The Historical Society of Mount Lebanon is on a quest to acquire and restore the “McMillan House” at the corner of Washington Road and Lebanon Avenue. The society currently rents space in the lower level of the property with the upper floors housing the South Hills Council of Governments. Mt. Lebanon Municipality owns the building and recently rezoned for it office/boutique use in anticipation of putting it and the house next door, which it also owns, up for sale.
In earlier years, the 1930s-style Spanish colonial style was home to family practitioner Dr. Donald McMillan, his wife, Christine, and their four children—the doctor’s office was located in the historical society’s current space. In the 1990s and early 2000s, the house was home to the municipal tax offices.
The architecturally similar house next door, which once housed the now-defunct Mt. Lebanon Parking Authority, originally was home to pianist and piano teacher Joseph Esposito and his wife, Belle, who raised their two sons there. Esposito, a founder of Music for Mt. Lebanon, entertained famed pianist Van Cliburn there before a series performance.
The McMillan house, appraised for commercial purposes at $300,000, is in better shape than the Esposito house, which is appraised at $200,000. Historical Society president Jim Wojcik told Mt. Lebanon Commission in January that the society has consulted with an architect and believes it is possible to return the house to its original grandeur including removing a dropped ceiling to expose stained glass and restoring a fountain that once was the centerpiece of the dining room. The society wants to then expand the house into a small museum with a permanent collection and rotating exhibition and envisions it being used for small parties or even wedding receptions. The four McMillan children, all still residing in this area, are helping the society envision what the house originally looked like.
The historical society is willing to conduct a capital campaign, and has talked with a fund-raising consultant, but their plans are contingent on being able to acquire the house—which could be problematic because as a municipal property it needs to be sold to the highest qualified bidder.
Mt. Lebanon Historic Preservation Board president Yvette Yescas, told the Commission that her board has voted to support the society’s plans for several reasons. In addition to the building’s architectural significance, Yescas noted that its proximity to the library would be a plus for those conducting historic research. In addition, she expressed her board’s concern that a development on that spot—or worse still a teardown with no resulting development—would threaten the historic surrounding neighborhood.
There are no guarantees that the society can obtain the house, however, they asked the commission to consider including historic preservation among the bid specifications.