Hot Property: How to Find “Narnia” in Dormont
The whimsical Victorian is adorned with a lamppost reminiscent of the one found in the classic tale, “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.”
The classic Victorian at 3225 Gaylord Ave. in Dormont that captivated Dana Burrows and husband Conor McCaskey back in 2008 is easy to spot. Painted in cheerful period colors, the exterior features fish-scale shingles and has an enchanting turret.
Above the front door, the house numbers painted in gold leaf on transom glass hearken back to a simpler time. In front, a green globe lamppost is the neighborhood’s version of the iconic Kaufmann’s Clock.
“We would notice the kids always standing outside around it,” Burrows recalls. “They call it the ‘Narnia House.’ Everyone around here meets up there.”
Before buying it, the couple often would drive by the house in the evenings just to see it.
“We lived one street over. We would drive by and say to each other, ‘What if we lived in that house? It would be crazy!’” Burrows says.
In 2016, they connected with a rather reluctant seller, and the home became theirs. After renovating it, the couple has since moved farther south. The home is now on the market for $325,000 (MLS#1508168, Jeremy Wells, pa.eXpRealty.com). It is under agreement.
Burrows remembers the first time she stepped into the house, which was decorated in near-perfect period design. Wallcoverings adorned most of the rooms, and all the furniture was antique. It was like stepping back in time, she says.
“It was like an antique store. There was a lot of wallpaper, even on the ceiling.”
The interior renovation of the 2,300-square-foot house included taking down most of the wallpaper, pulling up the rugs (“The floors are in perfect shape. They were untouched,” Burrows says.) and adding detailed touches such as a gas fireplace insert in the living room.
Mechanical upgrades include new windows and the installation of a slate-look metal roof with a lifetime guarantee to replace the original slate-tile roof. Among the things they kept were the charming porch and yellow and green exterior paint colors.
The stunning entry is centered by the original panel staircase. On the newel post, a brass nymph charms the way with golden light. Several original stained glass windows, including in the entry, formal living room, first floor landing and upstairs bathroom, fill the rooms with warm, colorful light.
A pair of pocket doors leads to the living room, where there is a retrofitted marble fireplace façade. “We had a new Valor Fireplace installed and the fireplace heatshield is the custom insert,” Burrows says.
The formal dining room has added drama thanks to a striking black ceiling with a white medallion and a new, modern chandelier. (The home’s original crystal chandelier was rewired and put in storage.) The updated space has been a winner for entertaining and is easily accessible to the unique kitchen, which was renovated before the couple owned the home.
The kitchen has an exposed brick hearth wall that nestles the range, while wood beams add to the rustic feel. A ceramic tile floor is a nice workhorse, and there’s another stained glass window that rides above the cabinetry.
Four bedrooms, plus two full and one half-bathroom, round out the rest of the home. On the second floor are two full bedrooms and one full bathroom, plus a master bedroom. Another bedroom has been transformed into a walk-in closet and a third room acts as a home office.
The upstairs bathroom includes wood tongue-in-groove wainscoting, a heated towel rack and lots of built-in closets. Underfoot, original hardwood floors keep things cozy.
The third floor has two full bedrooms, including one that looks down to the office below, plus a renovated half bathroom.
“The ceiling was opened up to the third floor by the previous owners,” Burrows says.
The home functioned very well for the couple during quarantine. “I am a teacher and I would give lessons in the dining room with the doors closed, and my husband was able to work in the office,” Burrows says.
In the basement, a more modern renovation features a full bathroom, fireplace, drop ceiling and laundry area. Not to be missed in the backyard is the enchanting gazebo, a lovely space for outdoor occasions.
The home has a home warranty, detached garage and radiator heating. The window air conditioners also come with the home.
Burrows says she and her husband loved their time in the “Narnia” home. They had no intentions to sell, but then they became entranced with another house, this one on wooded land.
“We weren’t really looking,” she says. “We just went to some open houses one day and fell in love.”
Drawing on her years of experience covering the region’s real estate industry, Rosa Colucci offers Hot Property, an inside look 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 Pittsburgh-area home. And four times a year, Hot Property gives an in-depth look at the region’s real estate market in Pittsburgh Magazine HOME, tracking housing prices and sales and detailing where the hot properties can be found. Rosa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About: Dormont Borough
Planes, Trains & Automobiles: A 23-minute commute to the airport. Daily transport via Port Authority buses and the “T” Light rail system. Street parking.
Schools: Keystone Oaks School District (kosd.org) is comprised of Castle Shannon, Dormont and Green Tree. The average elementary class size is 22 students. Ranks among the top 15 districts in Western Pennsylvania. More than 21 sports at the high school level and STEAM Curriculum.
Neighborhood: Dormont has a historical society, a lively community life and voluntary cooperation with Sustainable Pennsylvania. The thriving business district includes sidewalks, several popular restaurants, bakeries and specialty shops.