Andrew Bayne Memorial Library – History

Andrew Bayne Memorial Library

34 N Balph Avenue

Pittsburgh, PA 15202

 

Just outside of the city of Pittsburgh rests the small town of Bellevue, PA. An old Victorian era house sits in the heart of a public park. The house was converted into a library after life had passed it by and has been enjoyed by generations of local residents. The Andrew Bayne Memorial Library has been seen as the foundation of the community. Not only is the location used as a library, but it is also a great spot for meetings, events, and other get-togethers. Even to this day, the library and park are fully functioning, despite the claims of paranormal happenings throughout the former home. Lights will turn on and off, footsteps echo in the hallways, and there has even been sightings of full body apparitions in the walls of the one time happy home of the Bayne family.

 

The Past

Before the town of Bellevue was even thought of, the Bayne family owned the 4 acre property just north of Pittsburgh. Andrew and his wife Mary Matthews lived peaceful in the hillside on this land along with their two daughters; Jane and Amanda. After a long and prosperous life, and upon Andrew’s death, the property was split into two and passed down to his daughters.

 

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Both Jane and Amanda were wed and, along with their husbands, built gorgeous houses on their properties. Amanda married an architect, James Balph. He actually designed their Victorian style home and filled it with beautiful furniture surrounding the ornate architecture and marble fireplaces. However, neither sister had any offspring. Oddly enough, both sisters were widowed at a young age. Once Jane passed away, she inherited her property to Amanda with an unwritten agreement that the land would be given to the borough of Bellevue upon Amanda’s death. The idea was to serve as a memorial to their father by incorporating a library and park into the community where they were born and raised.

When Amanda died in 1912, her home and the total of four acres of land were officially donated to the town of Bellevue. With this came the agreement that the property’s surrounding roads were to be re-named Teece and Balph Avenues, after the sisters. The agreement also required the property to not be developed and to protect the elm trees on the property.

 

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The planning of the library began two years later with the forming of an official Library Committee that ultimately decided to open up some of the existing rooms to expand the library area. They also agreed to plan a park with a pool, walking paths, and gardens. The library itself started with Amanda’s personal book collection and took in book donations on a regular basis to help build the library. Another major change incorporated a community meeting room on the second floor and was furnished with local artwork.

By 1927 the Andrew Bayne Memorial Library and Park was dedicated to Bellevue and the public. At that point, the library held nearly 3,000 books and upwards of 900 members right off the get-go. By 1948, the library was opened up and expanded to include three more rooms. In 1997, stained glass windows were donated and installed by local Bellevue residents.

 

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To this day, the library consists of fictional collections, DVD’s, adult collections, public computers, and non-fiction books on the first floor and basement. There is a children’s area and teen collection on the upper floor next to the community meeting room. The third floor is simply utilized for storage. The swimming pool in the park was demolished for the construction of a basketball court and a tennis court. The park also currently includes a playground, football field, frisbee area, and gazebos used for picnics and parties. Included in the park is a World War I monument built in 1920 as a memorial to those locals who fought and died during the first great war. Another prominent feature to the park was a large elm tree known as the Lone Sentinel. This tree was labeled the largest elm east of the Mississippi River (320 feet wide and 110 feet tall) and survived nearly 400 years on the property. Unfortunately, it was destroyed by Dutch elm disease and intense windstorms in the mid 1990’s. The tree trunk was split over time and had to be removed in 1998.

 

Paranormal Experiences

Many guests to the historic library have claimed to see a transparent woman figure wondering through the building. She has been seen walking through walls and disappearing around corners. This woman has also been reportedly seen staring out the main window longingly while wearing a large white hat, especially after the library was closed and no one was in the building.

 

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Electrical devices have been known to be tinkered with; things like computers, light switches flipping on and off, and ceiling fans randomly turning on. All of these oddities have been linked to that same phantom woman. Books have also been known to go missing and turn up in the oddest locations. Footsteps have also been attributed to this same spirit.

This entity who roams the halls of the Andrew Bayne Library has been rumored to be none other than Amanda Balph. The strange paranormal occurrences were said to begin once the Lone Sentinel finally died and the promise the borough made with Amanda Balph was broken – with no elm trees left on the property. At this time, the library directors noticed the activity truly to begin and continued to pick up.

 

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One infamous story tells of a former library director, Sharon Helfrich, making a deal with Mrs. Balph. As 100 guests were awaiting the playing of a DVD during a movie night, the DVD player stopped working. While Sharon tried to diagnose the problem, she noticed the attic light on. As she proceeded to the attic to turn the light off, she bargained with Amanda to make the DVD player work and Sharon would not scold her for turning the light on. This trade apparently worked out and the DVD player astonishingly began playing. Ever since that night, Amanda Balph has been assumed to be the resident spirit still occupying her old home, even in the afterlife.

 

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