A bargain to begin with: East Liberty's Alpha Terrace has Queen Annes, Romanesque Revivals in a row
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Most urban townhouse developments are built in a single architectural style, often Georgian, Colonial or Italianate. Conformity, rather than individuality, is the guiding architectural philosophy.Lake Fong, Post-Gazette
The three-story row house at 733 N. Beatty St. is partially renovated.
Click photo for larger image.
Alpha Terrace, a collection of 25 century-old row houses in East Liberty, was different from the start. Constructed between 1880 and 1899 as rental properties for middle-income Pittsburghers, these attached row houses mix two architectural styles more commonly found in mansions and standalone houses -- fanciful Queen Annes on one side of North Beatty Street and castle-like Romanesque Revivals, complete with shared turrets and covered front porches, on the other.
As Walter Kidney notes in "Landmark Architecture: Pittsburgh and Allegheny County," the architectural ambitiousness of this cozy neighborhood-within-a-neighborhood might require a "willing suspension of disbelief." But in the end, he concedes, this marriage of the disparate creates a relaxed and "slightly melancholy charm that overrides rational objections."
"It's absurd, but endearingly absurd," Kidney said in an interview. "There's a kind of superficial fantasy."
Owning a piece of that fantasy doesn't have to cost a lot, if two houses now on the market are any indication. The first, a tastefully restored Queen Anne at 732 N. Beatty, is listed by Coldwell Banker Real Estate at $159,900 and features four original fireplaces and original stained-glass windows. The second, a three-story Tudor-style house at 733 N. Beatty being offered by Carlson & McGinley Real Estate Services, is partially renovated and carries a price tag of $157,900.
Alpha Terrace was once enclosed at both ends by a low wall with a gate, creating a private green between Stanton Avenue and Hays Way. Just a stone's throw from Peabody High School, it sits on 20 acres that were part of a plantation called Rumbiddle. Owner Caspard Taul had an agreement with British troops at Fort Pitt to farm the land in exchange for a portion of its crops.
The rows were individual rental units until the 1950s, and U.S. Steel for a time rented the houses as temporary quarters for its executives. In 1985, the district was added to the National Register of Historic Places, and in 1996, it was designated a City Historic District.Lake Fong, Post-Gazette
The historic three-bedroom row house at 732 N. Beatty St. is full of tranquil color schemes.
Click photo for larger image.
The three-bedroom house at 732 N. Beatty is a shining example of what's possible with hard work and imagination. Every room is a visual delight, thanks to owner David Maytan's tranquil color schemes and architectural details like original "marbleized" slate fireplaces, working pocket doors and ceilings that stretch anywhere from 12 to 14 feet.
But there's also must-have modern conveniences, including central air conditioning, a first-floor laundry and all-new wiring, says Maytan, who purchased the unit six years ago, when it was partially renovated.
The front door opens onto an enclosed foyer with milk chocolate-colored walls and a Mission-style stained-glass chandelier. A large transom heightens the profile of the entry and invites the sun's sparkle into the space. The narrow main hall, in contrast, wears pale-gold sponged walls and bright-white painted woodwork.
The formal living room lies immediately to the left through a set of pocket doors and features an entire wall of floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the street. Wooden blinds and heavy woven drapes help keep prying eyes at bay, while a large stained-glass window in shades of pink and green adds an air of elegance. Completing the look are tan walls painted to look like leather and a ventless fireplace with an original granite and slate mantel with pale-green ceramic tile hearth.
The formal dining room, painted a deep shade of red, has a built-in bookcase for collectibles or china and a beadboard floor around the perimeter. White picture molding hung two feet below the ceiling adds a nice contrast.
The small but well-appointed mint-green kitchen has a ceramic tile floor, bright white cabinets, an exposed brick wall and a breakfast bar with black counters. A small laundry room off the back has hardwood floors and a large utility sink; there's also a full bath with shower and, at the rear of the house, a small, fenced-in patio lined with hosta and thick bunches of begonias.
The second floor holds three bedrooms and another full bath. The master bedroom faces the street and has tan walls and a white-painted wooden cornice over the window. A small windowed alcove is just large enough for a dresser and armoire, computer or a love seat and entertainment unit.
A second bedroom is currently used as a dressing room, and features a decorative slate fireplace painted to look like marble. A third bedroom serves as an office and includes a built-in wraparound desk and pocket doors leading to a small television room/guest room with paneled walls. There's also a linen closet at one end of the hall and a bath with an original marble sink top at the other.
The Romanesque Revival row house at 733 N. Beatty, in contrast, is still very much a work in progress. But with three full floors of living space, it's slightly larger than the house across the street and a bit cheaper. And since it's been divided into two apartments, the owner could live in one unit and rent out the other. It also includes one very cool space -- a shared turret -- and the Alpha Terrace cornerstone with the date 1885 carved in it.
The first floor, set up as a two-bedroom apartment, is the smaller of the two units. The living room faces the street and boasts a decorative marble fireplace and an exposed brick wall. A large window with leaded-glass transoms overlooks the covered front porch. Paneled pocket doors lead into a newer kitchen with a breakfast bar.
A narrow hall leads to a full bath and a tiny rear bedroom with a door to a small porch overlooking the back yard. A shared garage offers off-street parking space.
The second and third floors constitute the second two-bedroom unit. Larger and more open than the downstairs unit, it's also sunnier, with lots of windows and high ceilings. The living room is brightened by track lighting and has a gas fireplace with brick hearth and a painted brick wall. There's also a small alcove adorned with spindle-like fretwork that is just large enough for a writing desk. It adjoins the kitchen, which sits on a small platform and has white cabinets, a Jenn-Air gas cooktop with a built-in grill and black rubber tile floors and countertops. Farther down the hall is a small bath and bedroom.
The third floor, accessed by an open staircase, contains a second bedroom with painted gray wood floors, exposed brick walls and another half-turret room. Three small windows topped by transoms add natural light. The extra-large bath has a walk-in shower topped with glass block and a separate water closet; there's also twin sinks and a huge closet area with tile floors.
One of the best features of this up-and-coming neighborhood, says Maytan, is that it's still possible to buy a home that's waiting for someone to inject his or her own personal flavor into it.
"You can take something that's been forgotten and bring it back to its original luster," he says.
First Published July 30, 2005 12:00 am