1830s duplex gets reprieve

Written by Diana Nelson Jones on .


An old tin-roofed double house at 406-408 Foreland Street in Deutschtown is among the oldest on the North Side, but it has some horrible issues including mold and structural problems because of an inadequate foundation, according to architect Bob Baumbach.

Bob addressed the Historic Review Commission earlier this week to ask for the right to have it demolished. The property’s owner, Al DePasquale, a principal at October Development, told the commission that his efforts have saved 17 of 18 buildings in Deutschtown.

“I’m not good enough to save this building,” he said.

It has drawn no interest from potential buyers who would restore it, he said. A proposed new construction, with two street-facing garages, would replace the double house and be in scale with the buildings on either side.

The double house sits low between them now looking to the untrained eye as if it is out of place. But it was there first.

Architectural historian Carol Peterson told the HRC Wednesday that it was probably built in the 1830s when many houses of that ilk were built to meet the needs of growing industry with the canal nearby. Few have survived; styles from the 1880s and '90s characterize much of the rest of Deutschtown and the historic North Side. She said she had rehabbed houses in conditions as bad and worse.

"These are pre-Civil War buildings," Lynn Glorieux, a neighborhood activist with the East Allegheny Community Council, said.  “We want to keep our little houses, not replace them with buildings so big they need two garages.”

Andrew DeWitt, chief of staff for city Council President Darlene Harris, said the councilwoman supports the opposition of the community council, which he said “has taken on projects worse than this.”

“This is an important discussion,” Andrew said afterward. “The neighborhood leadership has reclaimed and restored deteriorated houses with historic integrity.” Considering how much of the neighborhood was lost to the construction of Route 279, he said, much should be done to maintain the historic integrity it still has.

“We didn’t move to an historic district to be sandwiched between dry-wall Victorians,” a resident who lives near the old house told the commission.

The commission tabled the demolition request for 60 days.


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