House of Gold
A typical house doesn’t talk, nor is it normally covered in metallic paint, but that’s what makes this house so special. When you think of an old, abandoned house, you might think of a leaky roof, broken windows, and maybe some trash inside. While the house at 1404 Swissvale Avenue fits this bill, it’s also shining and gold. The color is a metaphor of sorts–gold is memorable. It’s true; when a vacant house blends in with the other uninhabited houses surrounding it, there’s no reason to give it a second thought. With a simple layer of eye-catching paint, the house on Park and Swissvale becomes the House of Gold.
The building once housed many families, and the House of Gold narrates its own history. The storytelling gives new meaning to the phrase “if these walls could talk.” In the house’s own words, “I’m gold to remind you to see the value and beauty in people and places before they are gone.” It shares warm memories of past families, like the Richmond family–they owned it first. The house was built in 1875, when Swissvale Avenue was actually called Water Street for the stream that ran its same path and froze in the winter. The Richmonds were just one of the several families to call it home over the years. This June, the 139-year-old house will be torn down. While Pittsburghers may not remember the address or families that lived there, they may remember that the house was painted gold.
Artist Dee Briggs bought the property and the firehouse next door, and she’s responsible for its Midas makeover. She was looking for a building where she could make her art, and fell in love with the firehouse. She works as a sculpture artist, and her mediums include architectural materials such as steel, concrete, aluminum and bronze.
A few years after relocating her business and home to the firehouse, Briggs decided to buy the adjacent vacant lots and house by contacting Wilkinsburg community leaders and the Vacant Property Recovery Program. After completing the application process, Briggs bought the vacant house. She plans to remove the house, salvaging any useable materials in the process.
The house might be dying in some ways, but at least it went out in style. The golden color pays homage to the memories and love that used to live between its walls, one last glimpse of a memory for an abandoned house that was once a home.