History of the Alois Winter Houses, Craftsman Style Sister Houses
AKA 2314 and 2316 Brownsville Road, Pittsburgh, PA 15210
The early history of duplex houses at 2314 and 2316 Brownsville Road begins in 1839. Dorcus Turner purchased the land (5 acres) from William and Olivia Wightman for the sum of $500. In 1862 apparently Mr. (or Ms.) Turner subdivided the land and it was bought by John Reul for $200. Twenty-one years later the land was purchased in 1883 for $850 by Henry Fricke and in 1895 the land’s value increased to $1,500 when purchased by Charles Eidemiller. In 1900, Robert Lutz purchases what were to become two lots for $2,650 Mr. Lutz becomes the son-in-law to the wealthy businessman and factory owner John M. Phillips and owned most of the land on the northern side of 2300 block of Brownsville Road to Becks Run Road. At the current time, a street is named in his honor called Lutz Avenue in Carrick.
Mr. Lutz had little need for the small landlocked plot of ground which bordered his father-in-law’s land, where a Victorian mansion called Impton was now built. He sold the land to a very wealthy millionaire named Alois Winter and his wife Barbara in 1910 for $3,500. Carrick had become its own borough in 1904 and Brownsville Road may have been widened in accordance with John M. Phillips’ wishes and specifications at this time in this vicinity. Both of which may have contributed to the increased price and viability of living in the borough. A Pittsburgh Leader article in 1904 described the new Carrick Borough as one of the largest in Pittsburgh now and inhabited by “wealthy South Side businessmen.”
Alois Winter was best known as one of the former owners of the family Winter Brewing Company located at Josephine Street and S. 21st Street on the South Side of Pittsburgh. He and his brothers had owned and then sold in 1899 the brewery to Pittsburgh Brewing Company for the sum of $4.5 million dollars. (In 2014 dollars that would be equivalent to $92.1 million dollars ) They were instant millionaires and Carrick Borough was the choice to live. The borough was indeed the location for wealthy South Side businessmen to live among their peers.
A 1905 Hopkins Map illustrates there were no homes built on the property. The Winter Houses were built in 1910 when the millionaire and Winter Brewery owner purchased the property for $3,500. Although in today’s dollars this is not considered expensive, in 1910 this was an enormous sum of money. Using the conversion CPI document cited above this was $79,545 in 2014 dollars, just for a lot. With typical building trades worker being paid .52 cents per hour, or $574 a year. On the lot, Alois and Barbara Winter built two almost identical houses side by side, which mirror each other, in the Borough of Carrick now, the city of Pittsburgh, PA. The property fronted what was known as Brownsville Road. The fact that they were mostly identical may have been the result of the frugality of the Winter family to save their architectural money even though they were millionaires. Their previous address was on the South Side was a huge 3 story brick structure at 2227 Jane Street while the other siblings lived in identical houses at 2225 and 2226 Jane Street. All identical 3 story brick homes can still be identified today, except for one, which has been covered with stucco in a modernistic tone.
In 1914 the daughter of the Winter family, Mary, and her husband Louis Sahner purchased from Alois and Barbara Winter the house at 2316 Brownsville Road for the sum of $1. The house was meant to be their daughter’s from the beginning and kept within the family.
The Sale of the Homes
In 1921 both houses were sold, 2314 for $11,500 and 2316 for $11,800 ($140,243 and $143,902, respectively, in 2014 dollars). The Winter families moved to the Phillips Plan of Lots on Hornaday Road. Remarkably their homes constructed Hornaday Road maintained the same wood ceiling vaulting, stained glass window designs in alcoves, and Craftsman style woodwork. The stucco construction was maintained on one of the homes, while Alois and Barbara built with brick as were most homes in Carrick beginning in the 1920s. At least one house on Hornaday Road copied the stucco construction.
1910 Craftsman Style Construction
In 1910 the houses at 2314 and 2316 Brownsville Road were built using Craftsman style as was the fad at the time. But it is important to review what those elements are which is important on the exterior as well as the interior. Both homes have been kept remarkably the same as built in 1910.
What is a Craftsman home? Using this checklist, almost every one of these items is present in both homes:
Craftsman Exterior Checklist
dormer windows and multiple roof planes
generously overhanging eves exposed rafters and beams
extended rafter ends, sometimes decoratively shaped (e.g., oriental flares)
decorative braces and stickwork under the gables
decorative attic vents in front facing gables
wood or stone siding such as horizontal wood slats, wood shingles, cut stone cladding
generous full or partial width front porches
porch support columns often extending to ground level (no break at the porch floor)
tapered porch columns supported by low pedestals made of stone, brick, wood or stucco
sloping foundation walls and porch supports
stone [or brick] exterior chimneys
wide exterior window and door casing
windows with multi-paned top sashes and single-paned bottom sashes
stained glass in exterior windows and doors
Craftsman Interior Checklist
natural materials: wood, stone, brick, glass, tile
exposed rafters, joists and beams
handmade decorative objects
functional, aesthetic furnishings and decoration (i.e., an overall functional beauty in the space itself and the objects in it)
wide door and window casing
natural finishes on wood trim: casing, baseboard, and another molding
built-in woodwork: cabinets, bookcases, shelving, storage, window seats, benches
other natural or rustic woodwork: box-beam ceilings, hardwood floors, wall paneling, wainscot
fireplaces, sometimes with an inglenook, centrally located as a focal point for socializing or relaxing
numerous windows for natural light
Arts and Crafts stained glass in windows, doors, sidelights and cabinet doors
earthy colors and harmonious wood tones (warm, cozy, welcoming)
They were built to face each other by the front stairs from a common walkway from Brownsville Road. Set back from the street by 35 feet, it was common to the grand homes being built along Brownsville Road to have a grand lawn, something not available on the gritty and congested South Side.
The houses were not totally identical on the exterior but shared common construction characteristics. The differences reflect the wishes of both families to have their own identities just how builders customize homes today. Observing the houses from the street one can see the same high-quality Spanish style terra cotta tile, which is over 100 years old, original stucco on top of three courses of terra cotta bricks and concrete window sills. According to construction workers installing the new electrical panel, the basement walls are a foot thick poured concrete as well. Both front porches face the street in a Romeo and Juliet style type portico porch and the stairways to the porches face each house through a common walkway, although the house at 2316 has the porch enclosed as it once houses a beauty shop.
The stucco finishes, and wood, reflect the new construction of homes in Carrick before 1910, after 1910, and beginning in the 1920s homes were built of brick From experience with home histories, one can see mostly wooden homes before 1900. The City of Pittsburgh Historic Structure The Wigman House on Brownsville Road, extensive elaborate Victorian wood house, and John M. Phillips’ Impton, a Victorian house built elaborately with stucco in 1896 and 1874 respectively. Beginning approximately 1900, new construction as the Winter Houses and Readshaw Funeral home to name two were built between 1895 and 1920 and were stucco on the terracotta brick. Most houses in Carrick built after 1920 were built with brick. Very few homes exist to this day in Carrick constructed with stucco. These are two of the four we know of the others being Readshaw Funeral home and a small Craftsman bungalow built on Lutz Avenue Interestingly there are two homes built on Hornaday Road in Carrick by the children of the Winter family.
Front porches of houses have the exact location of the old coal window below the porch into the cellar. Each has an alcove with 10 windows with stained glass windows above each window. The main entrance door to each house has stained glass surrounding the doorway adding to the ambiance and identicalness of the houses.
As stated Alois and Barbara Winter had affection for stained glass windows and they incorporated that into their homes. They even donated two of the stained glass windows in the Passionist Nuns chapel at Spencer and Churchview Avenues. Their dining rooms of both houses have stained glass windows are represented with fruit and flowers. In the living rooms, dining rooms, and bedrooms the fireplaces are prominent. The woodwork in both homes is identical as is the entire layout of the rooms on the first and second floors. Both homes have stairways have the locations at the same and all are light and dark wood. And both have Coffered Vaulted Tray ceilings in the living rooms as well.
In closing, the Carrick-Overbrook Historical Society located a newspaper article, date unknown, which makes reference to a 1981 Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation (PHLF) study in 1981. This study noted that The Boulevard and 31 structures in Carrick of potential Pittsburgh landmarks. The study included 2314 and 2316 Brownsville Road, built approximately 1910 and a Craftsman style private residence and placed these structures on the Pittsburgh Register of Historic Places – Carrick.
Both houses have gone through several owners since the selling of the homes by the Winter Families. However, surprisingly, the integrity of the exteriors and even the most of the interiors are mostly unaffected by time of over 100 years.
The Winter Family was very generous as can be seen in the donated church windows.