People in Mt. Lebanon love their houses. Maybe it’s the style, maybe it’s the space, or the gracious feel to the old neighborhoods.
Whatever the reason, an amazing number of Lebo natives are still living in the houses where they grew up.
“It happens all the time in Mt. Lebanon,” said Wendy Kitman Weaver of Driftwood Drive, a Realtor who owns her childhood home on Arrowood Drive. “Especially with the bigger family homes. The younger generation wants space.”
Weaver cites the range of housing stock, from $200,000 to $2 million, and the “whole work-from-home thing that’s happened. People can live anywhere, so why wouldn’t they come back here?”
There are multiple reasons residents have returned to their childhood homes. Here are a few of their stories:
The Fifth Generation Moves In
The Woodhaven Drive house that Lauren Duchene Russell and her family moved into this year was bought by her great-grandparents, Joseph and Martha Duchene, in 1936. It next passed to her grandparents, Richard and Barbara Duchene, and then to her parents, David and Donna Duchene. Her three children—the oldest is in kindergarten at Markham Elementary School—are the fifth generation of the family to live there.
“My parents moved in when they were expecting me in 1985,” said Russell. “I have a brother who’s six years older.” Her father died when she was in high school, and her mother remarried in 2013.
“I think there was always talk of either my brother or me moving into the house we grew up in,” according to Russell, whose husband, Patrick, grew up on North Meadowcroft Avenue. “My mom was happy to keep it in the family. We realized that we probably wouldn’t get a house as nice as this right now, the housing market being what it is here.”
The Russells have many friends from high school who have moved back to Mt. Lebanon because of the schools and the community. “It’s nice that it’s a house that my kids are already familiar with, too.”
“The House That Everybody Comes To”
Kim Manby Beggs moved into her house on Main Entrance Drive in 1969 at the age of 6, and moved back into it with her husband, Tom, and their three children in 2004.
Her parents had sold the house to them because Beggs began sending letters about why she wanted the house for her family. Her mother has saved the letters.
“I first wrote her that we loved the house in about 1999,” said Beggs. “I wrote them another letter about a year and a half later, and I think it was about two years later they finally sold us the house.”
Beggs raised her three children, Lauren, Lindsay, and Will, now adults, on Main Entrance. “The location is key,” she said. “This is so central to everything, the schools, everything. It’s awesome. My mom redid the house with these cherry cabinets that are in the kitchen and throughout the house, and to me it’s just warm and comfortable. I love it.”
Beggs’s mother still enjoys visiting. “She was the one who had all the holiday parties; 40 people would come over for Christmas,” she said. “So now this is still the house that everybody comes to.”
Ironically, history looks like it’s about to repeat itself.
“Right now our oldest daughter wants to buy the house, and her daughter’s 5,” Beggs said. “It’s really my husband who totally doesn’t want to leave. I would leave in a couple of years because I know they want it so much. When we move someday, it’ll be very hard for me. But I also know for my daughter it would be nice for her to be able to walk uptown with her kids while they’re younger.”
“My Safe Place”
Dan Gerson doesn’t remember living any place other than Larchdale Drive, where he moved at the age of 14 months, in 1972. Now his mother, Diane Berger-Gerson, lives there with him and his wife, Megan.
“If I didn’t inherit this house, there’s no way we could afford a house of this size and quality in a community like this,” he confided. “Just financially, this is good business.”
Dan, who works in customer service, and Megan, a data analyst, work from an office that was his childhood bedroom. “I love my job, and I love where I do my job,” he said. “I’ve always had an unnatural attachment to this house. Most of the happiest memories of my childhood happened here. This is my safe place. When my time on Earth is past, hopefully the echoes of happy memories will bless whoever succeeds me in this house.”
Gerson has fond memories of playing in his yard on summer nights and walking up the street to the Isaly’s in the St. Clair Shops, presently the site of the Dunlap Family Outpatient Center at St. Clair Hospital. “We used to have … a supermarket, professional offices there, Thrift Drug. My first job was at the Food Gallery there.”
He’s appreciative of the positive changes that have happened in town. “Just to see people move in with different backgrounds and ethnicities enriches the community. I feel that Mt. Lebanon is a much better place to live now and raise a family than it was even 20 years ago, let alone 50 years ago.”
“Built Phenomenally Well”
When she was in first grade, Susan Bollman Duvall moved into her four-bedroom, center-hall, Dutch Colonial house on Parkway Drive with her parents, Bernice and Phil Bollman, and two siblings. She went away to college, married, and lived other places before her husband, Phil, joined her brother’s business, and they moved back to Pittsburgh.
“I’d meet with this Realtor and say, ‘I really want a house like this one.’ We couldn’t find anything,” she said. “And then my parents, out of the blue, decided to move to Upper St. Clair.
“The house definitely had very, very positive memories for me. But honestly, it was a real estate transaction. I know that for some people it’s about keeping the house in the family, but at that point it really wasn’t that way for me.”
The Duvalls have modified the house extensively since they moved in in 1990, just before their first child, Andrea, was born; twins Philip and Chloe followed two years later.
“When we built our addition, even though we had a great builder, the quality is nothing like in the original house,” she said. “We have the original plumbing, and not a crack. The walls were built phenomenally well. We can be upstairs and not hear a sound downstairs. The house was built around 1922, and 100 years later has the original tile roof.”
“You Don’t Know What It Is Until You Leave”
Liz Hagan Kanche is one of five daughters. One sister lives in her grandmother’s former house on Baywood Avenue; another one lives on Rockwood Avenue; her aunt and uncle live on Main Entrance Drive in her great-grandparents’ house and her parents live in Main-Line. And she and her husband, John, bought the house where she grew up on Parkway Drive.
“We were living in the city with three kids and wanted to get back to Mt. Lebanon. So first we bought a house on Main Entrance and lived there for five years,” she said. “But when we had another baby, we started looking for a bigger house.”
Kanche credits timing with their having returned to her childhood home. “My parents, Lynn and Bob Hagan, were ready to move, so I asked my husband if we should buy their house. We decided his office would fit, my office would fit, the kids would fit. I know my parents were really happy to keep it in the family because they owned this house for 40 years.”
The Kanche children take full advantage of Mt. Lebanon’s recreational opportunities. “They’re involved in a ton of sports, and there’s something for everyone. All my kids are golfers, and we have a golf course. Tennis courts, the track, rec center, the pool. And they can walk to things.
“You don’t know what it is until you leave,” said Kanche. “Then you live somewhere else and you understand. My kids are all very active. They take the T downtown and to the mall. As long as they know how to cross the street, I have security in their independence. We have a group of families that look out for each other, watch out for each others’ kids. I think we all want a community like that that’s going to continue to go on.”
Although they spend time now in Florida, she doesn’t think she’ll ever sell the house on Parkway. “We have the most incredible neighbors, and I love the neighborhood.”
MORE HOUSE STORIES
Viv Criner, Bower Hill Road
My parents bought our house in 1959. Then when they moved to Providence Point in 2012, we bought the house. The thought of someone else living here just did not sit well with me! Our kids actually grew up in Upper St. Clair, so this was Grandma’s house. When I was a child, Ruth Street, which we’re on the corner of, didn’t go through—it was all woods. There were 12 neighborhood kids just in my grade, and we would run around and ride our bikes. It was great having the school next door. I remember learning to ride down the stairs and climbing into the window wells. Now they have fences and you can’t do that!
Joanie Palka Doyle, Milbeth Drive
We moved here in 1965 from Syracuse, New York, when I was in 7th grade. My mother was originally from Mt. Lebanon and graduated from the high school in 1942. The house was built in 1963. There were five kids in the family and we all graduated from the high school in the ‘70s. When my parents, Joseph and Gloria Palka, wanted to downsize, I moved in in 1991. My two daughters were in Howe School then. They still love coming to visit. People don’t want to leave, they’ve got good memories and they want to stay.
Mike Krebs, Vallevista Avenue
My parents, John and Cindy Krebs, still live in the house I grew up in on Mabrick Avenue. I live in what was actually my grandparents’ house. My wife Brandee and I were planning to start looking for a house when my grandma passed. My dad and my aunts and uncles said, ‘Hey, we’re going to be selling Grandma’s house, we want you to have the first crack at it.’. . . As soon as our daughter Abbi, who’s now 13, came into our life, I knew right away we HAD to get her into Mt. Lebanon schools. As time has gone on, I’ve really realized what an advantage my education was. And that was something I wanted to make sure my daughter got as well.
Jackie Gasdick, Country Club Drive
I was born in Mercy Hospital and they brought me home to this house. My parents, Andrew and Margaret Isacco, bought it in 1947. After college, I moved back, because my dad had passed and my mother was not able to live on her own. When she passed away, I inherited the home. I have such an affinity for this house. I look at the original dining room table, and I see us having Thanksgiving dinner there. I remember when there were no other houses up here, just woods. We used to run crazy in those woods. That’s when there were farms down on McNeilly Road. This guy used to bring a horse up and take us all for horse rides.
Amy Hughes, Eisenhower Drive
We bought my childhood home in 2007 from my parents, Ed and Louise Symons. We had looked at a lot of other houses in Mt. Lebanon and Upper St. Clair, but afterwards my husband, Chris, and I both said: this location is so much better, we can store our stuff here until we close, the price is significantly better. And we already know the neighbors! As a matter of fact, the people next door had three boys who played baseball, and the back corner of our house near the garage was first base. When they heard that Chris and I were the new owners, they were so happy! Their first question was: can we still use your house for first base?
A personal note: In 1938 my architect father designed a house for my aunt, Gladys Schade Klaber, in Sunset Hills. She lived in it until 2006, when she died a month before her 100th birthday. Then her granddaughter, Kate Klaber Cox, husband, Ted and their two sons, Ben and Jed, took it over. When Kate and Ted retired in 2021, Ben and his wife, Kaitlyn, moved in. And so the house on Gypsy Lane lives on in our family.