Our home has been in the Spratt family since 1948, which seems a very short time when compared to the fact that our home is over 176 years old. The house was built in 1835, by Robert and Deborah (Coleman) Townsend after moving his firm from Pittsburgh to New Brighton in 1828. Robert, with two others, formed a partnership, Townsend, Baird & Co. in Pittsburgh in 1816, the first manufacturer of rivets west of the Allegheny Mountains. Attracted by the transportation and power facilities, the firm purchased a site in Fallston in 1828 and erected a new plant equipped with the most modern machinery. The company, after several name changes, later became one of the most prominent steel manufacturers in the Pittsburgh steel industry in the early 1900s. After Robert died in 1867, the home was owned by his descendants for four generations: son, William Penn Townsend, grandson, Edward Payson Townsend, great-grandson, Arthur Critchlow Townsend, and great-great granddaughter, Betty Townsend Brosch.
On January 2, 1948, Mrs. Brosch and her husband, Carl, sold the home and many of its contents to Julia (Mack) Spratt and her children Joseph Jr., John, Mary Dean, Julia and James. Julia was the widow of the late Joseph J. Spratt and Brother Funeral Homes and passed away on January 10, 1945. This was the beginning of the J. Spratt Funeral Home. Upon her death March 29, 1957, the home was left to her children. It then became known as the J. & J. Spratt Funeral Home, under the management of her sons, John M. and James P. Spratt.
The home consists of four floors, 27 rooms, and five baths. The carriage house, with former servants quarters and stables, were located next door, and now consist of office space, garages, and a four-bedroom apartment on the second floor.
There have been quite a few stories handed down through the generations of the home's history. The house is said to have been a stop on the Underground Railroad for escaped slaves heading north to Canada during the Civil War years. Much of the lumber for the construction of the house was logged in the Allegheny National Forest area, floated down the Allegheny and Ohio rivers and then up the Beaver river to the property, which at the time extended to the river and Erie Canal. The home was one of the first to have electric lighting. Power was carried across the river from the water-powered generators at the mill, and in the evening when work stopped Mr. Townsend would use the power to light his home. Many of the gas fixtures remain in use today with wires drawn through the gas lines.
The saying goes, "if these walls could only talk," well if they would we could all sit for a while, to listen and learn about the history. Not only for our first fifty years, but also for the other one hundred and thirteen years before we took possession of what we believe to be one of the most splendid homes in the area.