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Family feud over Wilpen Hall in Sewickley Heights heads to court

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Tuesday, July 23, 2013, 11:50 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 Snyderfiled the lawsuit on Monday 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.

They 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 declined comment.

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

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