John Woods House
The House that Mayor Murphy Built
A very special person designed a new structure for Carnegie Science Center's Miniature Railroad & Village Pittsburgh Mayor Tom Murphy hand-built a model of Hazelwood's John Woods house█believed to be the oldest residence in Allegheny County█using beeswax to replicate the stone and carving shingles from heavy paper stock.
Mayor Murphy, a long time Miniature Railroad & Village enthusiast, took model building lessons as a child from exhibit creator Charles Bowdish. Murphy appreciates old homes and buildings and is passionate and knowledgeable about the history of Pittsburgh, so his idea to replicate this structure was a natural. He built the model of the sandstone house from drawings made from photographs and measurements taken at the site.
John Woods, one of the original surveyors of Pittsburgh, built the house in 1792. The Fort Pitt Blockhouse, the Neill Log House and the Woods house are the only three remaining 18th century buildings in the city. All three structures are replicated on the Miniature Railroad & Village.
Composer Stephen Foster was a close friend of the Woods family and visited the home frequently. One evening as Foster serenaded his friends on the front porch steps; a young African American girl who worked for the family peeked out from the basement to hear the music. Foster asked Rachel Woods what the girl's name was and she said Nelly Bly. Taken by the name, Foster then went to the Woods' piano and wrote the famous song "Nelly Bly".
The Urban Redevelopment Authority has purchased the John Woods house and plans are underway to renovate it. It was designated a historic site by Pittsburgh City Council in 1977.