Louis Kahn’s Earliest Residential Commission Goes Up for Sale

photo of oser house

Well, this is exciting. Right on the heels of Richard Neutra’s Pitcairn House hitting the market comes this listing for a home designed by Neutra contemporary Louis Kahn.

The Elkins Park residence — built from Wissahickon schist and red cedar — was designed in 1940 for Jesse and Ruth Oser and is the architect’s earliest residence. This was a personal project: Kahn and Jesse Oser went to Central High together and remained friends. The house sits on the former estate of hat baron J.B. Stetson, so it already had some features that Kahn had to work around; “he had little choice,” reads The Houses of Louis Kahn, “but to situate the house above, on a north-facing slope.”

This restriction became an opportunity, with elevated living areas and southwest exposure, and is one reason the home is so appealing today.

The home served to significantly raise Kahn’s reputation — these were early days for him, remember — when it was featured in the Inquirer, Architectural Forum, and House and Garden. The fireplace, surrounded by Mercer tile, was an especial standout in the press, as it was the anchor of what Kahn called the conversation nook — a kind of dedicated family gathering spot that would be replicated in later residential projects.

Now, along with original Kahn-designed elements like the dining-room sideboard, a desk and bookcases, the home has been modernized with central air, an in-ground pool and a two-car garage. The listing, employing no hyperbole, reads: “This is a very rare opportunity to purchase a home of this architectural importance.”

The asking price is $440,000.


• Listing: Oser House, Modern Homes Philadelphia