YPA Secures Black Opera Company House

More than 20 volunteers spent three hours cleaning up the abandoned house on Apple Street in Pittsburgh’s Homewood neighborhood, better known as the first home of the National Negro Opera Company, on Saturday, November 29, 2008.

YPA teamed up with RenewPittsburgh to board up and clean up the 7,000 square-foot Victorian.  The board-up/clean-up effort was an important step toward the restoration of the historic house.

In addition to RenewPittsburgh, YPA is grateful to PA State Senator Jim Ferlo and Operation Better Block.

Built in 1894, the house on Apple Street was first purchased by Pittsburgh numbers king Woogie Harris, in 1930.  Woogie Harris was the brother of famed photographer Teenie Harris.  The house served as the home of the first black opera company in the United States.  The NNOC was started by Homestead native Mary Cardwell Dawson in 1941.  The NNOC grew to include a number of chapters around the country.  First Lady Elanor Roosevelt and Marian Anderson were honorary board chairs.  Among the people who came through the house include Ahmad Jamal and Lena Horne.  The house also hosted a number of Steelers, including Roy Jefferson, John Nesby, and Marvin Woodson, as well as Roberto Clemente.

YPA coordinated the replacement of a state historical marker in 2007 (the original one had been ripped down).  That same day, both the Mayor of Pittsburgh and City Council issued proclamations honoring the National Negro Opera Company.  The house became a City Historic Landmark in spring 2008 and is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

A condemnation notice was issued on November 7, 2008, which inspired YPA to take action to ameliorate the condition.  YPA has also established a separate fund for the house’s restoration.  Donations can be directed to the YPA NNOC Fund and sent to our Homestead headquarters:

Young Preservationists Association of Pittsburgh
110 East Eighth Avenue
Homestead, PA  15120

Inquiries can be directed to youngpreservationist@gmail.com