Munhall council takes Hays Mansion off condemned list
Munhall council has removed the Hays Mansion from the list of condemned properties, saving it from demolition.
The vote was 5-2 at Wednesday night's meeting. Councilors Harvey Inglis, Rich Votedian, Bernie Shields, vice president Rob Falce and Dana Ditillo favored saving the historic mansion. Council president Joe Ballas and Councilman Dan Lloyd did not.
“We've asked for a plan, which we've never gotten,” Lloyd said. “We've asked people representing the Abraham Hays Foundation to present us with an agreement of sale that shows us that we're actually dealing with the ownership party of the mansion. That document has not been produced.
“I know you people mean well, and I support historic preservation — I donated to the Abraham Hays Foundation — but I personally don't see a reason to suspend the rules that protect the money that the taxpayers are going to lose.”
The foundation was started by the Hays family to carry on its heritage and restore the mansion.
“I think you have to save the building,” Shields said. “I don't know if it's the oldest building in the borough, but it probably is. Now there's a chance maybe to save it, and maybe it's something we should look at.”
Last November, councilors said the Hays Mansion was condemned because its owner, Riverbend Mansion LLC founder Mark Draper of Rockville, Md., had for years promised to restore it, but has not done so, and that it is interfering with another development.
Ballas said he voted not to rescind the condemned status for those reasons.
Wednesday's vote took place after foundation members pled their case for keeping the mansion.
“We didn't want to purchase the property while it's still condemned,” foundation spokesman Freeman Bartek said.
He said the Hays family has a memorandum of agreement with Draper.
The foundation is reaching out to a lender in the Steel Valley area to buy the property and cover $30,000 in tax debt, Bartek said.
He emphasized that the mansion is eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places, and that the foundation has found 26 available grant and funding programs to help restore the mansion.
“Volunteer efforts in the early stages of restoration will also save thousands upon thousands of dollars,” Bartek said. “Considering all this, overall, this is absolutely possible.”
Willie Hays told council about improvements that have been made in the past few months.
“The mansion is looking better now than it has in many years, and its appearance continues to gradually improve,” Hays said.
The roof over the basement steps has been replaced and painted. The lattice work on the side porch has been repaired, and all of the woodwork on the side porch has been painted. The garage, kitchen porch and windows on the first floor also have been painted.
He said more extensive and expensive restoration still is necessary.
Bartek said it will take a minimum of two to three years to complete, and vowed to prove to borough officials that they made the right call.
“I'm going to make sure this keeps moving forward.” he said.
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.
More information is available online at www.abrahamhaysfoundation.org.
Michael DiVittorio is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1965, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- McKeesport park to get more regional asset funds
- Elizabeth Forward school board sees higher taxes next year
- Elizabeth Forward board agrees to seek local dealer for truck purchase
- Kennywood’s Phantom Fright Nights return for 13th year