Historic Sewickley Heights estate at center of lawsuit

Bobby Cherry
| Tuesday, July 30, 2013, 7:46 p.m.

A historic estate in Sewickley Heights is at the center of a lawsuit filed in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court over the preservation of a portion of the exclusive neighborhood.

J. Brandon Snyder, John C. Oliver III, William P. Snyder V and Yasodhara Arbelaez Snyder filed the lawsuit on July 22 against William P. Snyder III and the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation, a nonprofit historic preservation group.

William P. Snyder III is the father of plaintiffs J. Brandon Snyder and William P. Snyder V, according to court documents.

The plaintiffs argue that an agreement with the foundation to operate a portion of the family estate, Wilpen Hall on Blackburn Road, for public and commercial use breaches a contract to preserve the land as part of a 1969 land agreement meant to protect the semi-rural character of the secluded community.

Oliver and William Snyder III could not be reached for comment.

Daniel McLane, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said the complaint “lays it out and speaks for itself.”

Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation preservation Director Matthew Ragan said the organization had not analyzed the court documents to comment specifically on the case.

“As a foundation our obligation is to support and protect the properties,” he said.

The main residence on the property was built in about 1900, according to Allegheny County real estate records and contains about 18,000 square feet of livable space with 23 rooms.

The main home is not the focus of the lawsuit, but rather another building, referred to as “The Little House” in court documents.

Portions of the film “Foxcatcher” starring Channing Tatum were filmed in 2012 at the estate, valued at $2 million, according to county real estate records. The movie is set to be released later this year.

Wilpen Hall also is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Industrialist William Penn Snyder, founder of Shenango Furnace Co., had the estate built for his family at the turn of the century.

Bobby Cherry is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-324-1408 or rcherry@tribweb.com.

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