On the Market: Restored Midcentury Modern in North Hills
This late addition to the region's midcentury modern pantheon looks better than new thanks to a total makeover.
Greater Philadelphia boasts an impressive collection of midcentury modernist houses designed by some of the best architects working in the field at the time. Louis Kahn and his disciples, Richard Neutra, Jules Gregory, Frank Weise, Ehrman Mitchell, Arthur Tofani and a host of others have left us a legacy of strikingly handsome houses, many in wooded settings, that took inspiration from and opened themselves up to their sylvan surroundings.
So rich is this legacy that the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia has an entire site devoted to documenting the region’s midcentury modern buildings, domestic, public and commercial. The project aims to eventually document and identify structures throughout the region and determine which ones need to be targeted for preservation.
Here’s one more midcentury structure for the Preservation Alliance to document and one less for it to worry about, for this 1963 residence in North Hills got a top-to-bottom restoration a few years ago. Designed by Thomas Morgan, a disciple of Marcel Breuer, this house is being offered for sale for the first time since its restoration.
The listing agent describes this house for sale as “among the best examples of the ‘glass box’ in midcentury American architecture.” It strikes me as a little more boxy and a little less glassy than houses that usually get that moniker, but there’s no denying that large expanses of glass help define its character.
And like most real glass boxes, this semi-glass box uses its huge windows to bring the outside in. That’s true both for the warm and cozy family room and library off the first-floor entrance and for the bright and open upstairs living/dining room.
Both of these spaces have full-height fieldstone fireplaces that serve as focal points.
One place where you might not expect to find glass boxes in abundance is the kitchen. This one has plenty: all of its upper cabinets have backlit frosted-glass fronts. It also has Carrara marble countertops and high-end European appliances.
You might not expect to find lots of glass in the bedrooms, either, out of privacy concerns. This house’s siting on a hillside, however, makes that possible. Two of its three bedrooms, including the master bedroom pictured above, have large sliding glass doors.
Those doors open out onto a crushed-stone patio with this for a backdrop:
A dramatic waterfall flowing over a large panel of Cor-Ten steel into a pool with a pebble bed. Talk about a relaxing way to both go to sleep at night and get up in the morning.
Glass also figures into the design of the master bathroom, which is lined in glass tile and has a clear glass vanity. You’ll also find glass in the second-floor hall bathroom (above), which has a curved tile wall, a round skylight and a glass-framed steam shower.
It’s also conveniently located to both road and rail transit: North Hills Regional Rail station is a short walk down Station Avenue from here, and it’s also a short drive to the Paper Mill Road interchange on the Fort Washington Expressway.
This very photogenic house for sale has been featured in several publications, according to the listing agent. And the owners received a Homeowner Award of Recognition from the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia in 2011 for their restoration of this modernist beauty. This was one of our “Must-See Open Houses” the weekend before Christmas, but you shouldn’t wait for the next open house to go see it.
THE FINE PRINT
BATHS: 2 full, 1 half
SQUARE FEET: 2,351
SALE PRICE: $765,000
OTHER STUFF: This house’s sale price was reduced by $30,000 on Dec. 12th.
520 Station Ave., Glenside, Pa. 19038 [Craig Wakefield | Compass]
Updated Jan. 8, 2020, at 6:45 p.m. to correct the information about the Preservation Alliance award. The owners received their award from the alliance in connection with a program called the Old House Fair, which the Preservation Alliance sponsored in the late 2000s; the organization discontinued the fair and the homeowner awards in 2011, making these owners among the last recipients of this award. We regret the error.