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Hays family restoring Munhall mansion in hopes of lifting condemnation

| Monday, April 15, 2013, 11:37 a.m.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
Nancy Wooddell and Freeman Bartek guide Munhall councilman Bernie Shields, center, on a Sunday tour of the Hays Mansion, which is under renovation in hope of lifting a condemnation ruling.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
Nancy Exacustides-Kail holds a spotlight, plugged into a generator, to assist Brandon Potts as he paints the trim around the ceiling of the Hays Mansion's great room on Sunday.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
Cindy Dudek sweeps dirt into a dust pan held by Lottie Exacustides in the kitchen of the Hays Mansion on Sunday.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
Joe McKay paints a porch rail on the side of the Hays Mansion on Sunday afternoon. He is one of serveral people involved in the building's restoration in an effort to convince Munhall council to rescind a condemnation order.

Community volunteers and the Hays family have worked over the past two weekends to restore the historic Hays Mansion in Munhall.

They are trying to save the house from demolition. Munhall council will decide on Wednesday night whether or not to rescind a condemnation order.

“I can't see any reason why they wouldn't (rescind),” Hays relative Jim Deibel said.

The maintenance has included painting the exterior of the garage, kitchen, main porch and first-floor windows, and interior painting of the Great Room and the study. Lattice above the porch was reconstructed and the rooms were cleaned.

McClaren's Bar in Munhall provided lunches for the volunteers.

Joe McKay of JB Landscaping in Baldwin has been working on the property.

“I'd like to give thanks for the effort put forth between family members and volunteers in the last month,” Deibel said. “This is all so we can show the borough how serious we are about rescinding the condemnation.”

Council vice president Rob Falce toured the mansion on April 7.

“It looks nice, but it still needs a lot of work in my honest opinion,” he said. “I think it's savable. I'm a supporter and I see a possibility for it to be something again. Some of council may disagree with me on that. I'd hate to lose it.”

Riverboat captain Abraham Hays built the mansion in 1832 to replace his flooded home, according to documents from the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation. It served as a station on the Underground Railroad. Slaves traveled through a tunnel from the Monongahela River to the home's basement.

Fugitive slaves were transported to the area by Hays riverboat captains during coal mining operations on the Mississippi River.

The Hays family has a purchase agreement with the mansion's owner, Riverbend LLC founder Mark Draper of Rockville, Md.

Last November, councilors said the Hays Mansion was condemned because Draper has been promising to fix it up for too many years without action, and the home's dilapidated state interefered with another development.

Deibel said he learned of the mansion's existence only last year, and that he since has found 415 of Hays' descendents.

The Abraham Hays Foundation was started by decendents to carry on the family's heritage.

Information is available online at www.abrahamhaysfoundation.org.

Stacy Lee is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

She can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1970, or slee@tribweb.com.

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