From The Archives
1888 Queen Anne Victorian
Walnut Hill House
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|Heated Sq. Ft.||3,000|
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Historical Background of Walnut Hill HouseWalnut Hill, or Bigger-Pears House, is a 19th century late Victorian house located just outside Pittsburgh city proper, in the borough of Edgewood. The house sits on a tall hillside with commanding views of the surrounding neighborhood; construction was completed in 1888. The builders, Homer Pierce, William Bentley, and William M. Bentley purchased the site the house sits on for $900 on September 6, 1887. The house was constructed for $2,800 and built as an investment property, with construction likely completed by early July 1888.
Pierce, Bentley and Bentley hired local real estate firm, Black and Baird to sell the newly completed home; and it was subsequently purchased by attorney Henry Johnston Bigger and his wife Sarah "Sallie" Pears Bigger, for $4,550 on November 12, 1888. Henry J. Bigger was born in Dayton, Ohio on June 5, 1848, being raised on a farm. Henry attended Monmouth College in Illinois, and then went on to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where he became a practicing attorney. Sallie Pears Bigger was born on October 6, 1856, one of eight children born to John Pears, an owner of Bakewell, Pears & Co., a prominent 19th century artisan glass works company based in the South Side of Pittsburgh. The Biggers would have four children: Henry Jr., born 1882, Florence, born in 1884, Evelyn, born in 1886 and Ada, born in 1889.
The house is of wood-frame construction, resting on a two-foot thick sandstone foundation. Encompassing the front entrance of the house is a reception hall featuring a handcarved staircase made of cherry. The house currently features three fireplaces, with the original number of fireplaces as five. Other features offered in this home are ten foot tall ceilings, six and a half foot tall windows, four bedrooms, two full bathrooms including a first floor guest powder room, all on three stories at a total of 3,000 square feet. The house was built in the Queen Anne style with some Eastlake influences and included a slate roof with the original design.
The exterior was modified in the early 1930's with the removal of a large veranda that ran the length of the principal facade and was replaced with the current smaller porch at the front entrance. Additionally, the exterior of the second story and third floor gables were covered with cedar shake siding, while the first story retained the original plank siding. Local utility records show that plumbing was first installed inside the house in 1932; prior to 1932 there was a well on the property.
The house remained with the Bigger-Pears family until 1899 (in 1896 ownership was transferred to Sallie Pears Bigger's brother, Harry Pears, who did not live at the house - instead he resided in the Pears family home along fashionable Penn Avenue in nearby Pittsburgh). The Pears family rented the house to the J. D. Williamson family from about 1896 to 1897. Mr. Williamson, who owned a nearby clothing factory, lived in the home until his death; he departed this life in the home in September 1897. Funerary services were preformed on September 29, 1897 at 10:30 that morning.
The house was sold in 1899 to Abel Seddon. Mr. Seddon was a business man who dominated the real estate development market nearby in Braddock, PA. The Seddon family owned a hotel and a large home-goods department store along Braddock Avenue. Abel, his wife, Ellen, their three children and a servant took residence in the house from 1899 to about 1910. The 1900 U.S. Census lists Abel Seddon's occupation as that of "Gentleman". Historical records show the Seddon family improved the property, with the addition of a coach house and large barn to the rear of the house. The Seddons traveled several times throughout Europe and the West Coast, each time creating mentions in the local Society pages. The Seddons left the home in 1910, with Abel Seddon relocating to California to become a fruit farmer. The Seddons continued to make appearances in local society pages years after their departure. Seddon Avenue, in Edgewood, was named for the family in the early 1900's.
In 1912 William Edmund Moore, his wife, Margaret, and their eight children took residence in the house, initially renting the house from the Seddon family. During this period (1910’s – 1920’s) the surrounding neighborhood developed from a rural wooded/countryside setting into a fashionable, affluent Pittsburgh suburb. The growing new neighborhood was home to Westinghouse executives, bank presidents, doctors and other local business and society elites of the day. Today the neighborhood has retained much of the grandeur of the past, with well-preserved Victorians, American-Foursquares mixed with small mansions situated in park-like settings along shaded tree-lined streets.
William Edmund Moore, who was a bookkeeper for People’s Natural Gas Company, did not enjoy the house for very long, as he died in May 1920. To make ends meet, William's widow, Margaret, took in boarders and sub-divided the lot bringing the original lot size down from an acre to its current size of 100 by 110 feet. The house remained with the Moore family until 1983, at which time the surviving children of William Edmund Moore sold the house. Following the 1983 sale, the house underwent an extensive renovation, that modernized the house to the standards of that time; adding additional bathrooms and the addition of the vinyl siding that currently covers the exterior.
The house experienced a succession of owners throughout the 1990's into the 2000's, and saw a period of dormancy. The current owners are restoring the house to the original grandeur.
Archived in July, 2016
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