History,  Western Pennsylvania

Great Expectations

Last night, we and several family members walked for two and a half hours on the Old Allegheny Victorian Christmas House Tour. Jonathan believes that he and I have gone on the tour now for approximately 8 or 10 years. He took the above photo of the tour’s starting point at the Calvary United Methodist Church several Decembers ago.

I mean to someday write a more thorough blog post about our experiences on the tour. The annual tour in the historic district of Allegheny West on Pittsburgh’s North Side features restored Victorian homes in a variety of sizes, conditions, and states of renovation.

Since Jonathan and I currently live in our own work-in-progress, the tours encourage us. My first year on the tour, we visited a beautiful old row house with a lovingly restored parlor and dining room. Then we walked back to the kitchen – which was pretty much a pile of bricks with a stove in the middle. The homeowner advised that he had lived in the house for twenty years, and had just started to get to work on the kitchen. (At that time, Jonathan and I had part of the first floor of our own Parnassus house sealed off for over a year while we did all of the work ourselves in tiny blocks of time in the evenings and on weekends. )

Here are some of my favorite highlights from this year’s tour:

One of the featured homes on this year’s tour (actually, the first home mentioned in this article from 2003) was severely damaged by a fire in September 2001. The homeowner told our tour group that he greatly appreciated the effort’s of Pittsburgh’s firefighters for the way that they covered the interior and saved valuable antiques. The homeowner also said that one of the firefighters who was at that fire was also on one of the earlier home tours of the night this year.

The library of another house on the tour was featured in Victorian Homes.

The homeowner of a third house on the tour told us a ghost story about his house – how truly Victorian! (It scared the Dickens out of me.)

Every year, Jonathan and I think about what stories we would tell if Parnassus had its own tour. I would talk about the memoir that was written about life on our street a century ago. I would tell the story of how Jonathan and I unintentionally found the graves of the original owners of our house in the cemetery down the street, and that one of the children from that original family had carved his name into a beam in our attic. Finally, I would mention that we have planned projects on the house for a decade now, and we haven’t even touched the kitchen yet.

(Edit: This final thought was inspired by my sister-in-law and her husband, who actually have much bigger kitchen work to deal with. Hang in there, guys!)