Although he was only 5 years old, William Cline vividly remembers the day he saw the place that would become his family's home, "The Acres."
His father had suggested the family go for a drive in the country, but it was obvious he already knew where he was heading. "We walked up the property. It was all woods and he said, 'Someday, there will be a house here.' "
In the end, the effort involved family and friends, five barns, a Downtown office building, a New Kensington schoolhouse and several colleges in the Pittsburgh area.
The result is a unique three-story home (four including the watchtower) made of stone, wood and recycled house parts at 1000 Cline Lane, Parks Township, Armstrong County. The three-bedroom country retreat on 50 acres (MLS No. 962963) is priced at $650,000 through Coldwell Banker Real Estate Services agent Joshua Schultheis (724-327-0123 or www.pittsburghmoves.com). An open house will be held today from 1 to 4 p.m.
The Acres wasn't meant to be the Cline family's main home, more of a country getaway. Dean and Evelyn Cline owned and operated two funeral homes -- one in Leechburg, the other in New Kensington -- and were living in apartments above their businesses.
"In my father's mind, it was a place to get out into the country but still close enough to a telephone in case someone passed away," Mr. Cline said. They bought the house when their children were young and it was 10 years of "occasional" work before the family moved in.
"It was stop and go depending upon on how much cash was available to go into it."
Mr. Cline's father retired in 1977 and with the help of his neighbor, an engineer named Bill Appurrel who was building his own home a few miles away, accelerated the construction schedule.
"He was just a neighbor that became their friend," Mr. Cline said. "Just a brilliant man who could fix anything, design anything. A very unusual person with a brilliant talent."
Mr. Schultheis attributed the house's unusual design to a lack of formal blueprints. "There was really no plan for it. They just started and kept going."
Built into the side of the hill, the house has three levels on one side. From the rear, only the upper level and watchtower are visible. There is no real main entrance but a variety of doors on three sides of the house. Every room offers a beautiful view of open fields and thick woods and the view from the watchtower is "awesome," Mr. Schultheis said.
Materials used to construct the house came from barns around the Allegheny Valley that were slated for demolition, Mr. Cline said. "My father bought the stone and the large beams."
And while the majority of materials used in construction were reclaimed, recycling wasn't the main intent. "Basically it was stuff that was available at the time," he said.
The open main floor has a 28-by-23-foot living room with a large wood-burning fireplace made from sandstone. To one side is the dining area (29 by 16 feet) and kitchen (18 by 13 feet). Behind it is a powder room. On the other side of the house, the 22-by-22-foot den with floor-to-ceiling bookcases would be any reader's dream.
Family friend Richard Arduiano designed the one-of-a-kind floor that covers the main level. The large panels of dark slate came from chalkboards salvaged from an old schoolhouse in nearby New Kensington and a couple of universities in the Pittsburgh area.
During what Mr. Cline refers to as the "retirement phase" of construction, his parents would travel to the Amish community of Smicksburg, Indiana County, to find skilled craftsmen. They did the majority of the fine woodwork in the house.
Two sets of staircases lead to the second floor with its beautiful oak floors. Off the 26-by-22-foot second-floor family room is a gallery with access to the large front porch on one side and two bedrooms.
"There's a one-bedroom loft on the third floor and each of the bedrooms on the second floor have their own lofts," Mr. Cline said. "You can sleep six to 10 people comfortably."
The main bathroom is toward the rear of the second floor and features wooden walls, floors and ceiling.
The family calls the watchtower the fourth floor.
"You can see the neighboring farms [from here]," Mr. Cline said. "On a clear, quiet night, you can hear the trains from Hyde Park [Westmoreland County] all the way up this valley."
Summers at The Acres meant work for the Cline boys. Mr. Cline's brother Derek, who died four years ago, did most of the masonry work. Two courses of stone were laid every day for the watch tower. "My job being the younger brother was kind of like a gopher."
Derek Cline would figure what size stone he needed and send his brother to search through the piles to find just the right stone. A crane lifted it into place.
Large picture windows came from the old PPG building Downtown.
Not everything is reclaimed at The Acres. The shingle roof is five years old and the water heater was replaced seven years ago.
There are two furnaces; downstairs is baseboard heat and upstairs is forced-air. There is a gas line to the house that currently isn't in use. The septic system is cleaned out once a year. There are two wells.
"When I, my wife and my eight children moved in with my mother after my father died, we had to drill another well," Mr. Cline explained.
The property has an assessment of $54,950. Mineral, gas and oil rights are available separately.
Mr. Cline said the house's blueprints were all in Mr. Appurrel's head. When it was finished he'd ask himself: "Why in the world did we build this thing so big?"
Lizabeth Gray: firstname.lastname@example.org. First Published August 3, 2013 4:00 AM