SEWICKELY (KDKA) — Built about 1900, a pale pink stucco three-story colonial revival mansion sits on its wooded lot on Beaver Street in Sewickley – faded glory like Miss Havisham, but with no “Great Expectations.”

“We would really want to use the house if we could,” Tom Graham, an elder at the Presbyterian Church in Sewickley, said. “It’s just cost prohibitive.”

The church is located immediately next door to the mansion. It’s in the process of buying the stately home and tearing it down to build a new youth and education center to provide more safe and accessible off-street parking and preserve a green space for recreational activities.

The church is paying $825,000 for the home, but before considering the tear down they asked an architect what it might cost to renovate the house to a condition they could use, including asbestos removal.

“And his estimate was $1.5 million to $2 million over and above the purchase price and that is a number that is simply beyond the reach of the congregation to raise,” Graham said.

“People are shocked to be real honest,” Melissa Farlow, a photographer for “National Geographic” who lives nearby, said. “This came out of the blue to us.”

She believes that neighbors were blind-sided because the house was never put up for public sale.

The house has had only two owners. Though there have been much smaller homes on the property since the 1860’s, the current house was doubled in size by famed architects Longfellow, Alden and Harlow for Samuel Grant Cooper, president of The Republic Iron and Steel Company.

The Coyle family bought it in the 1950’s.
Inside, its 10 rooms feature coffered ceilings, terrazzo floors, beautiful oak paneling and a grand staircase.

“You could not rebuild that place now – you couldn’t begin to afford to do that,” Farlow said.

Ms. Farlow says neighbors would like to work with the church to see if the house can be saved.

“My hope is that they would re-evaluate what they have – it’s a treasure,” she said.

The people who want to save this house are really under the gun. The church plans to close on the property next week.

There’s also a new ordinance giving churches more flexibility with what they can do with their property without seeking a zoning variance.

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