Neighbors dubbed the house “Mystery Manor” because of the famous comings and goings. This house has a rich history. Businessman William “Woogie” Harris, brother of famed Pittsburgh photographer “Teenie” Harris, bought the house in 1930. First, it served as apartment to famous African-Americans who visited the city but because of Jim Crow laws were not allowed to stay in other parts of the city: Lena Horne, Sarah Vaughn, Cab Calloway, Joe Louis, Roberto Clemente, to name a few. Second, it was the early home of Mary Cardwell Dawson‘s National Negro Opera Company.
The National Negro Opera Company was the first permanent African-American Opera company in the United States. It remained based in Pittsburgh until 1960 and lasted until 1962. The interracial performing arts organization was founded in 1941 by Mary Cardwell Dawson (1894-1962). For twenty years, the National Negro Opera Company and its founder/director Mary Cardwell Dawson staged large-scale opera productions featuring African-American performers. Continue reading