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Location: Shadyside

500 Shady Avenue


Three-story renovated Victorian-style apartment building containing ten 1-bedroom and 2-bedroom apartments.

Located in the heart of Shadyside’s East End, 500 Shady is only minutes from downtown Pittsburgh and major universities, such as the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University and Chatham University.

Situated near University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) area hospitals and just a few blocks from the retail shops and restaurants on Walnut Street, South Highland Avenue and Ellsworth Avenue, these residences allow quick, convenient access to the best that Pittsburgh has to offer. Not only is 500 Shady Ave. on the primary public bus transit lines (Port Authority of Allegheny County - PAT) that serve city neighborhoods, including Oakland and downtown, but grocery stores Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and Giant Eagle are within walking distance. The tree-lined and quiet, residential streets of this historic neighborhood lend a suburban feel to this urban area.

Building History

From Shady Lane to Shady Avenue

As the East End grew during the last quarter of the 19th century, eastern Shadyside developed from Romantic rural estates and pasture land into the urban neighborhood we find today...

Read more about this building's history ›

From Shady Lane to Shady Avenue

As the East End grew during the last quarter of the 19th century, eastern Shadyside developed from Romantic rural estates and pasture land into the urban neighborhood we find today.

Shady Lane, a rambling, unpaved country road was transformed into Shady Avenue: a desirable address with some of the East End's most stately homes. Around 1886, on a small knoll at the corner of Shady Avenue and Howe Street, 500 Shady Avenue was built on land previously belonging to the Sellers Estate. (The Sellers-Carnahan House, built 1858, still stands at the corner of Shady Avenue and Walnut Street.)

500 Shady Avenue stands today as one of the most distinguished, late 19th century Queen Anne Victorians remaining in eastern Shadyside. With its vibrant red brick, stained glass oriel window, grand processional stair, and ornate interior finishes, the house is a testament to the splendor and grace typical of Gilded Age Pittsburgh.

James D. Layng: The Railroad Barron of Shady Avenue

Originally built as a private residence, 500 Shady Avenue belonged to prominent railroader James D. Layng.
Born in Columbia, Pennsylvania in 1833, J. D. Layng arrived in Pittsburgh in the 1840s for schooling. He graduated from the Western University of Pennsylvania (now the University of Pittsburgh) in 1849.

Shortly after his graduation from W.U.P., Layng took a job as a rodman with the Ohio-Pennsylvania Railroad. Layng became superintendent of the eastern division of the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne, and Chicago Railroad in October of 1865. With further advancement, he became assistant manager in July of 1871 and assistant manager of the Pennsylvania Line in August of 1874.
As the 19th century progressed, Layng would occupy important positions with several other prominent railroads, including general manager, superintendent, and president. Before leaving Pittsburgh, Layng served on the Board of Directors of the Iron City National Bank.

Layng left Pittsburgh (and 500 Shady Avenue) for New York City in the late 1880s. He cited New York as a better location for managing his business interests. Layng died at his home on Fifth Avenue in New York City in 1908. The New York Times reported Andrew Carnegie among his pallbearers.

In the 1890s, following J. D. Layng's departure from Pittsburgh, 500 Shady Avenue was purchased and expanded by George A. Kelly, proprietor of the George A. Kelly Wholesale Drug Company.

George A. Kelly: Pittsburgh's Pharmacist

George Armstrong Kelly was born in Downtown Pittsburgh on June 3, 1832; the son of a Colonel in the British Army.

In his youth, Kelly traveled extensively throughout the United States. Upon returning to Pittsburgh, he became a teller with the Iron City National Bank before entering the pharmaceutical business in 1857. After building a successful retail operation, Kelly established his wholesale drug company in 1868. The (much altered) George A. Kelly Company Building still stands at 9th Street and Ft. Duquesne Boulevard in Downtown Pittsburgh.

Beyond his business, Kelly was immensely active in Pittsburgh's commercial, social, and philanthropic spheres. But the list of his accomplishments and accolades is far more extensive than those listed here.
To name a few, Kelly helped to found and served as president of the College of Pharmacy at the Western University of Pennsylvania (University of Pittsburgh). He served as president of the Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce from 1891-1895. He helped to organize the National Wholesale Drug Association. He was a member of the Art Society of Pittsburgh, the Duquesne Club, and the Americus Club. Kelly served as an inspector for the Western Penitentiary and was a strong advocate for prison reform. He was also elected as Vice President and Director of the Merchants and Manufacturers National Bank, a position he held until his death.
George A. Kelly resided at his home at 500 Shady Avenue until his death in 1902. The house remained a private residence for much of the early 20th century.

From Mansion to a Mission

After serving as a cultural center for Pittsburgh's Asian community and as a rooming house for a number of years, Ronald McDonald House Charities assumed ownership of 500 Shady Avenue in 1979. The charity purchased its neighbor, 512 Shady Avenue, 12 years later.

The buildings were repurposed as temporary residences for families with children being treated at Children's Hospital. Citing a need for more space, a two story addition was constructed at the rear of 500 Shady Avenue in 1983.
In 2008, the Ronald McDonald House made the decision to move its location to Pittsburgh's Lawrenceville neighborhood. This move was made in anticipation of the completion of the new Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh in 2009.

Franklin West, Inc. purchased both 500 and 512 Shady Avenue in 2008.

The Next Chapter

After an extensive renovation by Franklin West, Inc., the building has been transformed into 10 contemporary residences; each paired seamlessly with the existing historic fabric. Each unit is complete with wood trim, high ceilings, hardwood floors, and original stained glass, creating residences of architectural beauty and integrity.

In April 2012, 500 Shady Avenue began the next chapter in its more than 120 year history as it welcomed its first Franklin West residents.

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