Russell H. Boggs House, 1999

Russell H. Boggs House

This was the home of one of the founders of the famous Boggs & Buhl department store, which lasted until 1958. A few years after Father Pitt took this picture, this grand house was grandly restored and opened as “The Inn on the Mexican War Streets.” Before the restoration, it had been the parsonage of Trinity Lutheran Church next door, creating a curious spectacle of a parsonage considerably grander than its squat little modern church. But the house needed more maintenance than the church could afford: in fact the new owners spent more than a million dollars fixing the place up.

If you look at this picture, you may have a vague impression that something is missing from this house; but unless you are in the architecture business it might take you ages to guess what it is. There are no gutters and no downspouts. It seems that Mr. Boggs had a thing about gutters. Instead, there is a remarkable internal drainage system that, when it works, carries runoff through the walls, and, when it is broken, pours runoff in a burbling cascade down the grand staircase. That is one of the reasons it took a million dollars to restore this house.

Elliott–Fownes House, Highland Park

Mansion on Highland Avenue

Flemish Renaissance is not the most common style in Pittsburgh; this is certainly one of our most splendid examples of it. It is one of the surviving millionaires’ mansions on Highland Avenue. Father Pitt’s identification of it as the Elliott–Fownes house is based on two sources. The application for the neighborhood’s historic-district designation in the National Register of Historic Places mentions it as the home of “machine politician Robert Elliott”; a 1912 book has Henry C. Fownes, founder of the Oakmont Country Club, at this address.

Robert Elliott house
Henry C. Fownes house

Baywood

Baywood

Perhaps the grandest Second Empire mansion in Pittsburgh, Baywood was built in 1880 for Alexander King. The house is listed for about three million dollars, and thanks to the real-estate agents you can “experience Baywood” virtually. According to the site, the house sits on “an unprecedented 1.8 acre lot,” and readers are invited to speculate on what the word “unprecedented” means in that context.

Baywood

Negley-Gwinner-Harter House, Shadyside

This Second Empire mansion had a narrow escape: the third floor burned out in 1987, and the owner died the next year, leaving the house a derelict hulk. It was rescued from demolition at the last minute by serial restorationist Joedda Sampson, who painted it in her trademark polychrome style; it has since passed to other owners, whose pristine white also works well with the design. The house was built in 1871; Frederick Osterling worked on early-twentieth-century renovations and additions.

Willis McCook Mansion, Shadyside

You can make good money as a lawyer if you make the right contacts. Willis McCook was lawyer to the robber barons, and he lived among them in this splendid Gothic mansion on the Fifth Avenue millionaires’ row. The architects were the local firm of Carpenter & Crocker. It is now a hotel called the “Mansions on Fifth,” along with the house around the corner that McCook built for his daughter and son-in-law.