A large post–Civil War mansion on Western Avenue is one of the settings for Marcia Davenport's 1943 novel The Valley of Decision, about a family of Pittsburgh industrialists from 1873 to 1941. The Joshua and Eliza Rhodes House (c. 1866; 939 Western Avenue), in which the family of a traction czar lived from the 1860s through the 1920s, may have been the inspiration for that setting. Certainly it constitutes a fascinating remnant of late-nineteenth-century Pittsburgh. The Italianate house, of a simple sort, added florid hood molds and brackets to its plain brick walls. The vibrantly colored interior of the house, which is now a bed-and-breakfast, has original cabinetry, and a ballroom and servant quarters are located in a structure to the rear. The brick- and-stone-veneer houses in the 800 and 900 blocks of Beech Avenue, between Allegheny Avenue and Brighton Road, give a perfect idea of upper-middle-class Pittsburgh life after the Civil War. The blocks, unbroken and further unified by the roof cornice, are enlivened by the overlaying rhythm of prominent door and window moldings and punctuated by the occasional veranda. Two of the residents here were famous not for wealth but for their literary talent. Gertrude Stein was born at 850 Beech in 1874; Mary Roberts Rinehart wrote a dozen of her mysteries in the solid house at number 954.
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