Byers-Lyons House

Pittsburgh City, Allegheny County, PA

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The Byers-Lyons House (901 Ridge Ave.) was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [1]


The Byers-Lyons House is situated in the southeastern corner of Ridge and Galveston Avenues on Pittsburgh's north side. The house is an L-shaped plan and is three and one-half stories with a steeply pitched hipped roof. It is actually two houses that are joined together to give the illusion that it is one dwelling. The plan creates an entrance courtyard, an architectural motif rare in Pittsburgh. Collectively, the houses have ninety rooms and fourteen bathrooms.

The Byers-Lyons House is a variation of the late nineteenth century Chateauesque style with Romanesque and simple French and Flemish Renaissance elements. The height and profile of the building is increased and enlivened by tall stepped chimneys and gables.

Each house has a verandah in the style of a Romanesque cloister. It consists of corner pairs and an alternating arch motif of large semicircular arches and shorter, narrower arches which are supported by Doric-type columns on low plinths. This verandah's side elevations consist of one large semi-circular arch and a classical balustrade between the span at the floor level. The roofs are flat, with intricately designed balustrade.

The three-bay center section of the northeast elevation projects slightly. Directly above is a block course and a dormer with a pitched roof. The facade of the dormer, in the Flemish Renaissance tradition, has a flat-topped, stepped pyramidal facade. The profile of the stepped sections is curved. Each step is further articulated by a projecting coping course. The window is a rectangular single pane sash window. The other dormers are all variations of this motif; the chimney motifs are similar.

The windows are all rectangular, in single, double, and triple groupings. On the northwest elevation at the third story level is a four-part stained glass window. The entire bay of the southwest elevation bows outward and each story has tripartite window groupings. The northeast elevation consists of tripartite window groupings on each story.

Brownstone blocks trim the facade of the building, which are mainly Pompeian brick, creating a polychrome surface texture. The arches of the verandahs are decorated with a pattern of alternating brownstone and contrasting voussoirs. A similar pattern is used around the windows. Courses of brownstone run across the facade at window lintel and sill levels. The corners of the building have brownstone quoins.

In the courtyard are fine wrought metal gates in the style of the French seventeenth century, notable for their execution.

An interesting feature of the house is the ingenuity with which their servants quarters are fitted together, using a back staircase in common.

On the interior of the Byers-Lyons House is a fine early Georgian style drawing room. Although it is a reproduction, it is remarkably true in its faithfulness to the original style.

The Byers-Lyons House is in good condition but needs minor repairs The brownstone has spalled badly. The house is currently used for offices by the Community College of Allegheny County.


The Byers-Lyons House is one of the few remaining millionaire mansions left in Pittsburgh. Like the other mansions along Ridge Avenue, it was built as a "town house" and occupied a site in a closely built-up urban environment. The house was built for Pittsburgh industrialist Alexander M. Byers, his daughter, and her husband, J. Denniston Lyons. Byers manufactured wrought iron and galvanized pipe; Denniston was president of a banking and brokerage house. The house cost $500,000 to build plus $90,000 for the lot.

The designers of the Byers-Lyons House, Alden and Harlow, were one of the most prominent architectural firms during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

In both plan and style, the Byers-Lyons House exhibits design subtleties. While double houses are not uncommon, the single dwelling effect is unique in Pittsburgh. High Victorian Chateauesque style has been subdued by the inclusion of Romanesque and simple French and Flemish Renaissance elements. The simplification of architectural elements is also evident in the L-shaped plan and basic rectangular mass of the house.

The Byers-Lyons House is well situated on its urban site, its courtyard plan is almost unique in Pittsburgh, and nineteenth century eclectic stylization has here been reduced to the subtle articulation of the entrance court, windows, and gables. The style expresses the style of late Victorian Pittsburgh while anticipating modern architectural form. In this respect it is an important part of the architectural continuity of Pittsburgh and merits preservation.


Van Trump, James D., and Arthur P. Ziegler, Jr., Landmark Architecture of Allegheny County, Pittsburgh: History & Landmark Foundation, 1967.

  1. Hoff, Barbara A., Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation, Byers-Lyons House, nomination document, 1974, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

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