OEvery once in a while, a grand old house defies the odds and retains its original glory. Such is the case with 7190 Brighton Road in Ben Avon, a house that has changed hands only once since it was built over 100 years ago.
Owned for 64 years by the late George and Ruth Trent, the grand Tudor-style house is one of the neighborhood’s most significant properties. Built in 1914, it is in near original condition, with several stained glass and stained glass windows, the original oak floors and walnut joinery throughout.
When the Trents bought it in October 1958, the original owners had lived there for 44 years. After moving in, George and Ruth put the spacious six-bedroom house to good use, filling it with seven children. George died in 2016; Ruth was able to stay home with the help of her daughter, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editor Gretchen McKay (and her husband Peter) — who lived just around the corner — until June, when she died at age 93.
The family has since listed the home for $637,900 (MLS # 1568804, Jennifer Waters, Howard Hanna Real Estate, 412.716.3570, howardhanna.com). It is open by appointment.
McKay has many fond memories of home.
“It’s right up the hill from the old train station that used to go to Pittsburgh,” she says. “There are lots of mature trees and two tree wells; one was carved into a huge bear. There are many old plantation beds. My mother loved gardening.
Tucked away from the street, the brick home features Tudor stucco detailing and a slate roof. A long driveway leads to the porch, where the original beams, corbels and joinery are painted dark brown. It’s the perfect place for gatherings, especially since the house sits on the borough’s parade route.
“The Memorial Day Parade passes the house every year,” says McKay.
The entrance is marked by a huge three-paneled walnut door with leaded glass and sidelights. Once inside, the 18-square-foot by 12-square-foot entryway is a step back in time, thanks to all the original details — the only exception being the red canvas wallpaper that was hung in 1969 .
“It was set up by my dad for my sister’s graduation party,” McKay recalled.
It matches perfectly with all the fine millwork and grand staircase in the entryway, a favorite spot for the Trents’ vacation decor.
“We always cut down our Christmas trees when we were young, and there were years when the tree went all the way to the rail on the second floor,” McKay says. “It would fill that whole space. Because there were seven children, you couldn’t even get into the breakfast room, it was so full of presents.
The home has five fireplaces, including in the 23-square-foot by 14-square-foot living room, where it’s flanked by a pair of built-in bookcases with leaded glass doors. A green tile facade highlights the room’s natural walnut, as does a bay window that floods the room with natural light.
The scene of many family dinners, the 18-square-foot by 13-square-foot dining room still has the original wallpaper, with the wood trim painted a fresh green to bring out the pattern. There is also a coffered ceiling, two stained glass windows and a brass chandelier.
“[My parents] hosted holiday dinners into their late 60s,” says McKay. “They had a big table; there were 16 people around the table. All the kids would be on card tables in the lobby.
Next to the kitchen, a 15-square-foot by 6-square-foot butler’s pantry is a storage lover’s dream, with floor-to-ceiling walnut cabinetry and, at the far end, a sash window double. It also houses a rear staircase that leads to the second floor.
In the adjacent 14-by-11-square-foot kitchen, understated and efficient is the name of the game. The space features a basic range, Formica countertops and wood cabinetry, plus a breakfast area 12 square feet by 9 square feet where the family ate their daily meals. Two walls of sash windows give the kitchen a nice view of the property.
McKay notes that the never-renovated kitchen needs updating. And even though her mother didn’t like to cook, McKay says she did love to cook.
“We made a lot of cookies in this kitchen,” she says.
On the second floor are three bedrooms and a very large bathroom.
Featuring hardwood floors under the rug, the master bedroom occupies a whopping 25 square feet by 15 square feet and features a fireplace fitted with white porcelain tiles with a walnut wood mantle. The other carpeted bedrooms are 18 square feet by 14 square feet and 14 square feet by 12 square feet respectively. The three bedrooms have very large closets and many windows. There are also wall sconces in addition to overhead lighting in each room.
The bathroom has white subway tile walls accented with wallpaper, as well as a bathtub, separate shower, ceramic tile flooring, and a double sink. There’s more than enough room to update it in a modern space without drilling into the walls, which is very unusual in an older home.
The third floor features three more large bedrooms with hardwood floors and another bathroom with a shower/tub combination and a single sink.
“My three brothers were in the giant room on the third floor,” says McKay, noting that the previous owners had a housekeeper who lived on the top floor.
The house has a typical Pittsburgh basement, but also includes a root cellar, laundry room, and workshop.
“When my dad retired, he started making Windsor chairs,” says McKay. “He was steaming the wood on the basketball court; he became widely known for his work.
Speaking of the basketball court, McKays says the Trents would use it year-round, not just in the warmer months.
“Every winter my dad would freeze it with water and my brothers would play hockey on it,” McKay says. “That’s where I learned to ice skate.”
The house also has a two-car garage with a large room above that was used as a playroom. McKay believes the room was once used as accommodation for the former owners’ driver.
The Trent family also lived there long enough to witness significant development when the property behind their home was demolished.
“It was owned by the Dean family,” says McKay. “I saw the borough tear it down in the late ’60s and put it on a cul-de-sac with all the modern houses.”
While McKay says his family is sad to sell the home that holds such a rich history for them, their hope is that a new family will make their own memories there – and love it as much as they do.
“Everyone in my family just wants the house to go to another family,” she says. “He needs people. He needs to be brought back to life with children and activities.
Hot Property, an inside look at unique and historic homes on the market. Each week, Hot Property goes behind the For Sale sign to share the story of a special Pittsburgh-area home. And four times a year, Hot Property provides an in-depth look at the area’s real estate market in Pittsburgh Magazine HOME, tracking home prices and sales and detailing where hot properties are located. Rosa can be reached at [email protected].
About: Borough of Ben Avon (benavon.com)
Planes, trains and automobiles: 20 minutes drive from the airport. Bus transport on the borough’s main line. Some street parking.
Schools: Avonworth School District (avonworth.k12.pa.us)
Neighborhoods: Nestled on a hill, Ben Avon is a small borough that occupies just under half a square mile along the Ohio River. Located 6 miles northwest of downtown, it offers easy access to highways 79 and 279, making it a prime location. Incorporated in 1892, Ben Avon was laid out with just 28 streets; only a few streets have been added since then, making it one of the smaller boroughs in the Commonwealth.