“You don’t get stuff like this in these suburban communities,” said Ms. Purcell. “There’s nothing that’s not cool about this house.”
The sprawling backyard includes a shaded patio and the stone oven, good for making pizza, according to Dr. Silver.
Sitting on the patio, glancing through the trees at the 19th-century masterpiece, one can almost feel transported to centuries past. For the buyers, it will just feel like home.
Matt Nussbaum, 412-263-1504, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @MatthewNussbaum.
To report inappropriate comments, abuse and/or repeat offenders, please send an email to
email@example.com and include a link to the article and a copy of the comment. Your report will be reviewed in a timely manner.