Architecturally this house is a bit of a mess, but a pleasing mess. It was built in three different stages, the first in 1870 and the last in 1900.(1)
The Thaw family was a bit of a mess, too. William Thaw was a railroad baron who made all the money in the world and had ten surviving children by two wives. Of those children, the one everybody remembers was Harry Thaw, who murdered Stanford White in front of as many witnesses as could possibly be crammed into one nightclub. It was the climax of a career of difficult situations, and in every one of them Harry’s mother used the mighty power of money to extract him from his difficulties. (Harry used money to light cigars with.) You can read about his murder of White and the legal adventures that followed in Harry Thaw’s Wikipedia article; for our purposes it is sufficient to say that the family money saved his hide again, and Clarence Darrow provided him with a nifty new defense called “temporary insanity.” Many who knew Harry Thaw would question the temporariness of the insanity.
This was not the Thaws’ biggest house. Their favorite architect, Theophilus P. Chandler Jr., designed a house for them in Squirrel Hill named Lyndhurst; that one was demolished in the 1940s.
- Some information about the house is on a bronze plaque to the left of the front door. (↩)