UNIONTOWN -- When Richard Neutra began sketching plans for a Fayette County house in 1959, he had already built an international reputation as an innovative designer of distinctively modern homes.
Neutra skyrocketed to fame in 1929 with the completion of Lovell Health House, which hovers over a steep Los Angeles ravine. It's the first American home built with a steel frame. More recently, some thrilling scenes for the 1997 movie "L.A. Confidential" were shot there. In 1946, department store owner Edgar Kaufmann commissioned him to design a West Coast home in Palm Springs, Calif., which has been lovingly restored.
While not nearly as dramatic as his California architecture, the simple, well-organized house Neutra created for Trudi and Daniel Pariser in Uniontown evokes the sleek efficiency of the "Mad Men" era. There are banks of floor-to-ceiling windows, an open floor plan and a 15-by-22-foot eat-in kitchen with built-in bookcases. At any moment, you expect Don Draper to waltz in from the screened porch, dash to the dining room's built-in bar and pour himself a stiff drink.
Finished in 1960, the redwood-and-stone house at 27 Judith St., in a neighborhood called Craig Meadows, is within Uniontown's city limits. The only example of domestic architecture Neutra designed in Western Pennsylvania, it's for sale for $217,500.
"There is a very small market for modernist architecture," said Tracy Myers, curator at Carnegie Museum's Heinz Architectural Center, which has Neutra's colorful drawings of the home that Mrs. Pariser donated in 2007.
Set on a pentagonal lot that's more than one-third of an acre, the three-bedroom, 2 1/2-bath house once had a large meadow behind it that stretched for at least half an acre. Ed Pariser is the youngest of three children who grew up in the house. Now an imaging scientist who lives in Oak Park, Ill., he remembers playing baseball there and shooting hoops on a dirt basketball court. His older sister, Susan Roberts, an executive librarian who lives in Mansfield, Ohio, was married in the backyard in 1982.
Some neighbors called the area "Parisers' Forest," Ed Pariser recalled.
"There used to be osage orange trees and creeks and forests all around there. You could experience nature in a very direct way," said his older brother, Harry, who lives in San Francisco and writes travel guides.
As a boy, Harry Pariser wrote a letter to a local newspaper and suggested that the land become a park. Instead, 52 years passed and suburban housing has encroached on either side of the property.
Daniel Pariser, who played the Knabe piano that remains in the living room, was a lawyer who ran his family's wholesale business, Tri-State Drug Co. He married his wife, Trudi, whose family lived in Brownsville, in 1954. He died in 1965 when his eldest son was 11, his daughter was 6 and Ed Pariser was 2. A busy artist, Mrs. Pariser continued to live in the house until about 18 months before her death on May 8.
The home's front door faces Judith Street. Beside it is a pane of 8-foot-tall glass that is custom-fitted to the limestone so that the two building elements blend seamlessly. Inside the front entrance is a foyer with a polished terrazzo floor. But this door was rarely used.
"If somebody rang this bell, we knew they didn't know us. Everyone entered through the outdoor porch off the eat-in kitchen," Ed Pariser said.
His mother cherished the privacy the home afforded her and refused to remove any trees that were close to it. While offering shade, the trees often dropped wet leaves and pine needles, which made it difficult for the flat roof to ever dry out completely. That contributed to a moisture problem, said Ed Pariser, adding that 20 trees were recently removed from the property.
Off the foyer and to the right is a hallway with two skylights and a built-in picture rail that leads to living quarters. The children's bathroom has a green and cream Formica counter with a yellow basin. Blue, ivory and green tile lines the bathtub and shower.
Next is Mrs. Roberts' 15-by-12-foot bedroom, which has five windows that face the street and a 9-by-3-foot closet. The closet doors in both children's bedrooms were covered by chalkboards; today, parents use special paint to turn closet doors into chalkboards or white boards.
The 21-by-13-foot master bedroom faces northeast and still has a view of the Chestnut Ridge, although it's rather obstructed by homes that were built later. Some of the closet doors here are made of gorgeous Japanese ash. The master bath has a skylight, a yellow tiled sit-down shower and a green commode.
To the left of the foyer is a 13-by-11-foot den with a stone wood-burning fireplace and an area beneath it to store logs. There's a built-in cabinet that opens up into a desk, too. This was the Parisers' television room, and off it is a powder room that once served as Ed Pariser's darkroom.
The flow of the public spaces begins on a screened porch that Mrs. Pariser and her children used often. Modern central air conditioning was installed in 1982. The porch leads to a well-organized kitchen with Formica counters. A pass-through from the kitchen counter connects to a built-in dining room buffet that recedes into the wall.
Off a semi-circular driveway that faces Union Street is an attached two-car garage. There's an unfinished cinder block basement, too.
Starting in 1958 and continuing through 1962, Neutra kept up a correspondence with his clients that Ed Pariser organized in a thick binder. A tone of old-fashioned graciousness permeates many of the letters, but like any member of his profession, Neutra was detail-oriented and wanted to be certain that his vision was realized.
Two years after the Parisers moved in, Neutra wondered if his clients had followed his landscaping advice. In a letter dated March 3, 1962, he wrote, "Have you planted the tall growing trees I recommended to camouflage the power pole?"
The MultiList number for the house at 27 Judith St., Uniontown, is 12-176. The home is open by appointment. Call Realtor Ron Lovelace, of RE/MAX Professionals, at 724-366-7428 or visit www.ronlovelace.net.homes
Marylynne Pitz: email@example.com or 412-263-1648. First Published July 21, 2012 4:00 AM