The historic Herbst House in Sewickley could be collapsing
Herbst House, a former Catholic school, convent and private residence along Broad Street in Sewickley, could soon be demolished after more than 137 years.
Divine Redeemer Parish officials want to raze property in the historic district due to security concerns.
The parish includes St. James Church in Sewickley and St. Mary’s Church in Aleppo.
The three-story mansion has been vacant for about three decades.
“It is in such a state of disrepair that it has become necessary to address related security issues,” Reverend Brian Noel said via email July 13. “A fence was recently erected around the perimeter after one of the first floor windows collapsed.
Parishioners received an update on the condition of the building last month. The property defines and squares the St. James campus.
Officials said the structure deteriorated further, primarily due to water ingress from the roof. Vegetation has also recovered part of the property.
Sewickley council chairwoman Cynthia Mullins said the borough had received a request for demolition.
The case will go before the historical review board next month.
The commission meets the first Monday of the month at 7 p.m. at the borough building, 601 Thorn St.
Noel said he could not comment on future plans for the site until at least after the commission meeting.
“It would be premature to go into any further details until then,” he said.
The house was built in the late 1800s and was owned by DC Herbst, the Independent Natural Gas Co., and the Standard Oil Co.
“The beautiful mansion of Sewickley [still standing on Broad Street] is fully and beautifully furnished, a beautiful veranda opening onto the dining room,” wrote Adelaide Mellier Nevin in her book, “The Social Mirror: A Character Sketch of the Women of Pittsburgh [sic] and vicinity during the first century of the county’s existence; Society Today”, published in 1888 by TW Nevin, according to the archives of the Sewickley Valley Historical Society.
“Nowhere is there more lavish hospitality or finer housekeeping and finer table appointments in china, glass and silver.”
The house was sold to the church and became the first home of St. James’s School when it was dedicated Dec. 6, 1913, according to church records. Church leaders purchased the house for $21,000.
According to parish records, eighty students attended the school in its first year.
The rooms were named after saints, which matched the names of donors who helped establish the school.
Bishop Canevin donated the steeple and the tower, which have since been demolished. The house later became a convent.
Structural assessments were performed by DTE Consulting LLC in 2008 and 2014.
The parish is in the process of obtaining a proposal for a third structural assessment.
Estimates by the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh to rehabilitate the property run into the millions of dollars, according to church documents.