1718 Rialto

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1718 Rialto Street. July 27, 2015.

In 1880, the approximate year Kunzhaus was built, Troy Hill’s “1718 Rialto Street” did not exist. Constructed just after the village of “New Troy” was annexed by Allegheny City in 1877, the house lived at 21 Ravine Street. The street name and house number were changed after Pittsburgh annexed Allegheny City in 1907.

John and Elizabeth Allig, and their daughter Willis, were the first occupants of the house. Listed in various sources as a milkman and laborer, John was from Bavaria. It appears that Elizabeth was from Central Europe, possibly Sudetenland. The Alligs rented rooms, many to fellow immigrants. It is for one such family that Kunzhaus is named.

This 1890 map lists the Allig family at 21 Ravine Street.

This 1890 map lists the Allig family at 21 Ravine Street.

Fredolin Kunz immigrated to Pittsburgh from Switzerland sometime in the 1880s. Various sources list his occupation as a milkman, a teamster, a laborer, a compounder, and a watchman at a cork factory. Fredolin married Katharina, a local woman of German descent, and the couple bought the house in April 1896 for $2,500. Fredolin and Katharina had six children — Frederick, George, Leo, Elizabeth, Kosmas, and Stella — who all took jobs at an early age to help support the family.

The Kunz family listed in the 1910 census.

The Kunz family listed in the 1910 census.

Katharina Kunz died the day after Christmas in 1947. In 1948 Fredolin Kunz sold the house to John J. Boss Sr. and Clara B. (Weidner) Boss and the house stayed in the Boss family for three generations until it was sold to William and Clara Baker in 1980. Eileen Wehner bought the house in 1983.

It is from Eileen Wehner that Evan Mirapaul, a Troy Hill resident and art collector, purchased the house at 1718 Rialto Street. Kunzhaus will be the second permanent art work on Rialto Street commissioned by Mirapaul. When unveiled this autumn, the house will be a short walk from La Hütte Royal by German artist Thorsten Brinkmann, a piece that has intrigued, entertained, pleased, confused, and (on rare occasion) even angered its visitors. Kunzhaus is sure to be a celebrated addition to Rialto Street and the neighborhood.

Rialto Street

Rialto Street. April 21, 1914. From the Historic Pittsburgh Image Collection. Reproduced with permission.

Many thanks to writer Eric Lidji for permission to use his research on the house. His piece on La Hütte Royal can be found here.

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