The Jewish Home for the Aged on Browns Hill Road in the 1930s
by Helen Wilson
After the plan to use the Frank house as the new Jewish Home for the Aged failed in the late 1920s, the agency looked elsewhere in Squirrel Hill for a suitable place to put its new facility. The Home wanted to move out of the Hill District to follow its clientele to the neighborhood where many Jews had already moved. The place it found was ideal: the Samuel S. Brown mansion and estate on Browns Hill Road.
The mansion had already gone through a lot of changes. Built in the late 1800s on the Monongahela riverbank near Nine Mile Run valley, it was faced with demolition in 1903 when the B&O Railroad wanted to expand its tracks along the river next to the house. Captain Sam Brown, a wealthy businessman, decided to have the 23-room mansion raised to the top of the bluff by the John Eichleay Jr. Engineering Company—a major accomplishment for the times. Ten years later the house suffered a devastating fire. Much of the building was destroyed, with $200,000 worth of damage. By then, Sam Brown’s nephew James Ward and his wife were living in the house. The Wards rebuilt the house even more grandly and had the grounds of the estate lavishly landscaped.
Although the estate passed into other hands in the course of time, it was always called the Brown Estate. The Jewish Home for the Aged purchased the estate in 1931, repurposed the mansion, and built a larger institutional facility next to it. The mansion lasted until the new Jewish Association on Aging campus was built in the 1990s. Some people today still remember visiting relatives there. If you have a story about the Brown mansion, please let us know.