I’m a metaphor. Would you remember me if I weren’t gold? Probably not.
When someone dies violently or too early in life everyone remembers how amazing they were, how tragic their death, how much potential they had. I’m gold to remind you to see the value and beauty in people and places before they are gone.
Hi. I’m the house on the corner of Park and Swissvale Avenues in Wilkinsburg – the one by the bus stop. Most houses can’t talk but thanks to people who care about me I have a voice. In 1875, Caroline Richmond owned this land. She and her husband David, who was an ice man, built me and their lives on this lot. Back then there was a stream that ran down Water Street - now called Swissvale Avenue and over to Montier into a pond right about where the basketball courts are now. In the winter, the pond would freeze and I remember that David’s company would chip away at it and make ice for everyone in Wilkinsburg. I really liked Caroline and David and their kids Mary, Frances, Caroline and Davie – the kids were 7, 5 and two years old when they built me and little Davie was born here – inside my walls. Caroline, David and the kids lived here for almost 30 years.
In 1906 I was sold to Martha Daugherty. She was 22 years old at the time and her husband Henry was 27. They were beautiful, kind, brown people and I was very happy to be their house. Henry was a house painter ( I think he would have loved seeing me gold ) and Martha had a huge heart. Henry and Martha raised their niece Grace in me. She grew up to be a stenographer - Martha and Henry were so proud of her. The Daughertys lived here when the firehouse was built next door. I remember that building going up - I was already 36 years old. The firemen were wonderful guys but those sirens were LOUD.
Martha and Henry also lived in me for 30 years and then sold me to Joseph Marcotulli, an Italian immigrant who arrived in the US in 1909. He, his wife Mary, and their kids Angie and Joey as well as Mary’s young sister Rosegrace moved in in 1934 and lived with me for almost 60 years. Joe built a storefront in my basement that faced Park Avenue and his wife ran a corner store in it. Everyone in the neighborhood called the market Mary Marcotulli's. They sold penny candy so I was ALWAYS full of kids! Every time someone came though the door a little bell would ring and Mary would come downstairs to greet her customers. The Marcotullis sold me in 1991 and I’ve had a handful of people living in me since then including a wonderful woman named Helen Nelson and her daughters Sandy and Joy.
If you’re someone who knows me, who takes the 79 bus or lives nearby you know that - like lots of houses in Wilkinsburg - I’ve been pretty much abandoned these past few years. Being mistreated and abandon has made me very sad. If you ever looked closely, you’d see my windows have been broken, people have thrown garbage in my yard and all the weeds around me were out of control. But when I was full of people and children I was a happy house, most of my parts were handmade and lovingly cared for. Now it’s time for my life to end. My roof is caving - rain and snow have been pouring in for a long time. After 139 years I will be torn down in June. Before I go it makes me happy to be gold - it makes me feel special. I am valuable and I was loved. You may not remember 1404 Swissvale Avenue or the families that lived here but I hope you’ll remember the house that was gold.