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Property owner uncovers log home

Pittsburgh Tribune ReviewBy MICHAEL DIVITTORIO
Daily News Staff Writer
July 3, 2007
McKeesport Daily News

One of the four known log cabins in Elizabeth Twp. has been uncovered after the new property owner wanted to tear down the building.

Jeff Heinichen, an Elizabeth Twp. resident and owner of five properties in the community, said he bought the property at 1235 Greenock-Buena Vista Road in February from a real estate company because it looked horrendous.

“I come home this way every day, and I got tired of looking at the eyesore. So that’s why I was going to buy it just to tear it down ’cause I was tired of looking at it, and then when I went to tear it down, this is what I found,” Heinichen said.

Ronald Morgenstern, one of the Elizabeth Twp. Historical Society founders and current board member is a walking encyclopedia full of knowledge about Heinichen’s purchase, and beyond.

“That was the old Kelly farm owned by Andrew and Dave Kelly in the early 1800s. It stretched from Everglade Drive, Wexford Drive, Dalewood Street, State Street, Constitution Boulevard and the Greenock Heights area. Constitution (Boulevard) was just a dirt road then. There was an entrance to a coal mine, and the land was next to the Calhoun farm,” Morgenstern said.

The Calhouns, Mohlmans and the Widanys were the other families to have log cabins, he added.

The Kelly farmland was purchased in sections by several different families and Greenock United Methodist Church.

“The Barncords bought the portion of land where Jeff is now from the Kellys in the 1900s. Dave Oberdick bought the land of Everglade and Wexford Drive in the early 1940s for a housing plan. I cut brush and trees and was laying out where the street was going there in 1942,” Morgenstern said.

Morgenstern, 81, was born and raised in Elizabeth Twp. and can give historical tours of numerous sites within the township.

“There are more than 300 points of historical interests here,” he said.

The cabin is supported by eight huge logs that are stabilized by railroad .

“It serves as what an I-beam does in a house today,” Heinichen said.

A coal furnace with pipes leading up through the basement, wooden floor joists, and more than three-fourths of a fieldstone chimney are among the original pieces of the cabin on the 11/2-acre site.

The second floor features three bedrooms, with 7-foot ceilings.

Heinichen’s find was one of great significance, according to historical society officials.

“It always had clapboard siding for as long as I can remember. It’s a very historical find, and I hope he preserves it,” Morgenstern said.

Pittsburgh History & Landmark Foundation Property and Construction Manager Thomas Keffer took a look at the log cabin Wednesday morning.

“I was very impressed,” Keffer said. “It’s in good standing condition and a nice discovery for Elizabeth Twp.”

Keffer assists individuals with preparing their homes or

properties before an application is presented for consideration to their potential landmarks before a presentation is made to the foundation’s plaque committee.

“I offered him (Heinichen) advice and answered his questions,” Keffer said.

Keffer is not on the plaque committee, but knows the requirements of a building in order to be considered a landmark.

A structure has to be at least 50 years old, very close to its original construction and natural colors, and “having a landscape close to the building’s era is a nice touch,” he said.

“It’s a landmark now. With proper restoration it will certainly pass,” Keffer added. “There needs to be work done on the roof and the chimney needs to be put back.”

According to Heinichen, the history foundation might acquire the log cabin and could continue the preservation efforts.

Keffer also looked at another property of Heinichen’s Wednesday, a house believed to be built in 1840 that was turned into a preschool at 5303 Smithfield St.

Aside from the vinyl siding, Keffer said the house is in excellent condition with its original windows and other features.

Keffer said he would help Heinichen with this additional structure, and try to have it declared a landmark.

Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation

100 West Station Square Drive, Suite 450

Pittsburgh, PA 15219

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