Preview: The Molyneaux Invitational

Sewickley Herald
504 Beaver Street
Sewickley PA 15143

Dear Editor,

Once a regular visitor to your community as a cub reporter for the Herald, I had a peculiar experience there which I have kept to myself until now. I relate the illuminating circumstances in your pages because your readers, local people, may possess a morbid curiosity. The trouble started with the Molyneaux map. Yes, L.G.’s infernal Sewickley Heights and Vicinity with its (naively rendered) drawings of gents hunting and shooting in the company of well-bred horses and hounds.

Thanks to the miracle of 1937 cartography, there I was, walking barefoot and unannounced on Allegheny Country Club’s golf course, gazing askance at the adjoining Gilded Age estates. The evocative names Elm Cottage, Fair Acres, Fairway, Farm Hill, Goodwood, Highlawn, Lane’s End, Poplar Hill, Red Gate Farm and Treetops are deceptively welcoming. To the southwest, down by the Ohio River, are Osborne, Edgeworth and the village of Sewickley’s grand edifices. I bet L. G. would have named them if he had room.

Wilpen Hall (see Folly) is an easy stretch-of-the-legs away, a simple matter of crossing property lines, but the gents get in my way. Turning away, I direct my thoughts toward Edgeworth again – an epiphanic movement, for suddenly I’m standing before Seven Gables, built in 1909 by John D. Culbertson. A reference to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The House of the Seven Gables, which its narrator depicts as a “sculpted and ornamented pile of ostentatious deeds”? Had Culbertson wished a duplicate for himself?

The Hawthorniana does not end there. Edgeworth has Hawthorne, built in 1870 by William K. McClintock, and Hawthorn Ridge, built in 1934 by William B. Trainer (architect: Janssen and Cocken); and Sewickley Heights has Pulpit Rock. Was Colonial Revival Pulpit Rock, built in 1901 by Samuel and Jeannette Walker (seven bedrooms, stables, billiard room, circa-1910 elevator, architect: Rutan and Russell) christened after a site of the same name at Brook Farm in West Roxbury MA, the (short-lived) utopian experiment in which Hawthorne participated and on which he based his roman à clef The Blithedale Romance? As I see it, dear editor, I am being invited to make sense of the surrounding privileged utopia through the lens of Dark Romanticism.

To be continued, unless the stuffiness of Sewickley Heights becomes too oppressive, in which case your faithful correspondent shall take a brisk walk to Old Economy, founded in 1824 by The Harmony Society, past Camp Meeting Road toward L.G.’s horse cartouche in the NW corner of his map.

Yours most sincerely,

A Surveyor of the Customs

Wilpen Hall

Hawthorne, Nathaniel, The Scarlet Letter (1850)
Hawthorne, Nathaniel, The House of Seven Gables (1851)
Hawthorne, Nathaniel, The Blithedale Romance (1852)
Molyneaux, L.G., Sewickley Heights and Vicinity (1937)
Gertrude Stein House, Pittsburgh, formerly Allegheny City, PA, 2016
Dedicated to Mike May, former editor of the Sewickley Herald