A Grand Old Family Estate goes on the market in Ben Avon


ISLANDoccasionally a grand old house defies the odds and retains its original glory. Such is the case with 7190 Brighton Road in Ben Avon, a home that has changed hands only once since it was built more than 100 years ago.

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Owned for 64 years by the late George and Ruth Trent, the grand Tudor style is one of the most prominent properties in the neighborhood. Built in 1914, it is in near original condition, with several leaded glass windows, the original oak floors and walnut millwork throughout.

When the Trents bought it in October 1958, the original owners had lived there for 44 years. After moving in, George and Ruth put the spacious six-bedroom house to good use, filling it with seven children. George died in 2016; Ruth was able to stay in the home with the help of her daughter, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette food editor Gretchen McKay (and her husband Peter) — who lived just around the corner — until June, when she died at age 93.

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The family has since listed the home for $637,900 (Jennifer Waters, Howard Hanna Real Estate, 412.716.3570, howardhanna.com). It is open by appointment.

McKay has many fond memories of home.

“It’s right up the hill from the old train station that used to go into Pittsburgh,” she says. “There are many mature trees and two wooden wells; one was carved into a giant bear. There are many old plant beds. My mother used to love to garden.”

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Tucked away from the street, the brick house has stucco Tudor details and a slate roof. A long walkway leads to the porch, where the original beams, brackets and millwork are painted a deep brown. It is the perfect place for gatherings, especially because the house is on the district’s parade route.

“The Memorial Day parade goes by the house every year,” says McKay.

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The entrance is marked by a huge, three-panel walnut door with leaded glass and sidelights. Once inside, the 18 x 12 square meter entrance is a step back in time, thanks to all the original details – the only exception being the red toile wallpaper hung in 1969.

“It was installed by my dad for my sister’s graduation party,” McKay recalls.

It goes perfectly with all the entrance’s fine millwork and grand staircase, a favorite spot for Trents’ holiday decor.

“We always cut down our Christmas trees when we were young, and there were years when the tree went all the way to the rail on the second floor,” says McKay. “It would fill the whole room. Because there were seven children, you couldn’t even go into the breakfast room, it was so full of presents.”

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The home has five fireplaces, including in the 23 x 14 square meter living room, where it is flanked by a pair of built-in bookcases with leaded glass doors. A green brick facade reflects the room’s natural walnut, as does a bay window that floods the room with natural light.

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The scene of many family dinners, the 18 x 13 square meter dining room still has the original wallpaper, with the wood paneling painted a fresh green to bring out the pattern. There is also a beamed ceiling, two stained glass windows and a brass chandelier.

“[My parents] hosted holiday dinners well into the late 60s,” says McKay. “They had a big table; we would squeeze 16 people around the table. All the children would be on card tables in the entrance hall.”

Adjacent to the kitchen, a 15 x 6 square meter butler’s pantry is a dream lover’s dream, featuring floor-to-ceiling walnut cabinets and, at the far end, a double-hung window. It also houses a rear staircase leading to the second floor.

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In the adjacent kitchen of 14 x 11 square meters, economy and efficiency are the name of the game. The room has a basic range, formica counter tops and wooden cabinets, plus a 12 x 9 square meter breakfast room where the family ate their daily meals. Two walls of double-hung windows give the kitchen a nice view of the property.

McKay notes that the never-remodeled kitchen needs updating. And while her mother didn’t enjoy cooking, McKay says she liked to bake.

“We made a lot of cookies in that kitchen,” she says.

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On the second floor there are three bedrooms and a very large bathroom.

With wooden floors under the carpet, the master bedroom measures a whopping 25 by 15 square meters and has a fireplace fitted with white porcelain tiles with a walnut mantel. The other wallpapered bedrooms are respectively 18 by 14 square meters and 14 by 12 square meters. All three rooms have very large wardrobes and lots of windows. There are also wall lamps in addition to the ceiling lighting in each room.

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The bathroom has white subway tiles accented with wallpaper, as well as a bathtub, separate shower, ceramic tile floors and a two-bowl sink. There is more than enough space to update it into a modern space without breaking through walls, which is very unusual in an old house.

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The third floor offers three more large bedrooms with hardwood floors and a second bathroom with a shower/tub combination and a single sink.

“My three brothers were in the giant room on the third floor,” says McKay, noting that the previous owners had live-in help who lived on the top floor.

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The home has a typical Pittsburgh basement, but also includes a root cellar, laundry room and a workshop.

“When my father retired, he took up the hobby of making Windsor chairs,” says McKay. “He would steam the wood out on the basketball court; he became very well known for his work.”

Speaking of the basketball court, the McKays say the Trents would use it year-round, not just in the warmer months.

“Every winter my dad would freeze it with water and my brothers would play hockey on it,” says McKay. “This is where I learned to skate.”

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The home also has a two-car garage with a large room above that was used as a playroom. McKay believes the room was once used as accommodation for the previous owners’ chauffeur.

The Trent family lived there long enough to witness significant development when the property behind their home was demolished.

“It was the Dean family property,” says McKay. “I saw the district tear it down in the late ’60s and put in a cul-de-sac with all the modern houses.”

While McKay says her family is sad to sell the house that has such a rich history for them, their hope is that a new family will make their own memories there — and love it as much as they did.

“Everyone in my family just wants the house to go to another family,” she says. “It needs people. It must be brought back to life with children and activity.”

Hot Property, an insight into unique and historic homes on the market. Each week, Hot Property goes behind the For Sale sign to share the story of a special home in the Pittsburgh area. And four times a year, Hot Property provides an in-depth look at the region’s real estate market in Pittsburgh Magazine HOME, tracking home prices and sales and detailing where the hot properties can be found. Rosa can be found at [email protected].

About: Ben Avon Borough (benavon.com)
Population: 1,918
Planes, trains and cars: 20 minute commute to the airport. Bus transport on the district’s main line. Some parking spaces on the street.
Schools: Avonworth School District (avonworth.k12.pa.us)
Quarter: Tucked away on a hill, Ben Avon is a small town that occupies just under half a square mile along the Ohio River. Located 6 miles northwest of Downtown, it has easy access to interstate 79 and 279, making it a prime location. Incorporated in 1892, Ben Avon was laid out with only 28 streets; only a few streets have been added since then, making it one of the smallest boroughs in the Commonwealth.

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