Tag: Prairie Style

  • Two Renaissance Palaces in Schenley Farms

    207 Tennyson Avenue

    Originally this house on Tennyson Avenue was a Renaissance palace with a little whiff of Prairie Style. It was built in 1910 for Martin G. Bauer, Jr. The architect, Maximilian Nirdlinger, drew it in the common shape of the Pittsburgh Renaissance palace, with exaggerated brackets that look westward to Chicago but also recall the Italianate houses of a generation earlier.

    At some point, the owners decided what they really wanted was a Southern plantation mansion. They amputated the porch and left a house-wide scar filled in with stucco that only draws attention to it, and then added a two-storey round portico, spending a lot of money to leave the house looking socked in the face.

    We can imagine what the house looked like with the porch intact. But we don’t have to work very hard at it, because across the street is a very similar house, built one year earlier and designed by the same architect:

    Otto F. Felix house

    Here we see how the houses were both intended to look. The front porch emphasizes the breadth of the house, making it look long and low in spite of its three floors.

    204 Tennyson Avenue

    Now we can turn back to the Bauer house and see what it was trying to be. In old Pa Pitt’s opinion, it is always best to stick to the original style of a house in making additions or alterations. Any attempt to make the house into something it is not draws attention to the fact that it is not that thing.

  • House by Kiehnel & Elliott in Schenley Farms

    Godfrey Stengel house

    For their client Godfrey Stengel, Kiehnel & Elliott took the basic form of a typical Pittsburgh Renaissance palace, which gave them a box to work with—Richard Kiehnel’s favorite shape. To that canvas the architects applied their trademark Jugendstil-infiltrated-by-Prairie-school decorations. The house was built in 1913, and it must have looked very modern—yet it fits perfectly in Schenley Farms, where other more traditional Renaissance palaces have almost the same shape without the Jugendstil.

    Window on the second floor
    Godfrey Stengel house
  • 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.

  • Central Turnverein, Oakland

    Central Turnverein

    A Turnverein (German for “gymnastics association”) was a German athletic club, many of which were scattered through the city. This was doubtless the most luxurious of the lot. It is now the Gardner Steel Conference Center of the University of Pittsburgh.

    Art Nouveau is rare in Pittsburgh, but here is a building that crosses Jugendstil with Prairie Style to produce a distinctive classical modernism. (The picture above is big: enlarge it to appreciate the delightful abstract decorative details.) It was finished in 1912, when Jugendstil was perhaps past its peak in Germany but was still adventurously modern here. The architects were Kiehnel and Elliott, who were more experimental in spirit than most Pittsburgh architects of the time. Richard Kiehnel was born in Germany and had absorbed Jugendstil at the source. The firm is actually more famous for its buildings in Florida; Kiehnel designed a Miami mansion for the president of Pittsburgh Steel, and it apparently made such an impression down there that Kiehnel and Elliott moved to Miami in 1922.

    Gardner Steel Conference Center