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Memories preserved – Foundation names home a historic structure


By Maggi Newhouse – TRIBUNE-REVIEW

Wanda Forsythe Clay says there’s a lot of love within the walls of her Carnegie home.

She can sit in the rocking chair her great-grandmother used to rock her grandfather George B. Forsythe, born in 1836.

She can walk into the room where her mother, Grace, gave birth to her in 1927.

And she can sit in front of the marble fireplace where she and her two sisters, Madeline and Virginia, once played parlor games.

Now her memories have become a part of local history.

The Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation designated the Forsythe Home, owned by the three sisters, as a recipient of a plaque designating it a significant historic structure in the Pittsburgh area.

The Forsythe Road home, a Georgian/Victorian style home built in 1850, was one of 27 structures given the designation this year.

One reason the building stood out for the selection committee was the sheer amount of information the Forsythe sisters were able to provide about the history of the home, said Cathy McCollom, director of operations and marketing at the foundation.

Forsythe Clay chalks that up to the lifetime she has spent in the home and the two generations of family before her.

Her grandfather, George B. Forsythe, was born in Finleyville in 1836. At age 25 he went off to fight in the Civil War. When he came back four years later, he purchased a 340-acre farm in Collier Township.

In 1886, he moved to the 90-acre farm that became the Forsythe home. That’s where he raised his three children with his wife, Lettie.

Their child Joseph, Clay Forsythe’s father, stayed in the home and raised his three daughters there along with 2,000 white leghorn chicken as a poultry farmer.

The large chicken house still stands, but along the way, the family sold off much of the land to Carnegie for the creation of Carnegie Park.

Wanda Forsythe Clay chose to stay in the home she and her sisters grew up in to raise her own four children.

Her husband, Victor, didn’t mind, she said. “He loved it.”

Now she, her husband and her sister Virginia share the home.

While the times have changed, many remnants of the past remain on the site and in the home itself. Original wood posts still stand on the front porch. The original shutters still grace the windows.

And in the side yard, remnants of an old stone spring house are still visible.

Forsythe Clay said the small structure was used to store the family’s cheese, butter and eggs. In the winter, her grandfather would go to Chartiers Creek and cut a block of ice from the frozen waters and use it to keep the food fresh through the summer.

And inside, the original wood staircase is still in the foyer of the home.

“My sisters and I used to slide down the banister,” she said with a laugh. “Luckily, my grandchildren don’t know about sliding down staircases.”

Walter Kidney, a member of the historic plaque designation committee, said the good condition of the house stood out on the sisters’ application for the plaque.

“The house itself has maintained a good bit of integrity,” he said.

Forsythe said she is thankful her family has been able to keep the home in its condition.

“I love it,” she said. “It’s a lot of work, but there are so many memories here.”

– Maggi Newhouse can be reached at or at (412) 306-4535.

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Other historic structures

The Historic Landmarks Plaque Committee of the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation awarded 27 plaques to buildings across Allegheny County. Plaques are given to structures that are remarkable pieces of architecture, engineering, construction or planning, or impart a rich sense of history and are at least 50 years old.

Structures in the south and west suburbs that will receive plaques this year are:

– The Forsythe Home, 920 Forsythe Road, Carnegie; built in 1850.
– Gilfillan Farm House, 1950 Washington Road, Upper St. Clair; built in 1857.
– Holy Virgin Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church, 214 Mansfield Blvd., Carnegie; built in 1920.
– Homestead High Level Bridge, Monongahela River at Mile 7; built in 1935-37.
– St. Mary Magdalene Church, East 10th Avenue and Amity Street, Homestead, built in 1895; renovated in 1936.
– St. Michael Archangel Church, Ninth Avenue and Library Place, Munhall; built in 1927.
– Stewart Avenue Lutheran Church, 2810 Brownsville Road, Carrick; built in 1927.
– Walker House, 1026 Third Ave., Elizabeth; built in 1844.
This article appeared in the Pittsburgh Tribune Review. © Tribune Review

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