St. Barnabas officials have big plans for newly purchased Treesdale Manor

Deborah Deasy
| Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Treesdale Manor in Pine Township — the sprawling former estate of oil magnate and apple grower Joseph Clifton Trees, and his wife, Edith Lehm Trees — recently traded hands in a purchase that could help people like the couple's late, only child.

That child — Joe Benedum Trees, who died in 2011 at age 79 — faced life with severe mental disability, reportedly stemming from oxygen deprivation at birth.

People with similar disabilities now benefit from programs supported by the Edith L. Trees Charitable Trust, recipient of the $9.98 million paid Oct. 15 by the St. Barnabas Land Trust for 205-acre Treesdale Manor at 660 Warrendale Road.

“We plan to change the name to Trees Manor,” said Robin Taylor, spokeswoman for the St. Barnabas Health System.

The property features a Mediterranean-style mansion built in the early 1900s.

“St. Barnabas plans to restore the mansion,” Taylor said.

St. Barnabas Health System officials also plan to preserve the stately trees that line the property's frontage on Warrendale Road and use the mansion for special events. The acreage eventually will be used for housing for senior citizens, said Taylor, who added that there also could be clinical facilities built on the land.

Proceeds from the sale will benefit more than 80 organizations that serve those with intellectual challenges, according to Bradley Dean of PNC Bank, an administrator of the Edith L. Trees Charitable Trust.

Those 80 organizations include the Verland Foundation in Ohio Township; Clelian Heights in Hempfield Township, Westmoreland County; and ACHIEVA, based on the South Side of Pittsburgh.

“The Trees family did a lot of philanthropy ... they really left a great legacy and tried to care for people and that is so similar to the mission of St. Barnabas — of trying to help people,” said Taylor, of the St. Barnabas Health System.

“One of the things that Edith Trees did was set up this trust to help people who had mental disabilities,” Taylor said. “One of the things St. Barnabas does is also help people at the end of their lives who are having trouble with mental disabilities, whether they have dementia or autism. “

Trustees of the Edith L. Trees Charitable Trust auctioned the contents of Treesdale Manor's mansion before they sold the estate.

“There were paintings. Oriental carpets. Everything like that was all auctioned off,” Taylor said. “There's one chandelier that's still there.

“The mansion and property were bought as is,” Taylor said. “In the main function room, there are still curtains hanging, but it's been stripped of a lot of what it looked like originally.”

For decades, the mansion at Treesdale Manor served as the late Joe Benedum Trees' refuge and home to his live-in caretakers.

“He was autistic,” Taylor said. “The caretakers — some looked on him as if he was a son because they had been with him for 20 years at a time. He had round-the-clock care.”

Joe Benedum Trees was the third son of Joseph Clifton Trees, who died in 1943 and married Edith Lehm in 1929 after the death of this first wife, Claudine Willison.

Joseph Clifton Trees and Willison had two sons, who both died in tragic circumstances. Son Joseph Gram Trees was an aviator killed in World War I. Son Merle Trees was 10 when he stepped off a streetcar in Pittsburgh's East Liberty neighborhood and was killed by a passing motorist.

Deborah Deasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6369 or

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