Schenley Farms, the little enclave of quiet residential streets amid the bustle of the Oakland intellectual district, is an encyclopedia of housing styles from the early twentieth century. Here we have a very simple façade with elements of the Spanish Mission style: stucco (of course), an arcaded porch, tile roof, a little iron-railed balcony, and a design that turns inward, with more wall than window in front.
Spanish Mission Style in Schenley Farms
Two Kinds of Spanish Mission
Two houses in the Spanish Mission style sit side by side on Washington Road at the southern end of the Uptown Mount Lebanon business district, and they implement the style in two interestingly different ways. This one, which is now the home of the Historical Society of Mount Lebanon, takes the style fairly seriously. A real Spanish house, in the New World or the Old, turns inward. It shuts the public out, presenting almost blank walls to the outside world. Of course Southwestern houses are also notable for their flat rooflines. In this house we have large expanses of stucco wall facing the street (although the architect has conceded some generously large front windows to Eastern sensibilities) and the flat roof characteristic of Spanish colonial architecture in the Southwest.
The other house is much more an Eastern house with decorative borrowings from the Spanish Mission style:
You could take the basic shape of this house and turn it into an English cottage or an Italian Renaissance palace by changing the details. The stucco, the arcaded porch, and the tile roof are the main things that carry the “Spanish Mission” message.
Georgian Meets Spanish Mission
You have probably never heard anyone say this before, but Father Pitt is fascinated by small apartment buildings. Larger apartment blocks are often designed by famous architects, and they may be masterpieces of their kind. But small apartment buildings sometimes preserve the adventurous whimsies of a builder who was not technically an architect but could draw a blueprint all by himself.
Here is a good example. The third floor of this little apartment building in Mount Lebanon is typical of the Spanish Mission style that was very popular in the near South Hills in the first half of the twentieth century. But below that the details are Georgian. It would be hard to imagine a stranger clash than those two styles—and yet they work well together. Pedestrians walking by never say, “Now there is an outrageously mixed metaphor of a building.” A big-deal architect would probably never do it, but it works.