Author hopes clue doesn't lead to dead end
By Daveen Rae Kurutz
Published: Thursday, Nov. 8, 2012, 9:30 a.m.
Biographies and history tend to be author Linda Granfield's forte, but her latest project has landed her in a mystery.
While working on a biography of Pittsburgh missionary John Magee, Granfield realized there were no photos of the 25-room mansion built by the family in 1890. But after months of searching, she found a 1967 Pittsburgh Press article linking one of the home's fireplaces to Murrysville.
“A Murrysville couple were going to build their new home around the fireplace, and that's all we know,” said Granfield, of Toronto. “The freakiest stuff happens sometimes. Sometimes, just one little memory that happens can make people step forward.”
Granfield, who is working with some of Magee's descendants, is seeking a photo of the fireplace or anything else that was bought from the house.
The home had nine fireplaces, large plate glass mirrors, carved spindles and posts, which were sold by Edward H. Sykes Jr., a Pittsburgh real estate agent whose company owned the property for nearly two years before leveling it in May 1967. The site of the mansion, once located at North Highland and Wellesley avenues in Highland Park, became a series of town houses.
The fireplace that is believed to have been moved to Murrysville was 7 feet tall and made of tile. The home was built in 1890 by Magee's father, Frederick M. Magee, a prominent Pittsburgh attorney. The family moved from Highland Park in the early 1900s and the home was converted to apartments in 1919.
At that time, Magee was in China, working in Nanking through the American Church Mission. He authored an “anonymous” report of the Nanking Massacre that appeared in Life Magazine in 1937 in an attempt to bring awareness to the events of the Second Sino-Japanese War, Granfield said.
The current generation of Magees never saw the house — or any of its major features — intact, Granfield said.
“It's unbelievable there's no picture of that house,” Granfield said. “It seems nobody took pictures. But all can agree it was an incredibly beautiful place. We would just love to have pictures of the house.”
The mystery is news to the Murrysville Historical Preservation Society, said Joan Kearns, vice-president of the group. The relocation of the fireplace predates the society, Kearns said.
Granfield traveled to Pittsburgh earlier this year to search historical records for any photos that might exist of the house — reviewing photos and archives from the University of Pittsburgh, the Sen. John Heinz History Center and the Western Pennsylvania Historical Society.
She hopes that widening her search to include Murrysville might help her close the chapter on Magee's early life.
“It would be interesting if more people remember that they got a piece from that mansion,” Granfield said. “I've been through all of the albums the family has. It would be nice, maybe, if this snowballs, and people realize they have pictures of these places. At this point, it's the documentation we are looking for.”
Daveen Rae Kurutz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8627, 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.
- Analysis: Kesler still on Pens’ radar as Shero aims to bring back ‘Big 3’
- Starkey: Steelers know when to say goodbye
- Pirates’ big risk with pitch-heavy draft focus might soon pay off
- ‘Un-American’? That’s Harry Reid, the Senate’s lowly smear artist
- Ex-Colts executive Polian: Approach free agency with caution
- Editorial cartoons March 10-16, 2014
- Penguins GM Shero’s deadline deals: Addition by subtraction
- Allegheny County Democrats endorse several incumbents in primary
- With so many needs, Steelers can ill afford to miss in draft
- Lawmaker: Responders should carry drug that counteracts opiates
- SUV flips onto its side on Parkway East