Observatory Hill


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Summer 2017 Newsletter
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2017 House Tour

Celebrating a Neighborhood with Spirit!

On Sunday, June 4th from Noon to 5pm, Observatory Hill will be bustling with visitors touring this "Neighborhood with Spirit" during the Observatory Hill House Tour. Homeowners share the story of finding a home, then redesigning it to match their own style and interests. The tour provides guests a collection of more than 10 homes each with spirited and unique personality. Tickets are on sale now for $15 by clicking the below link or $18 the day of the tour. Wear comfy shoes because most houses are surrounded by green space and streets can be a couple blocks long.

The tour starts on Riverview Avenue traveling to Richey and Perrysville Avenues with a Molly's Trolley stopping at convenient intersections. From here, the tour heads further north to the Bonvue Street Revitalization Project homes. Next, guests will travel to Waldorf Street where visitors explore four homes with charm and detail that can provide ideas for their own renovations. On the eastern end, at 345 Waldorf, sit a home that will be featured in a national rehabbing TV show. More information on 345 Waldorf Street is posted at The Waldorf, A Story Of on Facebook. Then the trolley takes guests to Garvin Street and Franklin Road, the highest point on the tour.

A special feature of this year's house tour will be samples of spirits and craft beers courtesy of Wigle Whiskey and three northside brewing companies. If you come hungry, you won't be disappointed. Four food trucks will join us during the tour so you may want to give yourself a little extra time to have lunch from the vendors. You can grab a sample or place an order as you enjoy the tour at the start of summer. Of course, the food is at your own expense. Added information about the tour and vendors will be added to this page periodically so check this site for updates.

Guest will pass Riverview Park with trails, tennis, entertainment, the Allegheny Observatory and churches that serve faith communities here and beyond. They will learn about the home revitalization project close to completion on Bonvue Street adjacent to the Fire Station and the small commercial strip. While each house on the tour has its own scale and character, all hosting neighbors share an enthusiasm about the charm and the architectural character of their homes. Their can-do spirit has a positive ripple effect on the street where they live.


Riverview United Presbyterian Church

Watson Memorial Presbyterian Church got its start on Easter Sunday in 1891 as Watson Mission.  During the next few months, the group erected a chapel on ground donated by Miss Watson.  The church prospered and the congregation had outgrown its chapel by 1897.  They built a new stone church and the little frame chapel was moved into Riverview Park on skids and rollers where it still exists as a favorite pavilion for picnics.

The church continued to grow and to prosper and the congregation built a larger building in 1907.  In 1977, the congregation of Watson Memorial, North church, and Eighth Church voted to merge.  The Watson Memorial property became the home of Riverview United Presbyterian Church.  The congregation had the exterior sandblasted, installed an elevator, and hired Mellon Stuart Co. to renovate the rooms on the lower level.  The architect was Charles B. McConnell, Jr.

In 1985,new pews and carpeting were installed.  On October 25, 1987, on the 10th Anniversary, ground was broken for a new addition that included a pastor’s study, lounge, conference room, library, offices and file rooms on the second floor.  The first floor includes food bank storage, a multi-purpose room, rest rooms and larger kitchen facilities.

On September 11, 2000, the Session approved a major project – the restoration of the stained glass windows in the main building.  The project was estimated to cost $275,000 and Kelly Art Glass won the restoration contract.  Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation provided grants of $3,200 and $10,000.  There was also an anonymous donation of $8,000.

Riverview Presbyterian is a neighborhood hub.  Both churchgoers and non-members alike gather often to participate in community activities and the church gives back to the community in many ways.   


35 Riverview Avenue

The home of Jeff and Michele Bees

Walter and Marion Stewart hired George Antill, a contractor from Franklin Road, to build this Colonial Revival home in 1898.  Mr. Smart was a pharmacist, with a practice at the corner of Perrysville and Kennedy and his family was quite active socially and politically – in 1914, Mrs. Smart hosted a ‘benefit musicale’ for the Equal Franchise Federation, an organization in support of women’s right to vote.  Her brother was also the mayor of Allegheny City at one point.  The cost of the house, $5,000 (with another $2,000 for the lot), was likely not daunting for the Smarts.

After the 1920’s, the house became four apartments.  When the Bees family bought it, in 1999, they were fortunate that some of the work of converting it back to a single-family home had already been completed.  Still, Jeff and Michele had plenty to do.  They finished the restoration and upgraded the plumbing, electrical and heating and air conditioning systems.  They also added new insulation and windows, fixed up the kitchen and bathrooms and replaced the front porch.

The Colonial Revival style is all about symmetry and this quality is evident in the home’s façade and windows, particularly  the centered front dormer and the windows directly below it.  Inside, this beautiful house boasts six fireplaces, inlaid floors, pocket doors and ‘finger staining’ on some of the woodwork (a popular form of faux finishing at the time).

While you’re on the first floor, take a moment to check out a special picture in the hallway. You’ll see the Guskey Hebrew Orphanage (where the Byzantine seminary is today) as well as the old Watson Presbyterian Church (now the Chapel Shelter in Riverview Park).