In 1956 contractor E.O. Clarkson took out the building permit to construct this house and by 1959 the residence appeared in the city directory, occupied by Mrs. Bennie C. Lee. It was rare in suburban America during the 1950s for a single woman to purchase her own home, but in McCrorey Heights there were more than a dozen women who attained that goal. Mrs. Lee was a librarian, possibly for the school system or for a college or public library. Little is known about her beyond a 1960 Pittsburgh Courier article listing her among a delegation of National Council of Negro Women members embarking on a tour of Europe and Africa. Mrs. Lee lived here at 1708 Madison Avenue for over twenty years, into her retirement in the 1980s.
This was one of four houses in McCrorey Heights “spec built” by contractor Edwin O. Clarkson: 1704 Patton (1954), 1708 Patton (1954), 1613 Madison (1956), 1708 Madison (1956). Neighbors evidently admired his work; several families who took out building permits on their own asked Clarkson to handle their construction: James McClellan at 1712 Van Buren (1955), Dr. Rudolph Wyche at 1713 Oaklawn (1959), Otis Young at 1700 Patton, Carrie Hart at 1607 Washington (1959).
Cottage style residence, 1.5 stories tall in red brick. The main gable roof is high enough to hide a second story, often seen in Cottage style dwellings. A smaller secondary gable projects at the front of the house. Though the high roof and compact massing mark this as a Cottage style example, it includes features also seen in Ranch houses of this period: a large “picture” window in the living room; a simple front stoop sheltered by a metal awning, rather than a roofed front porch.
Madison 1708 permit a
Date issued: July 5, 1956
Owner: Edwin O. Clarkson
Contractor: E. O. Clarkson
Other permit info: Build residence
Madison 1708 permit b
Date issued: December 3, 1963
Owner: Mrs. B. C. Lee
Contractor: Gene Johnson’s Remodeling Ser.
Estimated cost: $3,800
Other permit info: Convert attic space into rooms
Madison 1708 permit c
Date issued: April 1, 1966
Owner: Mrs. B. C. Lee
Contractor: Gene Johnson’s Rem. Ser.
Estimated cost: $1,300
Other permit info: enclose existing porch
Madison 1708 permit d
Date issued: July 24, 1956, October 1, 1956
Owner: E. O. Clarkson
Contractor: Allen Electric Company
First appeared in city directory
1959 – Mrs. Benny Lee. Librarian.
1981 directory — Mrs. Bennie C. Lee. Retired
“Council Women Head for European Tour and Africa,” Pittsburgh Courier, August 6, 1960. On-line at: www.newspapers.com/image/40046565/