Tag: Scheibler (Frederick)

  • Vilsack Row, Morningside

    Houses in the Vilsack Row

    Rows of terrace houses became quite common in Pittsburgh in the early twentieth century, and they all shared the same basic plan: roofed front porches in front of narrow but deep units with shared walls, reducing the expense of each unit. Within that formula, though, there is room for quite a bit of variation. The problem is how to make them attractive even though they are cheap. Because they are on the same street in Morningside, and almost across from each other, we are going to look at two groups today that picked radically different approaches to the problem. In this article, we have by far the better-known of the two: the Vilsack Row by Frederick G. Scheibler, Jr.

    Vilsack Row

    The houses have all been altered in various ways; we can be grateful that they have survived at all. They were certainly the most extraordinary stab at modernism in Pittsburgh, and possibly in the United States, when they were built in 1914. The least mutilated of the row are still startling in their starkly abstract forms.

    Vilsack Row

    Even the ones that have been most altered stand out as like nothing else in Pittsburgh before World War II, let alone before World War I. The alterations have all been retreats from modernism. The porch roofs originally were supported by single columns in the center, so that they seemed to float in space; the porches, entrances, and windows seemed to be holes cut in a continuous flat plane.

    Vilsack Row
    Vilsack Row
    Vilsack Row
    Vilsack Row
    Vilsack Row

    The houses are called the Vilsack Row, incidentally, because they were an investment by Leopold Vilsack, one of the owners of Iron City Brewing, who rests in St. Mary’s Cemetery in a mausoleum of quite a different style.

    Radical modernism was certainly not the only solution to the problem of rowhouse design. At about the same time these houses were going up, the Garber row was being built on the same street, and it took almost the opposite approach.

  • A Forgotten Scheibler Building in the Woods Run Valley

    Between the bridges

    Addendum: Note the comment from David Schwing below, citing the definitive book on Scheibler, which old Pa Pitt really needs to add to his library:

    According to Martin Aurand in “The Progressive Architecture of Frederick G. Scheibler, Jr.” this building was built in 1902 for Robert L. Matthews. This predates the Ohio Boulevard Bridge to the left of the building.

    This makes the building one of Scheibler’s early works; he had left Longfellow, Alden & Harlow in 1898, and apparently carried some of that illustrious firm’s classical aesthetic with him. Many thanks to Mr. Schwing for the information.

    Another addendum: The building was the Robert L. Matthews Departments Store, according to an Architects Tour Program from the Allegheny City Society.

    The original article is below.


    Down in the Woods Run valley, crammed between the Ohio River Boulevard bridge on the one side and the California Avenue bridge on the other, is this strange building, obviously much altered over the years, which once belonged to the Kazimier Pulaski Society. What makes it even more fascinating is that a city architectural survey identifies it as the work of Frederick Scheibler, one of the most interesting early modernist architects in Pittsburgh.

    The building seems to be in use by a “social club,” which as old Pa Pitt understands it differs from a “bar” in that it closes at 3 a.m. instead of 2 a.m. A building permit for alterations to the second-floor interior was issued in October and is still taped to the door.

    Kazimier Pulaski Society

    You may have noticed the doors to nowhere on the second, third, and fourth floors. We can only assume that a fire escape was installed on the front of this building at some time in its history, or possibly balconies. At least we hope that is what those doors indicate. (Update: A reader points out that the fire escape was present as recently as 2017 and can be seen in earlier layers of Google Street View.)

    Top of the building

    Although the details of most of the front have disappeared, the interesting treatment of the fourth floor is mostly preserved.

    Top from the front
    Cartouche

    The monogram “RLM,” or possibly “LRM,” in this cartouche suggests that the Kazimier Pulaski Society was not the original builder.

    Cartouche closer up
    With the bridge