Situated within a mile from the town of Mars, Pennsylvania, Downieville Road houses a small part of Pittsburgh history. The Downieville family settled on this plot of land in the late 1800’s, shortly after the towns’ birth. The family members grew and separated into their own houses on the same land. When the mother died, the son built a small church in her honor in 1914. All this rich history caught the eye of Gloria Smith, owner of Thistle Properties.
The Downieville property in particular, keened her interest. Over the past couple years, she’s bought the property and has slowly been renovating the houses. The church, to the left, is a duplex with the back half renovated. “There is so much history all around Pittsburgh, I want to do my best to preserve it while also making it livable,” Gloria stated while discussing the property. Even though she was offered money for the original plaque on the front, she refused to preserve as much as she could. This included the original door to the basement below.
Of course, the process of renovating isn’t always easy. Although she wants to preserve as much as possible, some have had to be completely gutted. Regarding this Gloria said, “I always feel saddened when foundations aren’t sound, but I have to make sure it’s safe for the next renter.” The apartment across from the church duplex is a case of this, the first to have to be totally redone.
The properties in Mars are only a small portion of her “fixer uppers.” Gloria and her son Eric have also bought properties in Lawrenceville and Troy Hill. One property in particular, was one of the original houses of Lawrenceville. The town just outside of Pittsburgh is famous for it’s row houses. When the land was mostly farm, this house was built. Eric has renovated both sides while still keeping it’s rich history. Each room still houses a fireplace, for decoration purposes only. Not to forget the “stairway to nowhere,” that was originally a second staircase to the servants quarters. Stepping into this house, now for rent, is like taking a trip back in time.
These two are taking properties that may be a little run-down, but have rich histories and giving them life again. Through making each flip eco-friendly, they’re not only preserving history but helping the environment as well. The family duo is just one example of how we can save the environment starting at home. Not everyone is able to start from scratch, but simple changes such as LED lightbulbs and using less water is a good place to start. Cutting back on some of our modern conveniences might not be easy, but it will save our planet in the long run.