Good fortune finds a man and his house

For William Walter Willock, marrying the daughter of a Pittsburgh industrialist was the social equivalent of a hockey hat trick.

After winning the hand of 23-year-old Alice Jones, Willock ran a railroad owned by his father-in-law, B.F. Jones Sr., co-founder of Jones & Laughlin Steel Co. As a wedding gift to the young couple, B.F. Jones paid to build a 7,000-square-foot house in Pittsburgh’s north side’s Allegheny West neighborhood.

“The Social Mirror” called the groom a “fortunate man.” Before proposing to Alice Jones, Willock, who grew up on the north side as the son of coal merchant, was a clerk at Third National Bank in downtown.

These days, the 125-year-old Willock home is the fortunate one. An intensive two-year renovation by Q Development and the architects at Pfaffmann + Associates has restored its glory.

Set on a narrow, urban lot 198 feet deep, the house’s style is Chateauesque, with steeply pitched roofs, turrets, elaborate chimneys and balconies. Now available for lease, it has five bedrooms, six gas-burning fireplaces, five full bathrooms and a first-floor powder room.

The development partners replaced the electrical, heating and cooling systems and 84 windows. Gilded Age architecture blends well with new furnishings and oriental rugs chosen by Weisshouse. A second-floor, walk-out balcony offers a commanding view of West Park. One fireplace and an elevator were removed so the kitchen could be reconfigured.

Before work concluded, the old house threw more curve balls than a baseball player. During the first week of work, a 200-foot-long retaining wall began to collapse. The William Penn Association, an insurance agency that owns the wall, hired the same contractor as Q Development to replace it.

“When the William Penn Association replaced the wall, we were able to waterproof the basement” said Rick Belloli, one of the principals in Q Development.

After the home’s brick and chimney were tuck-pointed, it was time to change the chimney cap.

“As we were changing the cap of the chimney, we found that 3 feet of the interior fire brick had to be replaced,” Belloli said.

William Ross Proctor designed the Willock house. By 1901, the architect was living around the corner from his clients at 943 Ridge Ave., which was then called Millionaire’s Row. Proctor designed the original clubhouse at Allegheny Country Club in Sewickley Heights and the Stevenson Building in East Liberty.

Proctor’s design features arches and diamonds in the stone loggia at the front entrance, the newel post on the grand staircase and the ceiling beams of the grand reception hall and dining room. The golden Willock family crest appears in stained glass around the front door.

Between 2004 and 2010, previous owners rescued the house but during the three decades it sat empty, judges’ paneling, stained glass and original fireplace mantels disappeared. Jeff Slack, a preservation planner, used another Chateauesque home Proctor designed in Shadyside as a benchmark to recreate stained glass in the Willock home’s turret and staircase spindles.

Also restored was a three-story brick carriage house built in 1898. With 2,840 square feet, the building on Rope Way has a tandem garage on the first floor. The second- and third-floor living spaces are unfurnished and available for rent.

While waiting for their new home to be built, Alice and William Willock spent the first three years of their marriage living with the bride’s parents. When they moved into this house in 1892, they had a son named Franklin Jones Willock.

In 1895, Willock became general manager of the Monongahela Connecting Railroad, a subsidiary of Jones & Laughlin Steel. By 1900, the Willocks had seven servants: a cook, butler, laundress, chambermaid and nurse.