Buying Here: Observatory Hill

By Gray, Lizabeth | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA), June 8, 2014 | Go to article overview

Buying Here: Observatory Hill


Gray, Lizabeth, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)


The charms of Victorian architecture are timeless: intricate woodwork, built-in cabinets, pocket doors and ornate hardware and other embellishments. Unfortunately, what they did not have in Queen Victoria's time are modern touches like powder rooms, granite counter tops and deep closets.

Contractor John O'Leary understood this 15 years ago when he and his wife, Margie, bought a large 1904 Foursquare in Observatory Hill, a North Side neighborhood known for its historic homes, Riverview Park and the Allegheny Observatory.

"These older houses have great character but are not real functional. We've made those updates to this house," Mr. O'Leary said.

With their son heading to college in the fall, the couple is looking to downsize and have put the four-bedroom, 2 1/2-bath house at 126 Dunlap St. (MLS No. 1010309)on the market for $140,000. Kaedi Knepshield of RE/MAX Select Realty (724-933-6300 ext. 521 or www.selecthomefinder.com) will hold an open house at 1-4 p.m. June 22.

The 12-by-10-foot entry hall features oak and pine staircase and paneling that Mrs. O'Leary has refinished beautifully.

"Margie did all that herself," her husband said. "I wanted no part of it. She spent a long time on it but it turned out really nice."

Turn left through one of two sets of pocket doors to get to the 14-by-12-foot living room with gas-burning fireplace. Light falling through a large southern-facing window in the living room also floods the 17-by- 12-foot dining room, which has a decorative fireplace and three more tall windows. Mr. O'Leary believes the tawny oak flooring in the dining room and hallway is also beneath the living room's neutral beige carpeting, but he has never checked.

"The owner have done some really smart, beautiful upgrades that capture the original feel of the home," said Ms. Knepshield, noting that it's unusual to find a first-floor bathroom and a real master bath in a 100-year-old house at this price point.

Mr. O'Leary worked out a way to put in a powder room on the first floor without ruining the flow or losing the home's period character.

The kitchen, however, was a lost cause.

"Painted the most bizarre colors, purple and blue. We just tore the whole thing out," said Mr. O'Leary with a laugh.

The result is a combination of old and new, vintage and modern.

Granite counter tops, white subway tile with a glass tile band and wood cabinets that reach up to the ceiling work together with the black appliances that include a newer General Electric Elite side-by-side refrigerator, Maytag dishwasher and Kenmore gas stove.

Across from the refrigerator is a large built-in pantry that offers storage space. The raw wood of the doors gives away another of "Margie's projects. …

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