This year’s tour of the homes and gardens of Allegheny West featured seven residences spanning eight blocks of Pittsburgh’s historic Northside.
Story and photos by Zach Armstrong
The extravagant homes of Allegheny West, which once belonged to prominent industrialists during the 19th century, are still standing today. On June 21, the Allegheny West Civic Council (AWCC) invited guests to tour a selection of these neighborhood homes and gardens at the annual “Tour & Tasting.” Local wine and food samples were provided along the route.
The tour covered seven homes spanning eight blocks of Pittsburgh’s Northside, in between Brighton Road and Allegheny Avenue. Guests met with tour guides at Holmes Hall, the oldest mansion located on what’s known as “Millionaire’s Row”. The home is currently owned by John DeSantis, who had the idea in the 1970s to revitalize Allegheny West for public tours.
On West North Avenue, guests spectated at the former mansion of William Hamilton who founded the National Casket Company. The Emmanuel Episcopal Church, often regarded as one of the most important pieces of architecture in Pittsburgh, designed by H. H. Richardson in 1886 was another intriguing tour feature where guests marveled at the glass mosaic of the “Gibson Girl” and the massive rafters that stretch overhead.
Inside West Hall, guests walked through the Allegheny West Historic Timeline Exhibition, which showcased recent improvements to the neighborhood. The tour ended in the backyard of a home once owned by James H. Willock, the former president of the Second National Bank.
During the “Golden Age” of America, Western Pennsylvania brought in vast wealth due to manufacturing coal, oil, and steel. The owners of these industries resided in large cities and from around 1830 to 1930, Pittsburgh had more millionaires than New York City. Ridge Avenue was nicknamed “Millionaire’s Row” and housed famous residents including William Penn Snyder and Henry W. Oliver.
This year’s tour and tasting also supported the Northside by serving food and drink from local businesses. Featured restaurants included Bistro To Go, located on East Ohio Street, and Brugge on North, situated inside the Alphabet City arts venue. Locally produced drinks featured on the tour included Dreadnought Wines and beer from Bier’s Pub.