The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

May 13, 2013

History on the hill

Once stately homes grace neighborhood

By Tom Davidson
Herald Staff Writer

SHARON — Step by step, block by block, house by house, the stories of Sharon’s West Hill were celebrated Sunday during a walking tour sponsored by the Sharon Beautification Commission.

“I’ve always wondered what they looked like” inside, city resident Marcia Moyer said, referring to the multi-story edifices that fill the south side of West State Street on the steep hillside.

About 30 people gathered on a sunny but brisk Mother’s Day evening at the foot of the hill in the parking lot of Church of the Sacred Heart along North Irvine Avenue. There they began their turn about the neighborhood that is but a shadow of what it was in its halcyon days of the early 20th century, when the Victorian mansions were occupied by members of the local aristocracy.

The tour included stops outside the Perkins Mansion, which resembles an English estate but now is home to a halfway house for wayward men, and its hillside neighbor the Stevenson Mansion, a stone monument that once graced New Castle’s North Hill before being disassembled and moved to Sharon.

History buff and retired political sachem Bob Lark shared a bit of trivia about the mansion.

Spurned by his colleagues in New Castle, John Stevenson made good on a vow to “take his house and money” with him. He moved to Sharon – he’s one of the founders of Sharon Steel Corp. – and he died here in 1934, Lark said.

Stories like that entertained the crowd as people happily strolled up and down the hillside.

Tom Misko, who’s made a hobby of restoring the old homes on the hill, let the group explore some of his holdings there.

A self-described architectural and building buff, Misko has been buying up the once-stately but now neglected homes on the hill and restoring them to their former glory.

Walking inside them is like visiting a work site on the popular television series “This Old House” and Misko’s a willing guide.

Outrage at the way former owners and tenants had neglected the properties inspired him to start buying the homes, he said.

He’s either restored or in the process of restoring nine houses in the neighborhood.

They include the McIntire House at 357 W. State, the Laurie House at 387, and the former Samuel DeForest abode at 395 W. State St.

The DeForest home proved to be a crowd pleaser with the raw, unrestored beauty of its brick walls and original fixtures enthralling those who walked through its rooms.

Brian Kepple, chairman of the beautification commission, led the tour. He shared information preserved by Bill Cowan, who didn’t attend but left detailed notes for Kepple.

The tour was the third to be sponsored by the group. “This is my third time and I learned a lot,” Moyer said.

More tours will be scheduled as interest allows, Kepple said.