Tright here was a time when you would make some huge cash in dry cleansing. The good-looking home on North Highland Avenue — with its carved, colonnaded stone porch and facade — is proof.
Additionally it is a monument to the success of Oswald Werner, a German immigrant who purchased the lot in Highland Park in 1890 and set about constructing what one newspaper report of the time described as a “magnificent edifice.”
That yr, the identify of the neighborhood and its important road had been formally modified from Hiland, which got here from the unique surveyor, Robert Hiland, to Highland Park. On the time, Pittsburgh was constructing a serious park across the reservoir; the newly renamed neighborhood rapidly turned a fascinating streetcar suburb.
Werner had in 1864 began a Downtown enterprise cleansing and dyeing garments, specializing in wool, silk, velvet and different supplies that detergent and water tended to wreck. He married a Bavarian immigrant, Catherine Stadler, and the 2 had an enormous household, with 5 women and two boys packed right into a home behind their store on Penn Avenue (roughly the place the WQED-FM studio faces Katz Plaza at this time).
However their home will need to have change into insufferable after the Werners’ youngest daughter, 15-year-old Stella — “a vivid, clever, lovable woman,” reviews stated — fell ailing within the winter of 1890 and died at house. Inside months, the Werners had been headed for the East Finish.
Along with his sons, John and Oswald Jr., Werner opened a second dry-cleaning location on the nook of Bryant and Mellon streets in Highland Park. They quickly expanded to a three-story dry cleansing plant, a part of which stays at this time, albeit reconfigured because the industrial-chic Bryant Lofts.
Again then, dry cleansing was a hazardous enterprise. Early practitioners used petroleum-based solvents reminiscent of kerosene and benzene. An explosion at Werner’s Bryant Avenue enterprise in 1893 induced a small fireplace that was rapidly introduced below management; a decade later, the plant suffered two main fires solely two months aside. No person was badly harm within the blazes, although Werner took a big monetary hit every time. Because it turned out, insurance coverage was troublesome to acquire for buildings that housed massive gas tanks vulnerable to explosion.
On the age of 70, Werner was nonetheless being pushed day by day by a chauffeur to his unique dry cleaners Downtown. That resulted in 1905, once they had been in a critical accident on Bigelow Boulevard; Werner was thrown 20 ft from the crash. He survived however was badly injured. He died in 1912.
Oswald Jr. inherited the home on North Highland. He lived there one other three a long time along with his sisters, Annie and Katie, turning into president of the dry-cleaning enterprise, which remained in household palms for 2 additional generations. The home didn’t, altering palms a number of occasions over time.
In 2004, legal professional Jennifer McPeak and native landlord Ken Kaczmarek purchased the home after it went by means of foreclosures. For newlyweds anticipating their first youngster, it was a tense switch. Whereas they had been closing, thieves broke in and tore out a number of stained-glass home windows and hearth hearths.
“I used to be nervous if we waited any longer the staircase could be gone,” Kaczmarek remembers.
The steps stayed, as did the oak cabinetry and mosaic hearth fireplace within the house’s showcase eating room. McPeak and Kaczmarek have deftly restored any ornamental parts the police couldn’t recuperate, and their 17-room, 2½-story, late-Victorian manor offers ample area for his or her 4 school-age youngsters.
Meaning loads to McPeak, who was born and raised in Highland Park. Her grandfather had a produce market a couple of doorways down from the Werners’ dry cleansing enterprise on Bryant Avenue. Like her mom and her sisters, and now her youngsters, McPeak attended Catholic college at close by Sacred Coronary heart in Shadyside. She was the senior class president in 1989, the ultimate graduating class of the highschool.
“There’s an enormous household connection [to Highland Park],” she says. “My sisters nonetheless dwell right here, too.”
She blushes when Kaczmarek reminds her their first date was a strolling tour of Highland Park, organized at Tazza d’Oro espresso store three blocks up from the place they now dwell. Neighborhood ties may be stronger than a double shot of espresso.
Mark Houser is the writer of the brand new ebook MultiStories: 55 Vintage Skyscrapers & the Enterprise Tycoons Who Constructed Them.