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Winter Homes designated Carrick's first official historic district

 

October 31, 2017

Alois and Barbara Winter

On October 11, 2017, the Historical Review Commission of the City of Pittsburgh recommended and City Council approved the designation of the Winter Homes at 2316 and 2314 Brownsville Road as a historic district.

The history of Carrick's first officially designated Historic District remembers Carrick's rich past at the turn of the 20th century. Two prominent figures in the history, Barbara and Alois Winter, were millionaires. In 1909 they decided to move from South Side and build two houses in Carrick.

Although Alois Winter is one of the forgotten millionaires of Pittsburgh, his legacy lives on in the homes he built in Carrick and South Side.

In the late 1800s, Alois Winter was best known as one of the owners of the family Winter Brewing Company located at Josephine and S. 21st streets on the South Side of Pittsburgh. Their humorous but catchy slogan was "at every meal drink Winter."

In 1899 he and his brothers sold the brewery to Pittsburgh Brewing Company for the sum of $4.5 million, equivalent $127 million in today's dollars. The brothers were instant millionaires and Carrick Borough was the choice to live for the wealthy South Side businessmen to live among their peers.

Even in 1904, the Pittsburgh Leader called Carrick "the East End of the South Hills." So one moved to Carrick, while the other two moved to Orange, New Jersey to start the Orange Brewery.

The early history of his duplex houses at 2314 and 2316 Brownsville Road begins in 1839 when Dorcus Turner purchased the five acres from William and Olivia Wightman for the sum of $500. In 1862, apparently Ms. (or Mr.) 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 and Mr. Lutz becomes the son-in-law to the wealthy businessman and factory owner John M. Phillips. Mr. Lutz also owned most of the land on the northern side of 2300 block of Brownsville Road to Becks Run Road.

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 built. He sold the land to the Winters in 1910 for $3,500. The Winter Houses were built in 1910.

Although in today's dollars this is not considered expensive, in 1910 this was an enormous sum of money worth $91,000 in 2017 dollars, just for the lot.

On the lot, the Winters built two almost identical houses side by side, which mirror each other, in the new Borough of Carrick. 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.

In 1914 the daughter of the Winter family, Mary, and her husband Louis Sahner purchased from the Winters 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.

Both houses were sold in 1921: 2314 Brownsville Road for $11,500 and 2316 Brownsville Road for $11,800 ($157,000 and $161,000, respectively, 2017 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 many homes in Carrick beginning in the 1920s. At least one house on Hornaday Road copied the stucco construction.

In 1910 the houses at 2314 and 2316 Brownsville Road were built using Craftsman style as was the fad at the time. Both homes have been kept remarkably the same as constructed in 1910. This is known as "sister homes." They were built to face each other beginning with the front steps forming 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, seen with houses built between Parkfield Street and Overbrook Boulevard.

The houses are not totally identical on the exterior but share 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 terracotta tile over 100 years old, original stucco on top of three courses of terracotta bricks and concrete window sills.

The basement walls are 12" thick 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.

Alois and Barbara Winters are interred in Carrick at St. John Vianney Cemetery in the family mausoleum there but actually were St. Basil parishioners. They also were very generous to the Passionist Convent helping to fund the Passionist Nuns Our Lady of Sorrows church and monastery.

More can be found at the Carrick-Overbrook Historical website. http://wiki.carrick-overbrook.org/Alois_Winter

Contributed by John J. Rudiak of the Carrick-Overbrook Historical Society

 

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