Renovation of the Historical Society of Mount Lebanon’s Building Reveals Surprising Discoveries
The Historical Society of Mount Lebanon is creating a permanent history center for the community in a Mediterranean-inspired building at 794 Washington Road. The stucco home was constructed in the late 1920s or early 1930s. Original stained glass and stenciling have been discovered in the course of restoration work.
During the past several months, Ramp Construction Company has replaced and reinforced the existing roof, removed hazardous material, and demolished walls and ceilings in certain areas of the house in order to create larger spaces for the history center. The front porch has been rebuilt to match a photo from the late 1940s or early 1950s. Five new skylights have been installed in the roof to illuminate the nine stained-glass panels in the ceiling of one of the first-floor rooms. Williams Stained Glass Studio is in the process of cleaning and restoring these panels. (The skylight illuminating these stained-glass panels was removed sometime after 1982.) Funding for this first phase of the restoration was made possible through a grant by the Redevelopment Authority of Allegheny County and the Commonwealth Financing Authority.
When the contractors removed some of the crown molding in the dining and living rooms, they discovered stenciling. The stenciling uncovered in the dining room is about 12 inches deep. Boris Brindar, the chief conservator for A. J. Vater & Company, has revealed hand-painted details of a woman wearing a tiara. What was found under the paint in the living room is even more spectacular! A decorative wall mural seems to be about 30 inches deep, extending down from the ceiling. The pattern probably repeats itself along this living-room wall. On the wall directly opposite, is another hand-painted design, also about 30 inches deep. There is a crest, flanked on each side by a bird (maybe a griffon?). In the middle of the crest are the faint markings of the letter “O”.
Society members have discovered that Edward J. and Laura M. Ohl bought the lot and built the house in the late 1920s or early 1930s. Therefore, this stenciling/decorative art on the walls is most likely original to the house. None of this stenciling appears in any photos the Society has from the McMillan family, who were the third owners. Dr. Donald McMillan and his wife, Christine, purchased the house in 1946 and lived there until 1982. They had four children, and Dr. McMillan had his office on the lower level, accessible from Lebanon Avenue.
The Society plans to incorporate the cost of restoring the original stenciling in its total project budget. In the next phase, Joel Cluskey of RSH Architects will restore the interior spaces so the Society can occupy and operate on the first-floor. The Society has a long way to go to secure funding for the remainder of the project. If you know of some person, corporation, or fund that may be interested in naming opportunities, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you!