McCook Mansion of The Mansions on Fifth
One of Pittsburgh’s most stunning homes, the McCook Mansion of The Mansions on Fifth, has been brought back to life, and its rebirth is celebrated this holiday season.
This main room, originally designed as a formal dining area for the McCook family, is now used for private parties and corporate events.
Photo by Laura Petrilla; holiday décor by All in Good Taste Productions
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A family estate nestled along Fifth and Amberson avenues in Shadyside, The Mansions on Fifth are comprised of two historic mansions, the McCook-Reed Mansion and the McCook Mansion. Once private homes, the mansions have been restored into luxurious guest rooms and suites. The Mansions also serve as a premier venue for private parties, weddings, business meetings and retreats. Built in 1907 by the McCooks, a family at the forefront of Pittsburgh society, the McCook Mansion has been saved by other locals, Mary Del Brady and Richard Pearson.
Brady and Pearson have spent the past year restoring the McCook Mansion with the help of their daughter, Jennifer. Take a peek inside this reborn treasure, which remains a wonderfully curious mix of grand glamour and homey warmth.
Willis McCook, attorney and close business associate of Henry Clay Frick, wanted to build a home that felt like a spectacular English Manor home for his wife, Mary, and their 10 children. In 1907, he did just that, commissioning a stunning granite mansion and a smaller companion home for one of his daughters on Fifth Avenue.
The McCook home had real warmth, unlike many of the cold, marble palaces along what was once called “millionaire’s row.” And the extensive woodwork, intricately painted ceilings and softly glowing light fixtures that gave the house its charm, have now been carefully restored.
For two decades, this three-story home was the site of lavish holiday celebrations filled with family and friends. But after the McCooks passed away, the Depression hit, and the house fell into receivership.
In the 1950s, the Bonavita family bought it from the city for a reported $28,000. The family began renting rooms to college students, including architecture and design students from Carnegie Mellon University.
Mrs. Bonavita “interviewed and prescreened each of them,” Brady says, to ensure they would love the house and treat it as a home—not a crash pad.
“Over about 50 years, we’ve estimated [that] about 500 students have lived here,” Brady says. “Think how well taken care of it’s been.” Some former residents have been in touch with the new owners, and a reunion may happen next year. Many say they have fond memories of living with the Bonavitas in such a beautiful and inspiring home.
Tragically, a fire in 2004 damaged the attic and third floor, so the house was closed. It was up for sale, but the Bonavita family vowed not to sell to anyone who would demolish the home.