Tag: Houses

  • A Chimney by Frederick Sauer

    Chimney of one of the Sauer Buildings

    Frederick Sauer was the architect who designed some of our distinguished churches—St. Stanislaus Kostka, St. Mary of the Mount, and St. Stephen’s in Hazelwood, to name three. They are all excellent designs within the conventions of late-Victorian style. The same can be said for the houses and commercial buildings Sauer built.

    But in his old age, Sauer settled down on his big hillside property above the town of Aspinwall and started tinkering. Eventually, with his own hands, he built a group of whimsies that are not quite like anything else in the world. None of his clients ever got anything like these: Sauer was a reliable provider of the expected in architecture. But left to himself, he built a landscape from a fairy tale.

    This is one of the houses he built, and the hand-crafted chimney above is emblematic of Sauer’s fairy-tale approach to building. The current owner was kind enough to spend a few minutes passing on the latest gossip on the Sauer Buildings. Most were held as rental properties, but they have now been sold off individually, and the new owners are for the most part reversing decades of neglect.

    One of the Sauer Buildings
  • House by Charles W. Bier in Schenley Farms

    200 Tennyson Avenue

    We’ll be seeing quite a bit of Schenley Farms in the coming weeks, because old Pa Pitt has taken it upon himself to photograph every house in Schenley Farms. The neighborhood has perhaps the most concentrated collection of superb domestic architecture in a city known for its superb domestic architecture. Here we have an interesting composition by Charles W. Bier, an architect who paid more attention than most Pittsburghers to the breezes of modernism blowing from Germany and Austria on the one side and Chicago on the other. This house compares favorably with the Kiehnel & Elliott house we saw recently: it also fits well with its neighbors while adopting modern Art Nouveau details. This one, unfortunately, has lost its front porch, which would have been a showcase for some interesting woodwork. We get a hint of what it might have been from the porte cochere:

    Woodwork on the porte cochere
    Front of the house
  • Stone House in Virginia Manor

    396 Midway Road

    In the 1930s there was a new interest in the architectural past of America. In Pittsburgh, in particular, two related projects made local architects consider the vernacular architecture of the past in a new light. The Buhl Foundation sponsored the Western Pennsylvania Architectural Survey, which gave some of our better architects, thrown out of work by the Depression, the job of surveying and preparing architectural drawings of significant old buildings. A little later on, the federal Historic American Buildings Survey took on similar work, with many of the same architects. This work not only documented our old buildings: it also thoroughly familiarized some of our prominent architects with the old houses of southwestern Pennsylvania. “Their quiet lines and excellent mass are wholly satisfying,” wrote architect Charles Stotz in The Early Architecture of Western Pennsylvania, a sumptuous folio volume that resulted from the Buhl Foundation’s project. “It seems that in the essential qualities of architectural design their builders, curiously enough, were capable of doing no wrong.”

    Their rediscovery of local vernacular architecture inspired some of these architects to imitation. This gorgeous house in Virginia Manor, a tony plan in Mt. Lebanon laid out in the 1920s, is one of the best growths from that fertilization. The architect (old Pa Pitt has not found a name yet) very successfully imitated the materials and proportions of a typical southwestern-Pennsylvania stone house, adapting it with seemingly effortless grace to the modern 1930s life of an automobile suburb.

    Perspective view
  • Hoodridge Drive in Mount Lebanon

    39 Hoodridge Drive

    Hoodridge Drive in Mount Lebanon is another one of those streets where every house is a distinguished work of architecture. The variety of styles is not quite as broad as in Mission Hills or Beverly Heights, but the houses at the western end are on a magnificent scale that qualifies them for the term “mansion.”

    39 Hoodridge Drive
    39 Hoodridge Drive
    43 Hoodridge Drive
    93 Hoodridge Drive
    53 Hoodridge Drive
    55 Hoodridge Drive
    61 Hoodridge Drive
    111 Hoodridge Drive
    119 Hoodridge Drive
    83 Hoodridge Drive
    83 Hoodridge Drive

    The eastern half of Hoodridge Drive is more modest, but there are some interesting and distinctive designs among those smaller houses as well. We’ll be returning to this extraordinary street soon.

  • 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
  • Beverly Heights, Mount Lebanon

    70 Woodhaven Drive

    Beverly Heights is one of several housing plans from the 1920s that make up the Mt. Lebanon Historic District, one of the best-preserved examples of the 1920s automobile suburb in the country. Mission Hills set the pattern: picturesquely curving streets with plenty of open spaces, and matching setbacks for the houses, but otherwise homeowners hired their own architects and exercised their own taste. The result is a pleasing diversity of styles that makes every street an adventure.

    96 Woodhaven Drive
    106 Woodhaven Drive
    100 Woodhaven Drive
    90 Woodhaven Drive
    84 Woodhaven Drive
    166 Woodhaven Drive
    50 Woodhaven Drive
    136 Woodhaven Drive

    Old Pa Pitt is going to be returning to Mount Lebanon a few more times to document the Historic District, so expect more in the coming weeks.

  • McIntosh Row, Allegheny West

    McIntosh Row

    This row of houses is not architecturally spectacular, but it represents something important in the history of Pittsburgh. Originally built in 1865, it was restored in the 1970s by a neighborhood association. Allegheny West set an example of cooperative preservation that has made the neighborhood the attractive place to live it is today, and other neighborhoods took note.

    Perspective view

    Originally there were six of these houses. They had all decayed badly, but it was the demolition of the two on the end that provoked the Allegheny West Civic Council to act. It was one of the turning points in Pittsburgh history. Would the city become a sea of parking lots surrounding a few big attractions, or would we find clever ways to keep some of the good things we had?

    You can read the history of Allegheny West’s successes and failures on the Recent History of Allegheny West page at the Allegheny West site. The story of the McIntosh Row is in Part 5; the site design is too clever by half, so it is not possible to link to that part directly.

  • St. James Street, Shadyside

    617 St. James Street

    We should have put a utility-cable trigger warning at the top of this article, but too late now. The block of St. James Street between Ellsworth Avenue and Pembroke Place is lined with fine houses in an interesting variety of styles, and here are some of them.

    617 St. James Street
    709 St. James Street
    711 St. James Street
    711 St. James Street
    713 St. James Street
    726 St. James Street
    716 St. James Street
    712 St. James Street
    712 St. James Street
    700 St. James Street
    Chimney pots

    It is well known that old Pa Pitt loves good chimney pots, and these are just right for this house.

    616 St. James Street
  • Lebanon Hills in the Rain

    40 Lebanon Hills Drive

    Last week we saw Mission Hills in the snow. The next plan down the way, Lebanon Hills, was laid out shortly after Mission Hills, and we see it here in the weather nature granted us when we happened to be there. The parts closer to Washington Road have, like Mission Hills, an extraordinarily broad assortment of housing styles; the parts farther east are mostly postwar construction. Here is a large album of some of the more interesting houses.

    55 Connecting Road
    81 Lebanon Hills Drive

    In order to avoid weighing down the front page, we’ll put the rest of these pictures below the fold, to use a metaphor derived from “newspapers,” an extinct form of communication some of Father Pitt’s older readers may remember.

  • St. James Terrace, Shadyside

    St. James Terrace plaque

    The Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation historic marker at the entrance tells us all Father Pitt knows about St. James Terrace: that it was built in 1915, and that the builder was John E. Born. Perhaps we will discover the architect one of these days.

    St. James Terrace is an enclave within an enclave: it branches off the narrow dead-end St. James Place, but with no access for vehicles. Instead, the houses are arranged around a narrow but beautiful garden court, which looks very romantic in the snow.

    St. James Terrace
    St. James Terrace
    Houses on the north side
    Bare tree branch
    St. James Terrace