Hot Property: A Reworked Row House with History
The two-bedroom showstopper on the North Side once had boarded up windows and collapsing walls.
Ron Meisberger’s journey to renovate his turn-of-the century row house in the historic Allegheny West neighborhood on Pittsburgh’s North Side is filled with great stories — and a few critters.
“When I first saw this house, there was a raccoon living in it,” he says. “My brothers said they would have kept the raccoon and tore down the house.”
That was in 2003. Transformed into a showplace, Meisberger and his wife enjoyed living at 1005 Galveston Ave. for many years before leasing it as a rental. It’s now on the market for $325,000 (MLS #1487867 Laura Palmer, Coldwell Banker Real Estate, 412/980-0812, coldwellbankerhomes.com). It is under agreement.
Meisberger says he purchased the home from Cityscape Construction after he saw an ad for it in a local newspaper.
“It was in really bad shape, but they had just started working on it,” he recalls.
At the time, the home was filled with horsehair plaster painted green and pink. The windows were boarded up and the back of the home had collapsed. Meisberger initially worked with Cityscape Construction to remodel the structure, and then took it from there.
The result of the completed renovation is a two-bedroom, one full bathroom, open-concept space with exposed brick walls and rafters.
Although Cityscape rebuilt the rear of the home to Meisberger’s specifications, he did his share of heavy lifting.
“I wound up scraping every inch of that brick with a soft, brass bristle, grill brushes that I bought at the dollar store,” he says.
Built in 1870, the home once was part of three row houses that were expanded into five. A key design element is the central staircase. Built by iron fabricator Doug Burke, of Portersville, it features iron stringers, oak treads and rails. Cable wire holds it all together without obstructing the view from front to back.
The living room features a decorative fireplace and ¾-inch oak floors. Open joists and rafters play off the overhead galvanized HVAC pipes. Just beyond, the kitchen was designed and installed by Meisberger.
A corner cooking area plays with angles. Poured concrete countertops and a tile floor ground the space, which includes overhead pendant lights and a commercial, stainless-steel work island. The whitewashed fireplace façade features a slim mantle that was used for spices and built-in shelving in the firebox.
A cantilevered countertop was fabricated from maple flooring and attached with industrial pipe. A bulkhead painted in a mustard yellow hue adds a dash of flair. Meisberger says he studied home design books and became interested in concrete when it was still a novel idea for kitchens.
“I made the molds,” he says. “For more than two years I had foam insulation board down and made notes. I wanted to make sure I had the holes in all the right places.”
A doorway leads to a pantry area. Just beyond the newly rebuilt room is a new dining space with more smart design touches, including a rebuilt fireplace wall with a clever backsplash.
The interior space also was outfitted as a bar and media center with pieces procured from Ikea’s clearance room. The wine glass holders were flea market finds. Industrial pendant lighting and new laminate flooring completes the look. A large window and a glass door flank the wall and lead out to a rear courtyard with another interesting backstory.
“It was all lawn back there. I was digging one day and hit a brick,” Meisberger says. “The patio was under three inches of soil.”
He tore up the patio, raised the height and properly relaid the bricks in a 90-degree herringbone pattern. There is room for planting and a neat privacy fence thanks to the owner of an adjacent property.
Upstairs, the original knotty pine floors were refinished. Two bedrooms, a master bathroom and a laundry area fill out the space. The primary bedroom features a gray decorative mantel and a built-in storage bed. A large library ladder provides access to a second floor loft with a rough-cut plank floor.
“I purposefully left little gaps,” Meisberger says. “At night, lights peek through and fill up the room in such an interesting way.”
The second bedroom features a closet that was built on the same footprint of the dining room fireplace. Repurposed doors bring warmth to the space.
The main bathroom features a clear wave-glass block wall, a slate tile shower and the recent addition of a modern vanity crafted from slab cherry wood. There’s also a hand-carved burl maple art piece bowl that was carved by an artist who has pieces in the Smithsonian, according to Meisberger.
“I always wanted that sink in that bathroom,” he says.
The basement is clean and neat with a utility sink, diamond plate floor and a “Pittsburgh Potty.”
Photos of the home before construction are hung throughout the space. They offer a peek back in time and show the journey this 150-year-old home has taken.
“I so enjoyed that property,” Meisberger says. “Anyone who has ever gone In there has found something interesting inside. Allegheny West is such a pleasant community and it’s a great place to live.”
Drawing on her years of experience covering the region’s real estate industry, Rosa Colucci’s Hot Property will offer an inside look into unique and historic homes currently on the market. Each week, Hot Property goes behind the For Sale sign to share the story of a special Pittsburgh area home. And four times a year, Hot Property will give an in-depth look at the region’s real estate market in Pittsburgh Magazine HOME, track housing prices and sales and detail where the hot properties can be found. Rosa can be reached at email@example.com.
About: Allegheny West
Planes, Trains & Automobiles: Just a 25-minute commute to the airport.Daily transport via Port Authority. City bike lanes on major arteries. Street parking.
Schools: City of Pittsburgh, features extensive magnet programming including the award-winning CAPA in the heart of Downtown. (pittsburghschools.org)
Neighborhoods The Allegheny West Historic is one of the most well-known in the country. Mansions built by William Penn, Henry W. Oliver and others marked Ridge Avenue as “Millionaires Row.” Places of note include Calvary United Methodist Church on Beech Avenue for its original Tiffany Windows and West Park with its strolling bridges and fountains. Several large Victorian buildings mark the campus of present day Community College of Allegheny County.