Southern Hospitality; Brentwood house has the long, cool lines of a mint julep
By Gretchen McKay,
Saturday, February 05, 2005
The Greek Revival style, which is characterized by low roof lines, square or rounded columns and a simple, symmetrical shape, is a common sight in Pittsburgh’s older neighborhoods. The most dominant architectural style in the United States during the mid-1800s, the style was adopted in most parts of the country.
Regional differences, however, exist. In the Northeast, for example, entry porches tend to be less than full height, and the imposing columns associated with the style are often replaced with decorative pilasters.
So the stately, stone Greek Revival that sits at 4344 Brownsville Road in Brentwood is something of a rarity here. With its full-width, two-story colonnaded porch and massive chimneys, the structure — a true Southern Colonial — would look more at home in a Gulf Coast state like Louisiana.
Its architectural style isn’t the only thing that’s a bit unusual about the house, which is currently for sale by owner for $395,000. Located just across the street from South Hills Country Club, it sits on three-quarters of an acre, a large lot in most suburban communities and “huge” by Brentwood standards. And the house itself, which has five bedrooms and 2 1/2 baths, boasts more than 4,000 square feet of living space.
“You won’t find too many houses of this style and size in the area,” says owner Mary Jane Jones.
The house was built in 1925 by distinguished local architect Louis Stevens (1880-1961) as his personal residence. Workers used 16-inch-thick stone gleaned from an old church that had been torn down in Downtown Pittsburgh. In 1949, Stevens sold the property to D. L. Feick, president of Brentwood Motor Coach. It was given Historic Landmark status in 1993 by the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation.
The double front door, which stands in the middle of the porch and features sidelights, deposits visitors directly into the living room. Like the two-story porch, this sunny space stretches the entire width of the house and offers occupants a wonderful view of the front yard through two pairs of six-over-six windows.
The 33-by-15-foot living room is actually two rooms divided by an entryway into an adjoining hall. Mirror images of each other, they boast decorative crown molding and chair rail, oak floors and twin log-burning fireplaces with polished marble surrounds. On each side are built-in bookcases with cabinets underneath. Foot-deep window sills like those found in early farmhouses add to the spacious feel, as do the soft buttercream walls.
The living room leads into a wainscoted center hall, which is also accessed by a six-panel side entry door off the driveway. Many older homes have problems with storage, but that’s not the case here; the hall, which wears tasteful maroon floral wallpaper above the chair rail, contains a coat closet under the staircase, two more closets at the other end and a small cubby for games and hats next to the stairs.
A french door opens onto the family room. At 28 feet by 18 feet, this comfy space is nearly as large as the formal living room. But it’s much more relaxed, thanks in large part to a sizable wood-burning brick fireplace with stone hearth. Because the kitchen lacks a breakfast room, one corner of the family room serves as informal eating area. But there’s still room enough for several sofas and two large armoires.
Adding to the room’s charm are four large picture windows that overlook a fenced-in side yard landscaped with rhododendrons, peonies, lilies, irises and azaleas. A door opens onto a rear deck with a small rock garden off to the side. A magnolia blooms beautifully each spring in the fenced-in back yard.
More french doors open onto a formal dining room with red-and-white striped wallpaper and exposed hardwood floors. Twin built-in china closets allow for display of heirlooms. The room also features a decorative fireplace with marble surround.
Swinging doors lead into the recently renovated kitchen. A happy marriage of old and new, this L-shaped space has white-painted beadboard walls, rustic slate floors and cherry cabinetry. The black appliances include double wall ovens, a dishwasher and an electric cooktop. There’s also a separate built-in pantry and, off a back hallway, a small powder room with beadboard walls and a first-floor laundry.
The second floor holds five bedrooms, including two with doors leading to the front veranda. The pale-yellow master bedroom suite, which measures 17 by 16 feet and overlooks Brownsville Road, is both comfortable and practical. His-and-her closets on either side of a decorative marble fireplace feature built-in dressers, and there’s a private master bath with twin sinks. There’s also a small, private porch overlooking that back yard. On a clear day, someone standing there can see the top of the U.S. Steel Building and in the summer, fireworks.
A second front bedroom, painted a deep maroon, has the same double closets with drawers and marble fireplace and also opens onto the top veranda. A third bedroom has two large closets on either side of an alcove.
The most unusual bedroom lies at the rear of the house and is accessed by a back staircase from the kitchen. Originally the maids’ quarters, this charming little room — which features lilac wallpaper and light-purple woodwork — has a wide-plank built-in closet and a tiny nook overlooking the back yard with built-ins on either side. There’s also a separate kitchen area down a narrow hall and, tucked into the roofline, a small bath.
Although the homeowners currently use the rooms for storage, they could easily be turned into guest quarters or an in-law suite, or perhaps even a home office.
Because of the home’s size and circular floor plan, it’s the perfect house for entertaining, says Jones. It’s also very private, thanks to the long row of fire bushes that line the driveway and towering maple trees out front, which help keep the property cool during the summer.
Afraid of a house that’s 80 years old? Not to worry. Along with central air, the house has a new roof and all new windows. The owners have also replaced the original wood siding with HardiPlank, a fiber-cement product that resists rotting and cracking. The porch has new wood floors and railing. There is also a two-car attached garage, as well as a two-car tandem detached garage.
(Post-Gazette staff writer Gretchen McKay can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-761-4670.)