Gander about Gardens or Hobnob with Homeowners in Tours

Article excerpt

Now that the nice weather is here, it's the perfect opportunity to take a stroll through flower beds or a walk along historic Pittsburgh neighborhoods for a peek inside beautiful houses. It's the home-and-garden tour time of year -- a chance to admire the work done to create lavish outdoor spaces and interesting abodes. There are several to choose from. Some have been around quite a long time.

Historic South Side Home Tour

On Saturday, the 20th annual Historic South Side Home Tour features 11 homes that show diversity, from painstakingly remodeled 19th-century homes to beautifully repurposed churches and an industrial space.

"We are very excited about being part of the tour," says Ryan Nigro, who with wife Julie has done a lot of work to prepare for this day. "It has been a long process, but it will be neat for people to see our house."

The couple totally gutted and remodeled a home, probably built around 1889, along Sarah Street. It's taken them six years. They did most of it themselves or with the help of family and friends.

"There have been a lot of headaches, but it has also been a labor of love," Ryan Nigro says. "We documented every step, which is cool because we can really see all the changes and how far we have come with this project. When I look back at some of the pictures, I cannot believe we lived that way, because we lived in the house during the remodeling."

There were times there wasn't a kitchen or a completely functional bathroom. But that wasn't a problem.

"The thing about the South Side is you can go out to dinner every night for months and never eat at the same place, because there are so many places to choose from," Ryan Nigro says.

Rick Belloli, executive director of the South Side Local Development Company, says he appreciates the willingness of people such as the Nigros who open their homes and is amazed by the amount of work they do to make their houses ready in time. There are a series of contractors who work with the homeowners to help get the houses in shape. They also work with a local florist to create beautiful arrangements.

"We are pleased to be celebrating our 20th year," Belloli says. "I just think this tour is a great way to show off all that is special and wonderful and great about this neighborhood. It is a way to get people engaged in the neighborhood."

The 20th annual Historic South Side Tour is from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. Admission: $18. Tickets can be purchased today at the check-in point -- UPMC Mercy South Side Outpatient Center. Details: 888-718-4253 or www.southsidepgh.com.

Ligonier Valley Home Tour

Organizers of the Ligonier Valley Home Tour hope No. 7 will be lucky. The seventh-annual event is June 18.

There will be five houses on this year's tour. One of the homes, built in the 1950s, recently was expanded. In an effort to make the additions seem integrated, the brick was painted to complement the new stonework and existing siding. Adjacent stables, hosting 20 horses, are part of this working horse farm. The home has a custom Scottish sitting room that was relocated twice -- first in 1780 from Scotland to Pittsburgh and then, to this Ligonier Township home in the early 1950s, when the original owners built their home around this room. …