Why a Victorian in Etna Became a Respite to a Former Nomad
The conveniently located, two-unit building is filled with original details.
Growing up in a military family, Ann Bridgham spent a good deal of her life moving. So when she settled down for good in the Pittsburgh area 16 years ago, she entered a different phase of her life.
“It amazes me,” she says. “I had never lived in any one place for more than two to three years. I meet people in this town and they know everyone; their families have been there forever.”
Her home at 37 Vilsack St. is in a little slice of Etna that borders Shaler. Built in 1905, the two-unit Victorian had been converted from a single-family home before Bridgham purchased it and still retains many of its original features.
The house, which sits on a level, fenced-in double lot, is now listed for $224,000 (MLS# 1566742, Monica Sample, Piatt Sotheby’s International Realty, piattsir.com). It is open by appointment.
The exterior’s neutral-hued vinyl siding is complemented by crisp white trim as well as classic Victorian detail on the highest dormer peak. There’s a swing on the front porch and a grouping of original stained glass windows that include transoms, as well as a lovely full-size, decorative window that is a prelude to the time-honored touches within. There’s also a detached, two-car garage
The entry is in near-perfect condition from the time when the home was built and includes a spindle staircase, curved landing, paneled double-entry doors and the original hardwood floors.
When Bridgham bought the house, the entry had a shag carpet that led up the stairs.
“It was right out of the ’70s,” she says. “I pulled up the carpet and had the floors refinished.”
Each of the home’s two units has one bedroom and one bathroom. The first-floor unit features the original stained woodwork. The living room and bedroom both have ornate fireplace mantels with wood columns, iron fireplace grids and tile; the mirrors above them have miniature capitals on the columns.
The living room has a built-in cabinet with drawers and glass doors. A bow window lets in plenty of light.
The utilitarian kitchen is clean and neat; it includes a rare, unpainted six-panel door that opens to the rear yard. Pocket doors lead to the only bedroom.
The second-floor unit contains the same layout as below, including the spacious main room with a bow window, a large bedroom and a large, basic kitchen. Painted white, the woodwork in this unit pops against the living area’s neutral-hued paint.The bedroom has bright blue walls.
Bridgham, who used to ride her bike Downtown to work, called the home’s location walkable as well as bikeable. She recalls riding along Bridge Street until she reached the Great Allegheny Passage trailhead in Millvale, located only one mile away.
“I would also bike to Hartwood Acres,” she says. “It is only 6 miles — and I’m old.”
The building has a newer roof and utilities, including central air-conditioning, are billable to each unit.
Etna has been undergoing a renaissance of late. Besides the Riverfront Park, which was redeveloped from a former brownfield, the town boasts new and established restaurants, including The Rear End Gastropub, E-Town Bar and Grille, Hong Kong Taste and Alioto’s. The eateries are joined by art galleries, hair salons, several gyms and Pollak’s Candies, which has been making gourmet chocolates since 1948.
After her early nomadic life, Bridgham says she particularly appreciates Etna’s cozy, small-town appeal.
“Summer nights are fun to just stop by the ballpark and watch a game and just take it all in,” she says.
Drawing on her years of experience covering the region’s real estate industry, Rosa Colucci’s Hot Property takes 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
About: Etna (etnaborough.com)
Planes, Trains & Automobiles: A 25-minute commute to the airport. Daily transport via Pittsburgh Regional Transit. Bike trail access and street street parking.
Schools: Shaler Area School District. (sasd.k12.pa.us)
Neighborhoods: Covering one square mile along the Allegheny River, Etna is just 10 minutes from Downtown and also provides easy access to the North Hills and Fox Chapel. In 2019, the borough was named the first EcoDistrict in the United States after introducing several sustainability initiatives that included converting all street lighting to LED and routing stormwater through above-ground grates that slowly filter rainwater back to the earth.