Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Parkstone Dwellings, 6937-6943 Penn Avenue

What a treat! Today I get to show you the romantic, whimsical Parkstone Dwellings!

I'm thinking it like this: The Parkstone Dwellings!!! 

Many people who have never even heard of Frederick Scheibler know of "that building in the East End that looks like it has Oriental rugs hanging over the side."

The Parkstone Dwellings, an absolutely amazing Historic Landmark on Penn Avenue, are a true testament to Scheibler's imagination. The building is magical from the inside out. 

First of all, there are four side-by-side front entries, ornamented with concrete toad stools and stained glass twining-roses. The four separate doors make these homes dwellings instead of apartments--as Aurand writes, they are "private beyond the first stoop."

He compares the roof's multiple, delicate folds to origami. There is also, apparently, a random and fully sculpted seagull perched on the southeast corner of the facade.

See how the chimney stands at the center of the house. Martin Aurand explains that the fireplace flues have to jut at odd angles over the entrances to make this design decision possible.

Click to enlarge this!

And the rounded windows look like turrets!

One day several years ago, I saw that there was an estate sale in the garden of the Parkstone Dwellings. I made a beeline for it. I begged for a tour and, since there was a vacant dwelling at that time, got to go inside. 

I felt like I was absolutely bewitched. It was stunning. And best of all, the architecture seems playful for the sake of playfulness. After basking in the Parkstone Dwellings, I know I could never, ever live in a boring cookie-cutter home.

What you'll see now are the dreadfully bad photos I managed to snap with the only camera I had when I stumbled upon that estate sale--my free-with-the-plan LG Cosmos cell phone camera. Here goes.

This is one of the tile mosaics that, from Penn Avenue, looks like a regal rug draped over the balcony. The tiles were reportedly arranged and assembled by Scheibler himself, because he just couldn't trust anyone else to do it.

The "rugs" were reportedly requested by Harry Rubins and his sister Rose Rubins, who commissioned the home. They lost the home at sheriff's sale just ten years after it was built.

Front door with stained glass

The massive fireplace just inside the front door. You can't see the mosaic detail in this photo but the interior mosaics depict panthers and kingfishers.
Living room, paneled with Laguna mahogany
Art glass again. Look to the left!

Living room, looking into the dining room. Amazing art glass details.
Dining room

My friend Ken in the bedroom, with window seat. 
Ken again in the shower, which had body sprayers! 

Second bathroom

Hallway ceiling painted to look like sky. This is a recent detail, but large murals are historically appropriate in houses like this.

Fireplace detail from Martin Aurand's The Progessive Architecture of Frederick G. Scheibler, Jr.

The Parkstone Dwellings were somewhat later work, designed in 1922. 

It's hard to articulate the thrill that Scheibler's architecture gives me, but this building leaves me breathless. It's one thing to appreciate art. But this is art you can go inside, and live inside--art that stands and survives time and weather for a century or more. My heart flutters with both love and longing, to be inside it, to look at it, to photograph it, to smell it, and to lay my hand against the walls and try to absorb the decades of history that unfolded inside it. 

I hope I get to go inside the Parkstone Dwellings again one day.

Update! May 3, 2015: Article and photos published

Click over here to read an article in the Tribune-Review about Scheibler's work in Pittsburgh.

It comes with these and other great photos:


  1. The Parkstone Dwellings, like most of Frederick Scheibler's designs, is so exquisitely detailed that one could practically live there without furniture! I too, could never live in a cookie-cutter house when I have knowledge of buildings such as this.

  2. I was lucky to live in 6937 and 6939 for around a decade 1985 to 1994. Awesome and an inspiration for the dreamhouse we eventually built. Thanks for the memories.

    1. I too lived in the Parkstone Dwellings for around a decade from 1985 to 1993. In fact, I was I was Dean's housemate for much of that time. I used the house as inspiration for remodeling my Silicon Valley ranch house. As Dean said, thanks for the memories.