Joan and Joseph Lopez

When Joan and Joseph Lopez purchased their venerable white house in 1968, they received some unsolicited advice about their Carrick castle.

“My father said, ‘Burn it down,’” Joseph Lopez recalls. “Even the real estate agent said, ‘Keep it a few years, then get rid of it.”

The worrisome aspect of the property was its age. Parts of the site dated back three centuries. The house offered challenges, including a lack of hallways and a fortress-like infrastructure. But the couple has strong Pittsburgh roots – she grew up in Homewood, he in the Hill District where the retired meat cutter got his first job... cleaning chicken coops.

So they made improving their home a marriage-long project that culminated in 2006 with a $26,800 loan at 0% interest from the URA’s Pittsburgh Home Rehabilitation Program (PHRP). In addition, the couple received $3,850 in grants for lead abatement and exterior improvements. They worked closely with Bill Figura, Senior Construction Advisor for URA, who helped them specify and prioritize their improvements.

“Nobody was paid until the work was done—Bill saw to that,” Joan Lopez says. “It was a very good experience.”

The couple undertook major improvements to their bathroom—a beautiful room elevated on a unique platform—and added finishing touches to their third floor, utility room and exteriors. Today, fronted by flowering cactus and blazing lilac bushes, the home looks ready to flourish for another 300 years.

“I tell everyone that George Washington slept here,” Joan Lopez says. “Of course, he slept everywhere.”