Sheila Carney, a Sister of Mercy at Carlow University, was pleasantly surprised to see the familiar yellow brick exterior of her childhood home in OPDC’s 2017-18 Annual Report. Sister Sheila came across the Community Land Trust (CLT) section of our report and immediately recognized 3159 Ellers Street – now for sale as part of the Oakland CLT.
Sister Sheila is familiar with the Oakland CLT through her service as a McAuley Ministries board member. McAuley Ministries is a foundation inspired by the compassionate works of the Sisters of Mercy; they strengthen the capacity of community-based programs. In 2018, the foundation made a multi-year grant to support the Oakland CLT in West Oakland. Sister Sheila is thrilled to learn that her childhood home has been directly impacted by this support.
“My roots are in the community. Anything that strengthens the neighborhood is welcome,” remarked Sister Sheila regarding her impression of the CLT grant proposal. “McAuley Ministries provides another avenue for the Sisters of Mercy to interact with this community in a positive way.”
CLTs build strong communities by maintaining affordable, owner-occupied housing in a neighborhood. OPDC acquires and renovates properties to be move-in ready for low- to moderate-income buyers..
Sister Sheila shared with OPDC that her grandfather, who had come to Pittsburgh from Ireland as a young man, moved to Robinson Street in West Oakland with his wife. In the late 1920’s or early 1930’s, he bought property and built the house at 3159 Ellers Street. It was there that Sister Sheila and her family lived until 1953.
Sister Sheila was excited for the opportunity to see the house and revisit past memories. She shared photographs taken on the property from her parent’s wedding day, her baptism, and her first communion.
“We did a lot of entertaining here -- big family parties,” Sister Sheila reminisced. “I have a very early memory of sitting on this step,” she pointed out as we ascended to the second floor. “On the day of my uncle’s wedding, he and his groomsmen dressed in the attic and I watched them come down the stairs. It was very dramatic.”
Looking out at the front yard, Sister Sheila remembered the garden. “This whole hillside was covered with rose vines. My grandfather would wade into them and weed. He was a wonderful gardener.”
Sister Sheila spoke of her siblings and neighborhood friends. She recalled how they would sled down the street in the winter. “We would have kids posted as the bottom of the hill to say, ‘Okay, it’s safe to come.” In the summer, they would sit on the front porch and watch the sparks from the mill. “It was like fireworks,” she said.
3159 Ellers Street had been part of Sister Sheila’s family for over 30 years. Her grandfather lived in the house with his wife and four children. After Sister Sheila’s grandmother passed away, her parents and siblings moved in. Following their departure, Sheila’s uncle moved in with his wife and eight children.
McAuley Ministries’ support of the Oakland CLT enabled Sister Sheila to play a direct role in helping to sustain West Oakland’s residential community. “I have memories of this being a thriving neighborhood, where everyone cared for one another in a nurturing way,” she said.
After Sister Sheila’s family moved from the property, numerous other families made 3159 Ellers Street their home. OPDC is pleased to preserve this house for future generations through the Oakland CLT.
“When I sent my siblings and cousins the link [for the property], we were all so happy to see how lovely it looks and to know that it has been respected and cared for,” exclaimed Sister Sheila. “I’m happy to know that the CLT will preserve the house for another family.”
3159 Ellers Street is currently for sale at $143,000 to an income-qualified buyer earning at or below 80% of area median income. This charming four bedroom, one bathroom home is located in West Oakland, within walking distance of the University of Pittsburgh, Carlow University, UPMC, and multiple bus lines. Equipped with a backyard, a beautifully remodeled kitchen, lovingly restored stained glass windows, and new heating and cooling systems, this home is perfect for a first time homebuyer to build a new legacy with their family. Learn more about the Oakland CLT and other homes for sale on our website.