The Twin Ghost Houses of Chateau

profile of ghost house in Pittsburgh, Pa.

Ghost house #1, Chateau/Manchester

This blogger catches poison ivy if he just looks at it funny.  So it was with some trepidation that I waded into the calf-high weeds in short pants to snap this pair of ghost houses in the 1400 block of Chateau Street.

O but the risk was worth it! What prime examples of the form! The first (larger) house was clearly a short, two-story dwelling that lacked the big Italianate profile of the extant. It looks like a squat single-story addition (or possibly large porch) was added off the back. The extra roof line may be an added dormer, or it could have just been a line left from a since-removed gutter.

The second (smaller) ghost house is really remarkable. Two stories, and a centered chimney with no expansion. This entire house may have only been the two rooms (one up/one down), maybe five or six-hundred square feet; probably very old.

profile of ghost house in Pittsburgh, Pa.

Ghost house #2, Chateau/Manchester

The finder’s fee on this one goes to Orbit superfan Lee Floyd who spotted the first house driving by on Chateau Street and was able to locate an approximate address on the computer internet. He astutely spun Google Maps around to catch the first house’s ghost sister just down the block. Together they make a great one-two ghost house party!

Google will eventually put all citizen-journalists out of business, but for now, it still took a nice rain-threatening bicycle ride to the neighborhood to get the quality photographs Orbit readers have come to expect. This particular section of Chateau/Manchester (still not sure what’s what down there) has other some really nice things that also got stashed in the digital photo bag. Hopefully they’ll surface in some future post(s).

profile of ghost house in Pittsburgh, Pa.

Don’t Bogart the Calamine lotion! Full profile of house #1 from the poison ivy.

Ghost House: Brighton Heights

"Ghost house"--impression of one razed house against another still standing

Ghost house: Brighton Heights

You don’t see one of these every day–that is, unless you regularly find yourself traveling the back way from Woods Run up to Brighton Heights.  I was all the way down in my low gear huffing and puffing up that hill and believe you me I thought twice about giving up the small amount of inertia I had to stop for a photo, but there was really no decision.  This is the kind of hardship we dedicated bloggers/ghost house haunters live for.

‘Scuse me while I catch my breath, even the memory is exhausting…OK, I’m good.  Where was I?  Oh, yeah: there I was, face-to-tar shingle and clapboard with the big one!  This amateur archeologist had everything he needed but the platte maps.  Such a perfect specimen!  One tiny house perfectly imprinted on the neighbor’s only slightly larger simple frame home, complete with front and rear porches, slanted roof, and exposed foundation.

I don’t know what happened to that little guy, but I’m sure glad it (literally) left a mark to tell us where it was and give us a hint at what it was all about.


Ghost Houses: East Liberty

Ghost houst: East Liberty

Ghost house: East Liberty

Ghost house: the imprinted silhouette of a structure that is no longer there on one that is.  They’re the last remnants of a structure that has been banished from this earth and they speak to the current property owner’s neglect for updating to hide what many would consider a cosmetic blemish.  The alternate explanation being that they may be a very reverent way to honor the former structure.  It is impossible to know the intent.

Pittsburgh has a lot of these, owing to the city’s history of many close-quartered row houses and houses directly abutting industry.  That, coupled with the massive loss of population in the 1970s and ’80s that left lots of vacant, derelict properties that were ultimately razed.

The ghost house photographed above is particularly amazing.  It’s right across the street from The Home Depot in East Liberty and makes a perfect outline of the former house, including front and rear porches, against the off-white painted brick wall of a much larger building.  The addition of the lush green weedy grass (this photo taken in summer) makes it all the more unreal

Ghost house: East Liberty

Ghost house: East Liberty

This is another one, also in East Liberty, with a weird variant on the theme.  In this case, the former house’s fireplaces–including the fake stone work on the first floor fireplace–and plaster walls have been preserved in the exterior wall of the still-standing house next door.  It boggles the mind that someone would tear down an entire house, and yet leave pieces of the razed structure embedded in the house next door.  Or maybe it’s structurally damaging to pry out something as integral as fireplace and chimney from abutting houses?  Either way, the outcome is strange, magical, and beautiful.