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Blaze Destroys Landmark Building in Edgeworth

Thursday, September 16, 2010
By Moriah Balingit, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

It took just a handful of minutes for a fast-moving blaze to destroy nearly a century and a half of history as it tore through a Edgeworth home Wednesday afternoon

Owners Roger Wiegand and his wife Kay and three or four others were at the house, located at 420 Oliver Road, when smoke detectors went off, alerting local firefighters at 4:18 p.m. Everyone made it out safely, but by the time firefighters and police arrived on scene, the fire had already spread to all floors.

“When I went in … it was full of smoke,” said Patrolman Paul Yonlisky, of the Edgeworth Police Department, who said he was the first on scene. He quickly turned back.

By the time Chief Tim Scott, of the Edgeworth Volunteer Fire Department, arrived on scene, about four minutes after the initial call, he could see fire and smoke on both floors, and flames were licking the eaves of the home.

“It was already into the attic space,” he said.

It took more than three hours and 40 to 50 firefighters from six area companies to extinguish the fire. Chief Scott expected to have firefighters there late into the night to ensure that there were no hot spots.

The fast-moving blaze was likely stoked by the house’s old wooden frame, he said.

The facade of the home that faced Oliver Road, a stately colonial brick structure painted white, remained mostly intact Wednesday evening, as firefighters continued to search for hot spots in the five-bedroom, 7,600 square foot home. But the home’s steep slate roof had caved in and remained intact in only one corner of the house, said Chief Scott. The interior of the home had been gutted in parts, and a stairwell had collapsed.

Still, firefighters who filed in and out of the home carted out artwork, some fronted by shattered glass, delivering it to family members standing nearby. A large flat-screen television also survived the fire.

And Chief Scott said he believes the home can be rebuilt.

Paula Doebler, a close friend of Mrs. Wiegand’s who lives in nearby Sewickley, rushed to the scene when she heard on the news that the house was on fire. She said that Mrs. Wiegand is an interior decorator, and the house, which features a roof porch supported by iconic columns, was among her crown jewels.

Mrs. Wiegand had just remodeled the kitchen and the home’s style was “slowly but surely changing over to contemporary.”

“The home was just beautiful,” she said.

Chief Scott said Mrs. Wiegand was “very upset.”

The family declined comment at the scene.

Built in the mid-1800’s, the mansion was once home to the Edgeworth Female Seminary, a school for girls. It was named for Irish novelist Mary Edgeworth and drew students from New England and the South.

Later, the home become the property of the Edgeworth Social Club. When the borough was founded in 1904, it took the name Edgeworth, according to the borough’s website.

Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation

100 West Station Square Drive, Suite 450

Pittsburgh, PA 15219

Phone: 412-471-5808  |  Fax: 412-471-1633