Rough around the edges but with a vivid past, this O’Hara home is seeking an owner who can restore it to its former glory. Listed by Garrett Freund, 311 Highland Terrace is a 3,600 square-foot home being sold as-is.
Read this Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article covering the history of this home.
Architect Frederick Sauer made his name designing notable Catholic churches, including St. Mary of the Mount on Mount Washington, St. Stanislaus Kostka in the Strip District and St. Nicholas Croatian in Millvale, home of the famed Maxo Vanka murals.
He also created several unique homes, most notably an eccentric cluster of houses known as the Sauer Historic District in Aspinwall. One of his creations that is less-known is a 1910-built house at 311 Highland Terrace in O’Hara. Since Mr. Sauer sold it, the house with five bedrooms, two full bathrooms and two powder rooms has remained in the same family for almost 100 years.
“My grandparents bought the house in 1920. Frederick Sauer built it for himself. He built a lot of big houses on the hill,” said Lori Olsen Blakely, an owner who has listed the property for $299,900 (MLS No. 1313711) with Garrett Freund of Piatt Sotheby’s International Realty (www.piattsothebysrealty.com or 412-471-4900). It is open by appointment.
The Olsens, who paid cash for the house, raised a large family there.
“Our mother lived in the house as a child from 1920-1940. Everyone was gone from the house by 1940,” Ms. Blakely said.
The youngest Olsen child was Betty Ann Lorish, who graduated from Carnegie Technical Institute (now Carnegie Mellon University) and the Barbizon School of Modeling. She traveled the world and lived in Istanbul and Italy before moving back to the house in 1960. After her death in 2014, the family decided to put the mansion up for sale.
The only change since its construction was the conversion of the butler’s pantry to a bathroom so Ms. Lorish could live on one level. It also has a newer furnace.
“It became her salon. She maintained everything that needed to be repaired,” said Ms. Blakely, her niece.
The home has four levels of living space, including a finished basement with a billiards room, wine cellar and powder room.
“The ceiling heights are 12-13 feet down there. The rest of the house has 12-foot ceilings,” Ms. Blakely said.
The ground floor is divided into three areas: the living room, the foyer and the dining room/kitchen. “There are no bathrooms on that level. They did not build houses like that back then.”
The spacious entry and wide hallways with curved corners are hallmarks of Mr. Sauer’s work.
“The foyer is painted white. It is the original paint from 1910. My Grandma would pay me to clean that, but I could only use Ivory soap,” Ms. Blakely said.
The entry features parquet floors, paneled walls, columns with hand-carved capitals and crown molding with corbels. Even the red stair runners date back to the 1920s. An original stained-glass window on the staircase landing fills the entry with colored sunlight at different times of the day.
The 22- by- 14-foot living room has one of several fireplace mantels; it’s carved oak with columns. The original windows have wavy, beveled glass.
“They look like paintings when you look through them,” Ms. Blakely said.
The 16- by- 15-foot dining room has a stunning carved teak fireplace mantel with a beehive design, terra cotta surround and Crusaders’ cross carved into the corbels. Even the cast-iron radiators are ornately scrolled. The paneling is solid walnut and in perfect condition.
The butler’s pantry could be restored and has its original double sink. There is a back staircase that everyone used to access the upper floors in lieu of the front staircase.
From the long landing you see see every room on the second floor. In addition to the 19- by- 15-foot master bedroom directly above the living room, there is another large bedroom, a small one and a large sitting room.
“It has three big bay windows and has sun all day long,” Ms. Blakely said. “In the winter time when it was cold you went into the upstairs sitting room.”
Coal furnaces warmed the upstairs and the oven in the kitchen helped to heat the first floor. “All of the radiators would be turned on for Sunday dinners.”
The fourth floor has four rooms, two of which were very large. They were originally used as the boys’ bedrooms.
“If I were buying this house, I would make that floor a master suite. It has all of the great views, Ms. Blakely said.
The views she is referring to are of the Allegheny River and the hills that surround it. When Route 28 was built, several acres of land was taken from the property, which originally extended all the way to Sixth Street in Aspinwall. The lot is now a little over a half-acre.
“There is a plateau at the top of the property,” Ms. Blakely recalled. “There was a huge hen house, orchards, vegetable gardens and they grew hops and made beer during Prohibition.”
The Allegheny County Assessed value is $57,000 (www2.county.allegheny.pa.us/realestate/Search.aspx). Over the past six years, six properties have sold on Highland Terrace for prices ranging from $110,000 in February 2014 to $357,500 in January 2013 (www.realstats.net).
Ms. Blakely said the family is not looking to sell the property to developers.
“It has very fancy materials, inlaid woods that knot and cross in the corners that you don’t see in other houses. Every single window is a gorgeous view.
“When we were there in the spring, it rained every day. It is so very quiet in the house. It is like being in another space and time. “
Rosa Colucci: email@example.com.