The Houses of Highland Park

Most Highland Park residents know that the neighborhood is designated a Residential Historic District by the National Register of Historic Places – after all, it says so right on the “Welcome to Highland Park” sign at the intersection of Stanton and Highland Ave.

What many people may not know is what the designation means and that it was awarded following a decade of work kicked off by the Highland Park Community Development Corp., including the development of a comprehensive application by Highland Park resident and architect, the late Mike Eversmeyer. Mike was an architect who worked in both government as the city’s historic preservation planner, as well as later in private practice. He loved Pittsburgh and served on the board of Preservation Pittsburgh as well as on the city’s Historical Review Commission. Thanks to Mike’s hard work, not only was Highland Park awarded this distinction in 2007, but we now have access to a detailed history of the neighborhood and its architecture. This post is the first in a series that we hope to share that draws from the application.

But first, some background. The National Register of Historic Places is a list of buildings and districts that are significant for historic and architectural reasons. In attaining this recognition by the US Department of the Interior in 2007, Highland Park stood out as a “virtually intact record of a turn-of-the-20th century residential neighborhood”.

Listing in the National Register brings with it few restrictions and a number of advantages. Private homeowners are free to renovate and build as they wish, though ideally are influenced by the character of the street they are part of to reflect that in the choices they make. Commercial properties, on the other hand, are able to reap the financial benefit of Historic Tax Credits if their project meets reasonable guidelines. And any project that uses state or federal funding is subject to review for adverse historic impacts, a protection that has proven to be especially important with new work in the park.

In the 1990’s, the HPCDC launched the effort to nominate the neighborhood for the listing. Doing so was in line with the HPCDC’s goals, which include increasing the neighborhood’s livability and rejuvenating its commercial district. The HPCDC believed that listing Highland Park on the Historic Register would help highlight that the historic character of the neighborhood made it a great place to live and invest in.

In this blog post, we’ll pull from the application to offer an overview of buildings in the neighborhood with some insight into the most common architectural styles. If you haven’t heard of some of the styles that are common in our neighborhood, you’ll start to recognize them once you see the photos below.

An example of a Colonial Revival style house

According to the application, there are 1,967 buildings in Highland Park, 93% of which are residential, 1% are commercial and less than 1% (five total) are institutional (schools and churches). The remaining “secondary” structures are buildings like garages. Thirteen percent of the buildings – 260 – were built before 1900, 78% were built between 1900 and 1930 and 9% were built after 1930. Only two buildings are taller than four stories – the tower of St. Andrew’s and the Highland House Tower.

The most popular style of house in the neighborhood, built between 1890 and 1930, is the Colonial Revival, which represents 53% of houses in the neighborhood.

The Tudor Revival, built during the same period, is the second most common style, accounting for 12% of the houses in Highland Park.

A Tudor Revival

The third most popular style of house, the Queen Anne, accounts for about 9% of houses in the neighborhood. The one below is just gorgeous!

A Queen Anne style house

The Queen Anne homes are older and along with the Italianate, French Second Empire and Richardsonian Romanesque style houses were built in the 1860s through the 1890s. This one below is an example of the Richardsonian Romanesque style, with only about 1% of homes in the neighborhood built in this style.

An example of a Richardsonian Romanesque style house

Highland Park also apparently has a few buildings designed by Frederick Scheibler, described in the application as “the early 20th century progressive Pittsburgh architect.” These were built later, in the 1920s, and include the one pictured below. We stumbled on a blog created by a local fan of Scheibler and it includes photos of other buildings he designed as well as interior shots of the house pictured below.

A Scheibler house in the neighborhood.

We hope to write additional blog posts drawing on other history included in the application for the Historic Register.

This blog post was written by Nancy Gohring, HPCC newsletter editor, and David Hance, president of the HPCDC