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Sharpsburg resident pens book spotlighting Pittsburgh mansions

| Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Submitted | Libby Hilf Photography
Homes in the area are featured in Melanie Linn Gutowski's book 'Pittsburgh's Mansions.'

Melanie Linn Gutowski's love of old houses started when she took music and art classes at the King estate in Pittsburgh.

She was most interested in the building itself and the old fireplace inside.

“That house was like the start of my obsession,” Gutowski said.

That interest led to her first book, “Pittsburgh's Mansions.”

The history of local mansions includes a home on La Tourelle Lane in Fox Chapel and the David Kirk mansion in Sharpsburg, the former home of a local Eagles organization.

It also features a chapter on homes in Sewickley.

Gutowski, who lives in Sharpsburg, took about eight months to write the book. However, her research had been ongoing for years for her own enjoyment.

When she saw a call for ideas from Arcadia Publishing she pitched to them the concept of a book focused only on mansions.

Since the book's release in August, Gutowski said she has heard from many people at readings and various events who are glad the book has provided them more information about the region's history.

“People have a lot of memories of the places that they pass by every day even if they haven't been inside,” Gutowski said.

Preserving the history of local mansions is important to Gutowski, especially since many disappear.

She said the Clayton House, where she works as a part-time docent, and Hartwood Acres are among the few mansions that are open to the public.

“They're almost entirely all gone,” Gutowski said.

Most of the homes featured in the book are from Pittsburgh's East End neighborhoods including Shadyside, Point Breeze and Squirrel Hill.

Gutowski said she has heard suggestions from readers for other homes that could be featured in a second book.

Gutowski said she plans to focus on freelance writing opportunities and hopes to write more books in the future.

She said she's glad to know the topic she became obsessed with is of interest to others.

“I'm gratified to know there are a lot of other old house geeks out there,” Gutowski said.

Tom McGee is an associate editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 1513 or tmcgee@tribweb.com.

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