Buying Here: Schenley Farms


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Benno Janssen created more than his share of outstanding public buildings, country clubs and private homes in Western Pennsylvania.

This gifted son of German immigrants studied architecture at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. In Downtown Pittsburgh, he designed the William Penn Hotel, the Kaufmann’s (now Macy’s) department store, additions to the Duquesne Club and the Horne’s department store, and a six-story, gleaming blue-and-white jewel called the Buhl Building. In Oakland, his elegant aesthetic is visible in the Pittsburgh Athletic Association, the Twentieth Century Club and Mellon Institute. Then there’s La Tourelle, the exquisite Tudor-style home in Fox Chapel that belonged to Edgar and Liliane Kaufmann. 

In Oakland, in the Schenley Farms Historic District, Janssen designed a five-bedroom, 3 1/2- bath home made of brick and stucco that is in the English vernacular style. The house at 4411 Bayard St. (MLS No. 1005248) is listed for sale for $710,000 through Howard Hanna Realtor Jacqueline Wise (412-361-4000, ext. 229 or www.howardhanna.com).

When Ada and Howard Eavenson, a successful coal executive, lived here during the first half of the 20th century, they hung their art collection in the foyer salon-style. The couple donated more than 35 artworks to Carnegie Museum of Art. Much of it is now on view in a gallery devoted to American and European realism, said museum spokesman Jonathan Gaugler.

Schenley Farms was then one of the East End’s newest -- and swankiest -- neighborhoods.  Its streets lined with London plane trees, it was the first neighborhood in the U.S. to bury its utility lines underground or, as one resident likes to say, go wireless. Today, it is a National Register Historic District made up of more than 80 distinctive homes.

Katherine Laffey Lobdell recalls visiting the Eavensons and admiring their art. By the time she moved into the house with her parents in the summer of 1958, she was a student at Ursuline Academy in Bloomfield. Her mother used the inclinator, an early version of a stair chair, to send laundry up and down the grand staircase. 

Ms. Laffey and her first husband bought the property from her parents. Since 1990, Mrs. Lobdell and her second husband, Lewis, have held many gatherings here with their four children. But now they are ready to downsize.

Among the distinctive features on the house’s exterior are wooden window boxes with carved hearts and diamonds. They are original  and the brackets that support them are imbedded in the stucco.  The main entrance is halfway up the driveway and under a brick archway. 

Inside the front door is an 18- by- 12-foot foyer lined with walnut paneling and a picture rail. A powder room just off the foyer features elegant gold sconces by Caldwell and Co.. From the foyer, a grand staircase rises up to a landing with three large leaded-glass windows and a spacious window seat. There are nine fireplaces in the house -- three on each floor -- all with original brass inserts that reflect and conduct heat.

A massive wood and tile fireplace is in the 25- by- 16-foot living room, which also features a beamed ceiling and built-in walnut bookcases fronted with decorative stained glass. There’s room for a grand piano, too.

The 19-by-15-foot dining room also sports heavy beams, crown molding and walnut paneling. Four large arched windows with a built-in planter overlook a walled courtyard.  The Lobdells have accommodated as many as 25 people for dinner in their dining room. 

A 17-by-12-foot morning room is a more intimate space with a fireplace and a picture rail. It would be the perfect spot to eat a quiet breakfast while catching up on the news or sharing a pot of tea with a visitor. Two Dutch doors lead from the morning room and living room to a large covered porch.    

The 15- by- 12-foot kitchen has a double gas oven and movable island.  A long, narrow butler’s pantry behind the kitchen holds a long row of built-in cabinets and a large sink. Just off the kitchen is a cold pantry where produce and wine could be stored.

Upstairs, the 21- by- 17-foot master bedroom features two window seats and connects with a 13- by- 9-foot room that could be used as an office.  Down the hall is a large guest bedroom with its own fireplace, a separate dressing area with a sink plus a guest bathroom in green and white tile. 

The third floor, which was used originally by a maid and chauffeur, now holds a pool table. With slanted ceilings, these bedrooms feel like hideaways. There’s also a giant cedar closet with built-in drawers for storing linens.

The attached garage, which once held a large Oldsmobile Toronado, is covered by a massive wooden door and decorative wrought iron. The basement has been painted a soft white and holds the laundry facilities.

The property has a 2014 county assessed value of $594,400 (www2.county.allegheny.pa.us/RealEstate/Search.aspx). Over the last three years, four houses have sold on Bayard Street or Place for prices ranging from $261,000 in November 2013 to $592,000 in August 2013. Twenty units in a condominium building on Bayard Road have sold for prices ranging from $76,500 in May 2013 to $142,000 in May 2013 (www.realstats.net).

Correction (posted May 19): This story has been updated to reflect two corrections: Schenley Farms is located in Oakland, not near Oakland; and Benno Janssen designed an addition to the Horne’s store Downtown, not the entire building. Also, an erroneous reference to Schenley Heights has been removed.

Marylynne Pitz: 412-263-1648 or mpitz@post-gazette.com  

 

 


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