Tag: Rowhouses

  • Wrights Way

    Wrights Way, 2400 block

    Two blocks of alley houses on Wrights Way, South Side.

    2400 block
    2300 block
  • Second Empire Houses on Sarah Street, South Side

    Second Empire houses

    Two Second Empire rowhouses whose upper floors are fairly well preserved. The one on the right has had some adventures on the ground floor, possibly including a storefront at some point. Note the wooden shingles on the house on the left.

  • Victorian Row on Sarah Street, South Side

    A fine block of rowhouses on the north side of Sarah Street.

  • Victorian Row on Grandview Avenue

    1880 row on Grandview Avenue

    Built in 1880, this row of modest townhouses has been altered a bit to take advantage of the view, but retains much of its ornamental woodwork.

  • Second Empire Houses on the South Side

    Pair of Second Empire houses

    A matched pair of Second Empire houses in nearly perfect shape except for the modern dormer windows. The folk-art etching in the lintels is charming.

    Lintel
  • Rowhouses on Fifth Avenue, Uptown

    Uptown is a neighborhood in transition, and it still is not entirely clear what it will become. Will these rowhouses become valuable properties worth restoring? Or will they be knocked down for skyscraper apartments? Or will the development mania grind to a halt before it reaches this block? These two houses are in pretty good shape and worth preserving for their nearly intact fronts. Both have some fine woodwork. The one on the left has had some unfortunate renovation done to the dormer, but otherwise nothing bad has happened to it. It has newer windows, but in the right size and shape, and if you painted those aluminum frames they would be indistinguishable from the originals. The one on the right is even more perfectly intact. Note its proper Pittsburgh stair railing: in Pittsburgh, railings are a plumber’s art.

  • Frame House on the South Side Slopes

    A good example of how a frame house can be restored to look very attractive without breaking the bank. The most important thing is to preserve the trim if at all possible, or to substitute new trim that has the same proportions as the old. This house in what we might call vernacular Second-Empire style is on Pius Street.

  • Italianate House, Uptown

    This is a particularly grand rowhouse: note how much taller it is than its neighbor, indicating high ceilings. It seems to be abandoned right now, but perhaps it has a chance if the urban pioneers moving into the neighborhood get to it before it mysteriously catches fire. There is much worth preserving: the woodwork is in fairly good shape, and the windows—mostly unbroken—are still original and proper for the period. The location of the house on Fifth Avenue might make it attractive, but also might put it in the way if development mania reaches this part of the street.

  • The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

    Aluminum, vinyl, Insulbrick, and Perma-Stone: old Pa Pitt calls them the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. They are the four most common artificial sidings applied to Pittsburgh houses, especially frame houses. (But not exclusively frame houses: siding salesmen were aggressive enough to go for brick houses if they sensed weakness in the buyer.) They are responsible for more uglification in the city than any other single force. That is not to say that it is impossible to use them well, only that they are almost never used well. We can find perfect illustrations within a block of each other on the South Side.

    Aluminum siding

    Aluminum is usually easy to recognize by the rust stains, which probably come from the fasteners rather than the aluminum itself.

    Vinyl siding

    Vinyl siding is the closest in appearance to wood siding, and if applied well can be hard to distinguish from a distance. But instead of removing the wood siding and replacing it with vinyl, the contractors usually stick the vinyl over the wood siding. That means two bad things: first, that there is an invisible layer of decaying wood; second, that all the trim on the house is swallowed up, leaving the house a cartoon shell. In the picture above, the whole process has been taken to its logical conclusion in the right-hand house. A good deal of money was spent on new windows in the wrongest possible shapes, vinyl trim, and paste-on fake shutters that could not possibly cover the windows, leaving the house an expensive architectural wreck.

    Insulbrick

    Insulbrick is a trademark name (though there were disputes over the trademark) for siding made up of asphalt sheets stamped with a brick pattern. When the siding is new, it looks as if a child drew bricks on the house with crayons. When it is older, it looks like the picture above. In spite of the name, it is very bad at insulating.

    Perma-Stone

    Perma-Stone is another trademark name: it is siding that imitates stonework, once again in a cartoonish fashion.

    Sometimes more than one of these sidings can grow on a house, either because the owner loved variety, or because different generations attacked different maintenance problems in different halfhearted ways.

    Insulbrick and Vinyl

    Insulbrick and vinyl.

    Aluminum and Perma-Stone

    Aluminum and Perma-Stone.

    If you are the owner of a frame house that still has wooden siding, congratulations! You are a member of a small elite minority in Pittsburgh. Keep a good coat of paint on that siding, and attack problems while they are still young, and you will keep your house beautiful for generations to come.

    If the time comes to replace that siding, though, consider the long term. Contractors will tell you that their artificial sidings will last forever. Look around you. You can see that they are misinformed. Consider replacing wood with wood, or—if wood is not in your budget—consider replacing it with vinyl rather than covering it over with vinyl.

  • Second-Empire Row in Allegheny West

    Row of houses on Lincoln Avenue

    A splendid row of Second Empire houses on Lincoln Avenue, with their wood trim picked out in tasteful polychrome paint. They were built in 1872 and 1873.

    Front doors
    Two more front doors
    The same row, but a different angle