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Hiding in Plain Sight: A House as Old as Larryville

The house on the southwest corner of 38th St. and Charlotte Street in Lawrenceville is up for sale.  It was bult a decade after Lawrenceville became a town in 1814.

We know this because house historian Carol Peterson, a denizen of Larryville, researched the records.  The house you see now — ruddy-colored clapboards, patched in part with old tin advertisements — encloses the original log home that was built in the 1820s.  The “new” part is from the 1870s.  That’s Michael Connors in front of it.  Michael has been part of the Lawrenceville Historical Sociaty’s efforts over the years to get it, and to have it renovated.

Read Michael’s “Next Page” in the Post-Gazette on Sept. 12 for a story about one of the buildings past inhibitants, a teenager who packed munitions and died in the deadly arsenal explosion of 1882.  And, by the way, thanks to Matt Smith, who was walking along with a smart phone and agreed to take the photo you see.  (So, OK, the sun was in the wrong place.)

For some time, heavy hitters including the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation, Sen. Jim Ferlo and other public officials, were at least cheering on the historical society’s effort, Michael tells me.

Arthur Ziegler, president of Landmarks, said the interest and needed money could not be reconciled.  “We don’t have many log houses left and we would like to save them,” he said, “but this had been so changed over the years, to put it back the way it was would have meant cutting new logs.”

The historical society “knew it was way beyond our ability” to afford and renovate, Michael said.

It is owned by a limited partnership.  Historical Society members toured it a few years ago when the owners wanted $39,000.  We’re trying to find out the asking price from the Realtor.

This building was part of the original town of Lawrenceville that composer Stephen Foster’s father subdivided.  In 1841, Lawrenceville town was carved out of Pitt Township roughly from 38th to 41st Streets and from Woolslayer to the Allegheny River, Carol said.  Lawrenceville was incorporated as a borough in 1834.

“Just think that someone in this house could have walked up the street to see the Marquis de Lafayette when he visited Pittsburgh” in 1825, Michael said.  In case history isn’t your subject, Lafayette was a hero of both the French and American revolutions and knew George Washington.

He was our first president.

Michael said his dream is that UPMC, whose Children’s Hospital presence is “the biggest and newest” in the neighborhood, offers the needed largesse “for the smallest and oldest” and help Lawrenceville showcase one of its original structures, which could be an attraction for visitors to the hospital.

Walkabout is putting it out there, like a butterfly wish that might merge with the fluttering fancy of the right person…or institution.

Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation

100 West Station Square Drive, Suite 450

Pittsburgh, PA 15219

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