Tag: Fairy-Tale Style

  • House by Lamont Button in Mission Hills

    371 Parkway Drive

    Lamont Button was a very successful architect of houses for the well-off. Here is an example of his work in the tony automobile suburb of Mission Hills in Mount Lebanon. It’s in very good shape: some additions have been made, but they have been done in sympathy with the original design and would hardly be detected as additions if we did not have a photograph from when the house was new.

    371 Parkway Drive in 1928

    This picture comes from the August, 1928, issue of the Charette, the magazine of the Pittsburgh Architectural Club. This comparison shows us with what remarkably good taste the few alterations have been made.

    Front of the house
    In the snow
    Perspective view in the snow
  • Fairy-Tale Fantasy in Mount Lebanon

    1247 Washington Road
    Kodak EasyShare Z1285.

    What old Pa Pitt calls the Fairy-Tale Style was very popular in the 1920s and 1930s. The mark of the style is an exaggerated historicism in which the historical elements are rendered less as accurate reproductions of historical styles and more as if they were illustrations in a children’s book. This house in the St. Clair Terrace plan in Mount Lebanon is a perfect representative of the style.

    1247 Washington Road
    Washington Road end of the house
    St. Clair Place side of the house
    Fujifilm FinePix HS10.
  • Louis Brown House, Shadyside

    Louis Brown house
    Kodak EasyShare Z1285.

    Edward Weber was best known for his school designs—notably Central Catholic High School and St. Mark’s School in the McKees Rocks Bottoms. The sense of fairy-tale whimsy he showed in those designs was on full display in this house, which Weber designed for Louis Brown in 1913. It shows the same Jugendstil influence that we identified in the Lilian Henius house in Highland Park, which was designed by our noted early modernists Kiehnel & Elliott; this one is on a grander scale, but if we did not know the architect we would be forgiven for speculating that the two houses were drawn with the same pencil.

    Louis Brown house
    Nikon COOLPIX P100.
    704 Amberson Avenue
    Louis Brown house
  • Lillian Henius House, Highland Park

    Lillian Henius house

    Built in 1918, this very artistic house was designed for an artist by Kiehnel & Elliott, who applied everything Richard Kiehnel had learned from the German Jugendstil masters and made a kind of modernist Bavarian peasant cottage. Kiehnel & Elliott were among our most interesting early modernists; they would go on to make architectural history by introducing Art Deco to Miami.

  • Mother Goose in Highland Park

    Bendet house

    This whimsical fairy-tale cottage is even more amusing when we know its history. According to architectural historian Franklin Toker, it was built on land owned by Edgar Kaufmann’s Kaufmann Development Company, so the architect, Theodore Eichholz, decided to make a parody of the Kaufmann mansion in Fox Chapel—La Tourelle, designed by Benno Janssen and named for its exaggerated conical turret.

    In 2016, an architecture student (since graduated) named William Aldrich made a detailed model of La Tourelle in wood, which is probably the most thorough way to experience La Tourelle on line. You will see immediately what Eichholz was parodying.

    Front door
    Jumbled bricks

    The jumbled brickwork all over the front makes us suspect that Mr. Eichholz might be our Master of the Jumbled Bricks.

    Bendet house
    Bendet house
  • The Master of the Jumbled Bricks

    Jumbled bricks

    Father Pitt has not yet identified the architect of these four apartment buildings in Mount Lebanon, but the style is so distinctive that we can confidently attribute them to the same hand. Adopting the practice of art scholars who name unidentified artists after the most distinctive features of their style, we call this architect the Master of the Jumbled Bricks. Perhaps some reader knows the architect’s real name.

    The buildings all share patches of bricks and brick pieces laid in a jumble, as you see above. They also all use irregular (sometimes multicolored) roof slates and ornamental half-timbering, and even the bricks laid in regular courses are given as irregular a texture as possible. They are all in the exaggerated historicist manner that old Pa Pitt calls the Fairy-Tale Style.

    Half-timbering, slates, and bricks

    We’ll begin with this building on Central Square. The bricks here have had some repair, but we can still see the effort and patient professional work that went into making the building look as though it was built by gnomes.

    119 Central Square
    199 Central Square
    Jumbled bricks

    Not far away, on the other side of uptown Mount Lebanon, another of these apartment buildings stands on Florida Avenue:

    688 Florida Avenue

    Here the jumbling of the bricks is more patterned.

    Jumbled bricks
    688 Florida Avenue
    Entrance in perspective
    Roof slates in different colors

    The polychrome irregular roof slates add to the fairy-tale atmosphere.

    Entrance to no. 688

    The next one, on Bower Hill Road, has fewer jumbles; they are placed up at the top among the irregular roof slates as a kind of billboard for the style.

    6 Bower Hill Road
    Jumbles and slates

    Though the shades are more muted, these roof slates are also different colors.

    6 Bower Hill Road
    The Stratford

    Finally, the Stratford on Beverly Road.

    “The Stratford” on a bronze plaque
    Jumbled bricks
    Roof slates
    The Stratford
    The Stratford

    So far, Father Pitt has found these four apartment buildings in Mount Lebanon designed by this unusually whimsical artist. There are probably others lurking in plain sight. Does anyone know the architect’s real name?

    Father Pitt will add that he has some reason for suspecting that it might have been Theodore Eichholz, who was known to work in the fairy-tale style, and who designed an extraordinary whimsy in Highland Park, the Bendet house on Cordova Road, which uses jumbled bricks across the entire front. But this is only a vague suspicion. Anyone with better information is earnestly desired to inform us.

    (Update: More and more evidence is pointing to Charles Geisler, resident of Beechview and architect of numerous apartment buildings in Mount Lebanon and Dormont, as well as Squirrel Hill, as the Master of the Jumbled Bricks. This is what the television reporters call a developing story, and old Pa Pitt will update this article with any more certain conclusions.)

  • St. Scholastica’s Convent, Aspinwall

    St. Scholastica’s Convent

    Old Pa Pitt does not definitely know who designed this old convent (now a “ministry center”), but he would not be at all surprised to learn that it was Aspinwall’s own resident big-time architect Frederick Sauer, who could have walked to this site from his house in five minutes, and who was a known lover of yellow brick like this.

    Inscription: “St. Scholastica’s Convent”
    St. Scholastica’s Convent
    St. Scholastica’s Convent
  • Some Houses in Seminole Hills, Mount Lebanon

    55 Ordale Boulevard

    Domestic architecture veered strongly toward the fantastic in the 1920s and 1930s, as we can see in some of the houses in Seminole Hills, one of several 1920s suburban plans inspired by the success of Mission Hills in Mt. Lebanon. The house above is a perfect example of what old Pa Pitt classifies as the fairy-tale style in architecture.

    Once again, though, property owners hired their own architects, so a wonderful variety of styles is represented in the neighborhood.

    60 Ordale Boulevard
    74 Standish Boulevard
    76 Standish Boulevard
    80 Standish Boulevard
    86 Standish Boulevard
    90 Standish Boulevard
    90 Standish Boulevard
  • Some Houses on Glenmore Avenue, Dormont

    2850 Glenmore Avenue

    Several of these houses have fallen into the hands of house-flippers, which means that they have been made presentable with cheap materials that disguise the architects’ original intentions. But we can be grateful that they were rescued by capitalism from otherwise certain decay and demolition.

    We begin with a design that, from certain angles, looks almost like a stretched bungalow. The part that is covered with vinyl siding was probably wood-shingled, although it went through a half-timber-and-stucco period that might also have been the original plan.

    stone arch
    Front and steps

    Here is a tidy little bungalow with no stretching at all, and it seems to retain almost all its original Arts-and-Crafts style.

    2856 Glenmore Avenue

    Nothing says “flipped house” like vinyl siding and snap-on shutters for the windows. But the twin gables with swooping extended roofline show us the romantic fairy-tale cottage the architect meant this house to be. The top half, again, was probably wood-shingled; more recently it was covered with asbestos-cement shingles.

    2856 again
    Perspective view
    Prairie-style house in Dormont

    This unusual house brings more than a hint of the Prairie Style to the back streets of Dormont. Plastic cartoon shutters again, but those could be removed by the next enlightened owner, leaving an exterior almost completely original. The patterned brickwork is eye-catching without being garish.

    2840 Glenmore Avenue

    The sunroom protruding from the front was probably an open porch when the house was built.

  • St. Mark’s School, McKees Rocks Bottoms

    St. Mark’s School

    This is a Catholic school with more than the usual touch of whimsy. Old Pa Pitt does not yet know the architect, but whoever it was decided to make a school that would strike its pupils as something out of a fairy tale. [Update: We have found that the architects were the well-known Link, Weber & Bowers, “Link” being A. F. Link and “Weber” being Edward Weber.1] It is sadly vacant and decaying right now, although at least the grounds are kept. The cornerstone tells us that the building was begun in 1928:


    Since old Pa Pitt considers this school endangered, he has many pictures to show you, so the rest will be behind a “read more” link to avoid cluttering the front page for a week.