Evergreen Hamlet

Ross Twp, Allegheny County, PA

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Evergreen Hamlet was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [1]

Evergreen Hamlet

The four houses of Evergreen Hamlet occupy the eastern side of a wooded hill in Ross Township. The hill falls to a narrow valley floor on the northeast and south side where Girty Run and Nelson Run flow. Along the valley floor to the northeast is Babcock Boulevard and to the south is a smaller county road. Babcock Boulevard is a major artery running from Millvale and the Allegheny River on the south toward the state routes in the north and is lined with scattered commercial and residential buildings. Two residential subdivisions have been created on the other side of Babcock Boulevard on the hill to the east of Evergreen Hamlet while the hill to the south of Evergreen Hamlet is as yet undeveloped. The entrance to Evergreen Hamlet is via Evergreen Road which takes off from Babcock Boulevard running due west and up the hill, thence in a northerly direction at more gradual slope to a point about two thirds of the way up the hill where on the same elevation the Shinn-Beall House, Hill-McCallam-Davies House, and Sellars-Grove House are spaced at approximately 500' intervals. The Hampton-Gillespie-Arensberg-Kelly House sits above the entrance to Evergreen Hamlet. Numerous barns and outbuildings surround the various houses along Evergreen Hamlet Road and two or three more modern houses have been added off Evergreen Hamlet Road on the southern side of the hill. The date of the Sellars-Grove House is c. 1851.

Evergreen Hamlet was founded in 1851 by a local lawyer, William Shinn, who with a group of five other well to do citizens formed a community with the purpose of securing to themselves the advantages of both city and country living.

The charter drawn up for the community, "The Constitution of Evergreen Hamlet," contains the rights, privileges, and duties of the members and it is a most interesting document; reflecting as it does some of the idealism of those communal societies that were so much a part of the American social scene before the middle of the 19th century.

The Constitution set forth the aim of the project; that of securing for the members of the association "the advantages and comforts of the country at a moderate cost, without doing violence to the social habits incident to city life."

The founders envisioned recruiting only sixteen families as they believed that would be all "that is required for the support of a suitable school, and form a sufficient neighborhood to exclude all the fear of that loneliness which so many persons dread in country life." The original founders beside Shinn were Wade Hampton who operated a dry goods business on Mood Street: He was part owner of a wholesale clothing warehouse and later became the postmaster of Pittsburgh; Robert Emory Sellers operated a store that sold drugs, oils, varnishes, paints and dyes; William A. Hill was a Broker with offices at 98 Wood Street; and William B. Scaife, the son of Jeffery Scaife - founder of Pittsburgh's oldest manufacturing firm - operated the business from 1833 to 1876 (his death).

It was a middle class community where members retained their property and owned their own houses in the settlement. There was a communal schoolhouse where the children of the associates were taught. Each member contributed to the school in proportion as his family used it.

The tract of 85 acres was surveyed and laid out by Hastings and Preiser a local firm of surveyors. Work was begun in 1851 in grading and laying out the land in roads, residential areas, and farm plots. Construction of the houses was then begun and completed from 1851-1852.

The concept of Evergreen Hamlet did not work. The experiment in community living under close rules failed in 1866, as so many others had before. By 1866, only four of the houses had been built. The association was dissolved but the four houses still stand today, all in excellent condition with very little noticeable alteration.

The houses in this community are elegant examples of the country cottage introduced earlier in the century by Alexander Jackson Davis. They were spacious and fashionable, yet simplified and unassuming. The large window area and numerous veranda provided healthful and comfortable amenities. The white walls of the houses contrast admirably with the trees and the country around them.

This small romantic suburb was one of the first of its kind in America. It provided a refuge from the smoke and clangor of industrial Pittsburgh. Architecturally, the houses are Gothic Revival and the "Colonial Georgian" five bay house form. They were solidly built and for the most part they have retained all their original decorative details.

Historically, sociologically, the community is of great importance both locally and nationally, as an early planned communal suburb. The houses in Evergreen Hamlet are almost exactly like the original design renderings.

The houses' fine state of preservation, the social significance of the community's foundation, and the architectural integrity of the houses are all factors that make this suburb unique to the Pittsburgh area. As an existing 19th century ideal community, it is most important in the annals of both architectural and community planning history.


The house was built in 1851-52 possibly by J. W. Kerr for Wade Hampton, a Pittsburgh businessman who was also one of the original Evergreen Hamlet colonists. Later, it was sold to J. J. Gillespie, a well-known Pittsburgh art dealer. In recent years, it has been owned and occupied by Charles C. Arensberg, a well-known attorney and one of the founders of the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation; and currently by Bernard J. Kelly and his wife Marie T. Kelly, the painter.

Because of the proliferation of the railroads, suburban living expanded during the middle 19th century. This house is an excellent example of an upper-middle class suburban dwelling. The house is an L-shape plan, three bays wide with a center entrance, and two and one half stories in height. A veranda stretches across the entire front facade. The roof ridge pole is parallel to the front facade. The plan is rectangular with a kitchen wing projecting from the center back of the house. There are two gable end chimneys on each side, one on each rake of the gable roof. The eaves are deep with elaborate brackets which are aligned with the vertical battens on the facade.

The veranda consists of slender square posts with delicately carved braces and brackets. The veranda and deck balustrades are both ornate jig-saw patterns similar to those on steamboat decks and the porches of the summer hotels that were beginning to be a feature of the American landscape. The veranda turns the corner of the house and its supports assume a thinner, latticed quality. French windows open on this porch and on the garden from the chief rooms of the first floor. The windows have rectangular hood molds and delicately articulated sills which project slightly from the facade. The doorway is essentially Greek Revival with an oblong transom and sidelights. The cornice of the doorway is heavily bracketed like the eaves. The windows all have shutters except for the gable windows, which are most interesting as the architraves follow the rakes of the gable. The windows are coupled, rectangular and under one simple shallow lintel.

Architecturally, the house reflects the Mid-Victorian revival eclecticism depicting Greek, Gothic, and Italianate features.


J. W. Kerr probably built this house in 1852 for the Hills, one of the original colonists. In 1871 it came into the hands of the McCallam family and remained in the possession of their descendants until 1953. It is now owned by Dr. T. Harrison Davies.

This house is more closely related to the Gothic revival cottage houses established in this country by Alexander Jackson Davis earlier in the century. It is symmetrical in mass with a rectangular plan and side bay windows, five bays wide. It has a hipped roof with two steep gables on the side elevations. The dormers are a later addition.

A veranda stretches across the front facade and the Center bay is enclosed to form a vestibule with a Tudor arch entrance way. The columns of the veranda are slender as are the braces which meet in the center of each bay forming Tudor arches. The windows are rectangular with cusped upper transoms and rectangular hoodmolds. The tripartile front facade window adds formality and importance to the basic five bay house plan.

The circular center gable window, the delicate bare board pattern, the iron grillwork, and the numerous finials enhance this Gothic Revival house.

Like the other houses in Evergreen Hamlet, it too is in excellent condition and exactly resembles the original design renderings.


This house was probably built by J. W. Kerr in 1852 for William Shinn, the prime mover in the Evergreen community. It now belongs to Dr. and Mrs. Chester Beall.

In plan, this house most closely resembles the Gothic Cottage concept of Alexander Jackson Davis. It has an irregular T-plan with an additional back wing for coal storage. It is two stories, three wide bays with a center entrance and a second story projecting gable bay. A very simple veranda stretches across the front facade. The posts and balustrade are plain square columns. The original plans for this house called for a Tudor arch veranda, similar to the Hill House. There is a second veranda between the parlor and coal house wing. The front facade second story window is a double lancet window resembling a plate tracery scheme. The front and side gables have a simple arcaded bargeboard with finials at the apexes.

The first floor has French windows. The door has side lights and an oblong transom. Two large brick chimneys cross the ridge pole about a third of the distance in from the gables. The entire is covered with vertical sheathing. It too is in excellent condition.


This house was possibly built by J. W. Kerr for Sellers, one of the original colonists. It is now occupied by the architect John A. Grove, Jr.

The house is five bays with a center hall entrance, two and one half stories and two rooms deep. The plan is L-shape. The veranda that stretches across the front facade is formed by an elaborate arch lattice screen, five bays wide. Above is a balustraded deck. French windows run the length of the main facade and open on to the veranda. The doorway has an oblong transom and sidelights; all the windows have shutters. A back wing contains the kitchens and offices.

The wide eaves are also heavily bracketed and it has a hipped roof. There are four chimneys, two per each gable. Walls are sheathed in shiplap siding in front and clapboard elsewhere. The ground story windows are a full story in height, rectangular with a center mullion. The lintels are shallow segmental arches. The second story lintels are flat.

The original design rendering of the house and contemporary photographs reveal all the same details of the house. Like the Kelly House, it is in excellent condition.

Street Names
Babcock Boulevard • Rock Ridge Road

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