Saturday, April 27, 2013

225 - 233 Hay Street, townhouses - Scheibler-like?

We met some friendly cats on today's treasure hunt.

Without planning it, a side effect of this project has been that Porter has peed on every Scheibler home in Pittsburgh! 

I originally posted these townhouses as Scheibler buildings, but now, I'm not convinced. They are not listed in Martin Aurand's catalogue in The Progressive Architecture of Frederick G. Scheibler. On closer inspection, I'm not sure that they are Scheiblers, even though Regent Square Rentals claims that they are.

Here's what I captured, anyway:

Approaching Hay Street from Biddle...

These properties have basements that exit into the back lawn.

Hey kitties!

Regent Square Rentals posted these photos of the interior. I did not take these photos.

Harter House, 2557 Beechwood Boulevard house, garage and wall

Porter hitches a ride through Squirrel Hill.

Scheibler placed a beautiful wall around 2557 Beechwood Boulevard, which kept me from properly stalking it for you, but don't worry -- I dug up some more photos!

I wish I could get closer to the Harter House because it is enchanting and romantic -- a sibling to the Parkstone Dwellings (1922) for sure. This house was designed from 1922-1924 for Eva Harter, who encouraged Scheibler to indulge in what she called "doodads."

Martin Aurand quotes Baille Scott in a chapter about Scheibler's period of charming and effusive homes (and I love this):

"The natural reaction from the dry mechanical routine of modern life leads to a demand for romance in every form. In the form of fiction it supplies a retreat, an escape for the mind to an enchanted realm where thrilling deeds may be done without danger, and beautiful habitations enjoyed without expense. In the treatment of the house a more real and permanent haven may be secured. Here at least we may say there shall be no ugliness. On crossing this threshold we pass into charmed territory, where everything we possess shall be in harmony."

The Harter house sits back on a lawn, which a driveway that curves dramatically around it.

Aurand compares the roof to "mushroom caps," the wood shingling to moss and calls the house "a den in a Northern forest."

While the entrance is in the center of the facade, the porch is decidedly off-center. 

Below are two photos and a floor plan stolen from Martin Aurand's The Progressive Architecture of Frederick G. Scheibler, Jr.   He writes that construction of the house was long and brought substantial cost overruns. Scheibler insisted that the flooring be removed and replaced as it was inferior quality, and the "doodads" added up. Frank and Eva Harter developed cash flow problems soon after moving into the house (prohibition hurt Frank's business as liquor importer) and they were forced to sell it by 1925. What a star-crossed lovestory!

Aurand also writes that the interior has an "extraordinary array" of built-in cabinets and lamps, tiled fireplaces and art glass. The entry hall and dining room share a windowed wall of double doors and six large art glass panels depicting hollyhocks. Other art glass features birds, spider webs and, in the bedrooms, water lilies that transform dressing room mirrors into reflecting pools! Eagles and carved wood squirrels inhabit the house as well.

The overdecorated interior ended up being so artistic, expressive and playful that Eva complained of a lack of wall space for her furniture!

My heart aches to get inside this house.

I sometimes joke that I'll know I made it when I finally own a washer and dryer. Imagine owning a breakfast room! 

Frank and Eva Harter commissioned this home, two summer homes on the New Jersey shore, a house at Conneaut and a couple of proposed homes in Switzerland, which never came to be.


Update on June 6, 2013: 

This amazing home was listed for sale on June 3. The price listed is $929,000 and is described as follows:

Known as "The Mushroom House," this amazing residence has to be seen to be believed. Built in 1923 by the reknown architect Frederick Scheibler Jr, this home sits majestically on almost an acre of land just steps from Frick Park. Though it has fallen into some disrepair,all of the Scheibler fantastic details are intact. From the ash floors,mohaghany carved appointments,stained glass,and inlaid tiles this is a museum quality masterpiece.

Best of all, there are photos! What an amazing thrill!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Highland Towers, 340 South Highland Avenue, apartments

Are you ready for a treat? Tonight I'm going to show you Shadyside's amazing historic landmark, designed in 1913-14: Highland Towers. 

When it opened on Highland Avenue, Highland Towers Apartments was the height of modernity. The building, which originally contained four 10-room flats, featured such modern wonders as telephones, electrical connections in every room, clothes dryers, a central vacuum cleaning system, a Modulated Vapor System adjustable for each room and a room for servants in each unit.

While the Old Heidelberg promised cozy, fairy tale-like spaces, Highland Towers boasted a high-class home that was the product of modern art and science. The flats' living rooms, dining rooms and solariums were located towards the front of the building, with the bedrooms, libraries and servants' rooms towards the back.

Today, Highland Towers has been much-altered. The four flats are now 36 apartments. 

The front sides are covered with tile mosaics!

Like me, Porter remains ever-hopeful that someday, someone will invite us inside.

This building, unlike so many of Scheibler's others, sprawls right to the sidewalk. There is, however, a small garden court above the sidewalk (between the two staircases) for the eyes of the residents. 

This is just to show you the side and rear. Even the side has been artfully designed! The building's original brochure promises a garage with rooftop gardens, but unfortunately, I didn't go looking for it. I should have.

Now for an extra treat... Franklin West, the company that manages Highland Towers, has photos of the incredible interior on their website. I can not get over the art glass, arches, fireplaces, built-in dressers and other details.

You can visit their site over here, or check out my favorites below. Of course, I did not take these photos.

See how some rooms are divided by 3/4 walls.