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Fate of Edgeworth home unknown

| Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2015, 8:12 p.m.

The new owner of a 111-year-old Edgeworth property has not yet decided whether to demolish the estate, a move that some residents oppose because they say the property is historic.

Representatives from the Sewickley Valley Historical Society and concerned citizens have vowed to fight a possible demolition of the former Walker family estate, which was built in 1904 by William and Jane Walker. At a public meeting this month, Sewickley Valley Historical Society Executive Director Harton Semple told borough council the home, known as “Muottas,” is a treasure that should be preserved.

“Edgeworth Borough doesn't have a very good track record of preserving such treasures,” he said.

Under the name Three Rivers Trust, Thomas Tull, CEO of Legendary Pictures and partial owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers, purchased the property Nov. 14 from Harlan and Cynthia Giles for $5.5 million, according to Allegheny County real estate records.

Representatives for Tull applied Dec. 4 for a demolition permit, but then requested an extension on the permit to Jan. 15 in order to submit plans to the borough engineer, borough officials said.

The area where the home is located is prone to landslides so before any land disturbances can take place there will need to be soil borings and detailed plans reviewed by geotechnical engineers, Edgeworth Manager Marty McDaniel said.

What will become of the roughly 10,000-square-foot home is not yet known, a spokesperson for Tull said.

“The Tulls have not solidified plans for their Edgeworth property,” a spokesperson for Tull said in a prepared statement emailed to the Sewickley Herald.

Edgeworth resident Gail Murray said she wants to see the home preserved. She also wants to see Edgeworth Council create a preservation ordinance.

“I just think the board should be aware of this — the community should be aware of this,” Murray said.

A spokesperson for Tull said “any construction will conform to the local ordinances and the law.”

Two other homes with history in the Sewickley Valley previously were demolished in the borough: steel tycoon B.F. Jones' estate, built in 1899, came down in 1991, and the Thomas Leet Shields house was razed in 2002 by Glen Meakem.

Councilman David Aloe said he was on council when the demolitions occurred and on the board in the mid-1990s when a proposed preservation ordinance was defeated.

If taken up by council in 1994, Aloe said the ordinance would have imposed an undue burden on property owners because all of Edgeworth would have a historic designation.

“If you want to put a roof on, you get a building permit. If you want to paint it, get a building permit. If you want to put new windows in, got to get a building permit,” Aloe said.

The 1904 Walker home was built the same year the borough was established and was made from stone forayed at the property, Semple said.

He described the house as an “organic, elemental house sprung from the land itself.”

“If I were on council, I would tremble to be a part of the destruction of this beautiful house,” Semple said.

The home cannot be viewed from public access points.

The home and several photos are included in “Historic Houses of Sewickley Valley” by Stephen Neal Dennis and Margaret Henderson Floyd's book, “Architecture After Richardson.”

Semple said the Walkers were among the movers and shakers of the Sewickley Valley at the time.

“If you had any business in Edgeworth for 150 years, you either spoke to a Leet, Shields or Walker,” he said.

Bobby Cherry contributed. Larissa Dudkiewicz is a contributing writer.

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