Saturday, November 08, 2008

Sic Transit Gloria Mansion

On his homecoming to Pittsburgh in September 2006, Bishop David Zubik decided against living in the 11-bedroom, six-bath residence occupied by a half-century of his predecessors, taking up instead in a suite at St Paul's Seminary.

Now, the stately, century-old home -- a bequest to the diocese -- is about to hit the market:
The diocese has begun storing the contents of the 24-room home, which overlooks the 5000 block of Fifth Avenue.

"We're definitely going to sell it," said diocesan spokesman the Rev. Ron Lengwin. The clearing of the contents is the first step in the process. A real estate agent has not been hired....

Cardinals John Dearden, John Wright and Anthony Bevilacqua and Bishops Vincent M. Leonard and Donald Wuerl lived in the red brick home with stone trim and a stone fountain. Its Jacobethan Revival architecture has a gabled roof and a symmetrical facade with bay windows. The arched entranceway has a double glass door with decorative wrought iron over glass.

It is one of the "more prominent houses in an area of substantial homes with views," said a Pennsylvania Historic Resources survey by the state Historical & Museum Commission.

Neighbor Sara-Claire Bulger said she hopes a family with children moves into the home.

"It's such a prime piece of real estate," said Bulger, who lives on Devon Road and saw moving vans at the house Thursday. Nineteen children, including her four, live in the neighborhood, she said.

Built in 1911, the home has 9,842 square feet of living space, which includes 11 bedrooms, 6 full baths and one half-bath.

Real estate agents said the property could fetch almost double its appraised value of $1.5 million.
Of course, Zubik's not the first high-profile prelate to part with a historic residence in recent years; then-Archbishop Sean O'Malley refused the grandiose palazzo that came with the leadership of the church in Boston on his 2003 arrival, opting for a room at the rectory of Beantown's Cathedral of the Holy Cross. The Boston church's seat of power for the better part of a century, almost all of the Brighton plot was later sold to Boston College for a combined $172 million.

But not every high-hat who's sought to downsize has gotten his wish. When Cardinal Francis George reportedly kicked around the idea of vacating 1555 N. State Parkway -- the Archbishop's Residence with the celebrated 19 chimneys (only three of which remain in use) -- public opinion in Chicago largely opposed it, seeing the plan as a rejection of its local church's halcyon days.

PHOTO: James Knox/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review