The Next Page: A Pittsburgh House History

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Graphic: A Pittsburgh House History
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A short history of 238 S. Negley Ave. in the city neighborhood of Friendship. (Please click on the accompanying image to see PDF of the page.)

Designed in 1907, predominately in the Colonial Revival style, its stylistic features include a full-width front porch, a centered entry beneath a centered closed gable, and a hipped roof and dormers, in addition to details such as imitation quoins, keystone lintels, modillions below the box gutters and dentils.


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Carol Peterson, an architectural and community historian, lives in Lawrenceville. She has been documenting the history of houses and buildings in southwestern Pennsylvania since 1989 (cpeterson155@yahoo.com or "Pittsburgh House Histories" on Facebook.)

Eric Lidji, a freelance writer and illustrator, lives in Bloomfield (ericlidji@mac.com). He publishes the local interest blog "The Ongoing History of Pittsburgh" at ericlidji.wordpress.com.


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Here is the complete text of the piece, for reference:


For its first century, Friendship experienced the opposite of sprawl.

It grew inward.

Before streetcars clanged along Penn and Liberty Avenues, wealthy families built mansions on spacious lots and enjoyed life far from industry.

The streetcars offered this luxury to Edwin and Mame Johnson, who purchased one of the hundreds of lots in the subdivided Roup Estate.

Today, this house occupies the lot. Designed in 1907, predominately in the Colonial Revival style, its stylistic features include a full-width front porch, a centered entry beneath a centered closed gable, and hipped roof and dormers, in addition to details such as imitation quoins, keystone lintels, modillions below the box gutters and dentils.

Awash with patriotism in the years following the U.S. Centennial, in 1876, builders across the East Coast were inspired to mine the rich architectural history of the early years of this country. The result was Colonial Revival, a style now seen as reacting to the excessive ornamentation of late Victorian styles, such as Queen Anne, by drawing from historical precedent. The Colonial Revival style became popular in Pittsburgh in the late 1800s...

1) The Johnsons didn't build the house. They sold the vacant lot to Philo and Bessie French in 1901. Philo French made industrial springs for streetcars and locomotives. He was a Republican and an Episcopalian.

2) Angus and Mary Darragh bought the lot in February 1907 for $11,400. Angus had come to the Strip District from Quebec around 1867 to work as a tanner. By 1877, he was married, living on Troy Hill and a foreman at the Duquesne Tannery on River Ave.

3) In 1890, Angus Darragh patented this design for a leather softening tool. In 1893, he established the Pittsburgh Leather Co. and bought a tannery in Ebensburg, in Cambria County. Mr. and Mrs. Darragh raised 12 children.

4) The Darraghs retired to Pittsburgh in 1907 with their eight living kids and a grandson. They hired a domestic servant named Elsie Davis. They needed a big house for this big clan. They spent $10,000 on their house, hiring local contractor Samuel McCaslin.

5) Following a brief illness, Angus died in the house early on the morning of May 24, 1915. In 1921, his family sold their home to an assistant U.S. attorney in the Wilson Administration, a man named Van Ara Barrickman.

6) A child of West Virginia farmers, Barrickman came from prominent stock. His great-granduncle ran for president in the tumultuous election of 1824. But when Van was just five months old, his father died, casting the family into poverty.

7) After selling books to work his way through school, Barrickman became a noted criminal lawyer and a businessman. Through his investments in several brick and glass companies, he helped establish Star City, north of Morgantown.

8) In Pittsburgh, Barrickman, his wife and his two children couldn't fill the big Darragh house. As of 1940, they housed an elderly servant couple - The Jacks - and four lodgers: a waitress, a car salesman, a statistician and a department store clerk.

9) The Barrickman family sold the house in 1959. Over time, renters increasingly dominated Friendship. Just as the grand estates had previously been divided into small lots, subsequent owners divided the house into apartments.

10) Aiming to reverse this trend, a community group bought the house in 1988 for $50,000 - twice the price it had sold for 29 years earlier, but only half the value.

11) "Rebuilding Friendship," a project of Friendship Development Associates, sold the house in 1999 to a family looking to renovate. This family sold the house seven years later for more than three times what they paid.

12) But first, they restored it back to a single family home in time to be featured in the 2000 Friendship House Tour. Their neighbors helped with all the last minute cleaning, painting, wallpapering and gardening.

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