Tuesday, October 28, 2014

a name in a haystack

We had an unexpected windfall the other day.  A local house historian has a facebook page which I follow for the local history.  She often mentions architect names, which gives me leads to research.  As I've mentioned before, 1886 is quite early for a shingle Queen Anne of this type, and it would have been quite cutting edge at the time. This, and the fact that it was built for a prominent banker almost guaranteed that it was architect designed, but there was nothing indicating who that architect might be, and all our research had turned up nothing.  A few days ago she posted a house built in New York by the Pittsburgh firm Charles Bartberger and E.G.W. Dietrich that was similar enough in style (and early enough) to make me do some research into the firm.  Included in that post was a lead for another house of theirs nearby...

This house near us in Shadyside ended up being key...

MacBeth house by E.G.W. Dietrich on Amberson in Shadyside

This house is the MacBeth House at 715 Amberson Ave, built in 1884 by E.G.W. Dietrich. Although it doesn't look strikingly similar now, check out the original drawing...

MacBeth house by E.G.W. Dietrich on Amberson in Shadyside

The devil's in the details in this case.  While the house itself doesn't resemble ours other than in type, there are too many striking similarities...




Alternating applied bullseyes on the trim...

Half-timbering/stickwork details in the gables....

Huge sunburst corbels...

Third floor Queen Anne windows...

Simple curved corbels on the porch with turned vase shaped columns on the first floor...

Cantilevered stair supported by corbels....

Fretwork on the Juliet balcony, and incised Eastlake square columns on the upper balcony (contrasting with those on the first floor), and similar decorative shingle work with the kicked out skirt on the second floor...

Stacked stained glass windows with aesthetic movement transoms in the stair tower...


The kicker is that early this spring I went to an estate sale behind this house, and was irrationally compelled to take pictures of it's backside (although it was too cold to walk around the block to see the front of the house).  Because of that ridiculous compulsion I can add detailed asymmetrical chimney to the list of similarities...


Everything seems to support Dietrich being the architect, and now that we have a name to research perhaps we'll find something more definitive.  But for now, I'm satisfied...  And even, dare I say, joyous....

5 comments:

  1. This is totally awesome! I am absolutely jumping-up-and-down elated for you because of this discovery!! All of the evidence definitely points to this architect as a likely suspect.

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    1. I'm overjoyed about it to say the least. Thankfully we discovered this now instead of after building the porch - now we have an important reason to stay true to the original design.

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    1. Hopefully we'll find out more when we make it to the History and Landmarks library. Hopefully they'll talk to us now that we have an actual name to research!

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  3. FWIW, Comstock's "Turn-of-the-Centry House Designs" features a few designs by Dietrich. Although none look similar to your magnificent home, it's a great book regardless. http://www.amazon.com/Turn-Century-House-Designs-Architecture/dp/0486281868 Thank you for saving an irreplaceable part of the past ~ best of luck restoring your home!

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