Highland Park House Tour Features Architectural Stunners
Included on this year’s tour is a 22-room Gilded Age mansion restored to perfection.
Even among the grand homes in a range of architectural styles that can be found throughout Highland Park, the three-story, red brick mansion owned Dr. Frank Brown and his wife, Maura, is a standout.
Built by Irish immigrant turned glass manufacturer Alexander King in the late 1800s, the 22-room, Second Empire-style manse, known locally as the King Estate, is topped with a 16-foot-high gilded finial. The impressive wrap-around porch leads to a pair of tall walnut doors — which will be open to the public this weekend.
Located on Elgin Street, The King Estate, also known as Baywood, is one of nearly a dozen homes that will be featured on the Highland Park House Tour. After being revived by the nonprofit Highland Park Community Council in 2014 following a long absence, the event now takes place every two years.
Kicking off at the rectory of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church on Hampton Street, the tour runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are $35 in advance and $40 on the day of the event. All proceeds benefit the Highland Park Community Council for current and future neighborhood programs.
The Browns told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette they spent more than 20 years restoring the Gilded Age mansion, which was in a serious state of neglect when they bought it in 1994.
The interior walls were spray-painted and track lighting had been nailed into the century-old, hand-painted artwork, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Other architectural elements, including the finial — which the Browns later replicated — were missing from the building.
Today, after a painstakingly careful rehabilitation, the mansion, which was owned by the city of Pittsburgh from 1954 to 1994 and once hosted art camps, has been restored to its former grandeur.
A tall Eastlake mirror featuring carved burled walnut hangs in the entry hall, according to the Post-Gazette. In the formal parlor, 23-karat gold leaf gilds the cove molding. After Brown uncovered a faded painting of cherubs, artist Celeste Parrendo recreated the winged angels.
“This is a prime example of a house that has been brought back to glory through a detailed renovation,” says Janine Jelks-Seale, the event’s co-chair and a member of the Highland Park Community Council. “It’s a rare opportunity to take a peek inside the private residence.”
The tour also will feature the historic Bigelow Estate on North Highland Avenue.
Known as the “father of Pittsburgh’s parks,” Edward Manning Bigelow, an engineer and a former director of Pittsburgh’s public works department, built the home, which notably is topped with a pink roof. Responsible for many improvements to Pittsburgh infrastructure, including Bigelow Boulevard — which was renamed in Bigelow’s honor after his death in 1916 — Bigelow was an advocate of urban parks and helped to develop Schenley Park and Highland Park.
Jelks-Seale says the home tour includes a mix of architectural styles that range from colonial to Victorian and to more modern estates.
“We have big homes and small homes scattered throughout the neighborhood,” she says.
Volunteers will be stationed at the exterior and interior of each home on the self-guided walking tour to help participants learn more about the buildings. There also will be bikes available for those wishing to cycle between the homes participating in the event. For more information, or for tickets, visit here.