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130-year-old Open Hearth Estate on block

By Richard Gazarik
Friday, Jan. 22, 2010
 

Age and financial problems are forcing a retired Jeannette physician to part with one of his most cherished possessions.

Dr. William Monsour is selling The Open Hearth Estate, a 130-year-old Williamsburg Colonial home tucked away on 68 acres in Fairfield Township. The asking price is $1.7 million, according to real estate listings.

J.P. Morgan Chase Bank foreclosed on the property this month after Monsour defaulted on the mortgage, according to court records. They show Monsour owes nearly $761,000.

"I'm 81 now, and it's like pulling teeth to get my kids to go up there," Monsour said of the property, located about 7 miles northeast of Ligonier Borough. "I have three homes, including one in Florida. My income isn't what it used to be. I went out there on a Friday and it was hard for me to return on Monday."

The two-story frame home was built in 1879 and has 4,800 square feet of living space, Monsour said.

Its two fireplaces were built from stone cut from a local quarry in 1812. It has five bedrooms, four bathrooms, a chapel, swimming pool, tennis court and a restored caboose at the rear of the property.

Monsour said steel executive John J. Grady of Gary, Ind., purchased the house in the 1960s when he became a member of the Rolling Rock Club. At a party, his wife was dancing with Benjamin Fairless, a former CEO of U.S. Steel, who jokingly asked her what she wanted for Christmas.

"She said a caboose," Monsour said.

Several weeks later, two flatbed trucks pulled up to the property and unloaded a vintage 1899 railroad caboose. Monsour uses the caboose as a bathhouse for the pool.

Monsour purchased the property in 1971 for $15,000 after assuming the balance on a mortgage from Betty Jane Grady, whose husband had died, according to county real estate records.

Grady originally named the estate Open Hearth. Monsour changed the name to Open Heart to reflect his cardiology practice in Jeannette.

After undergoing five surgeries on his neck and back in recent years, Monsour said he decided to retire.

He's had issues with the IRS and in 2006 was ordered to pay more than $348,000 in taxes, according to federal court records.

"The place is very close to my heart. I couldn't afford to keep it up. I still love the place. I hope the right people buy it," Monsour said. "It's pretty nice. It still is beautiful. It's in prime shape."

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