When they bought their Squirrel Hill home 20 years ago, Philip and Amy Elias spared no expense in restoring its original elegance and Gilded Age craftmanship. Yet they still wanted it to be functional for their modern family.
The mansion at 1160 Beechwood Blvd., built in 1920 by Marguerite Finley, the widow of a banker and steel company president, recently hit the market for $4.9 million, listed by Coldwell Banker agents Susie Silversmith and Laura Waxter.
It’s the most expensive listing in Pittsburgh’s East End.
“The owners worked closely with a professional team to design every inch of the home and employed master craftsmen to select high-end luxury materials and furnishings,” says Waxter. “Their vision was to capture the attitude of ‘l ’esprit moderne’ that pervaded the designs of the 1920s and 1930s.”
The property includes 1.2 acres of land and a six bedrooms, six full bathrooms and one partial bathroom, and five fireplaces in 13,837 square feet of living space. The Classic Revival-style home has a symmetrical main block and one-story rounded side extensions, a Palladian window centered on the second floor, arched window openings and a Classical surround entry with columns and large sidelights.
Sometime in the 1940s, the home fell into disarray and foreclosure, says Silversmith. Its windows were broken, and weeds filled the yard. Subsequent owners fixed up the home, preserving some of its irreplaceable fixtures and frescos, its structural integrity, and original charm. Designers Alex Kahn and Garth Massengill curated much of the interior design in the 1980s and 1990s. Yet, even when the Eliases bought it in 2001, it needed a lot of work, says Silversmith.
The Eliases spent four years restoring the home from the ground up using custom materials. They added a 3,000-square-foot wing and matched the exterior with brick imported from Tennessee. The addition has two bedrooms with en suite bathrooms, a guest living area, a bathroom by the pool and two changing rooms, a grilling kitchen with a pass-through bar area and a four-car garage.
“You feel like you’re on vacation when you’re in the back,” says Silversmith. “It’s beautiful. The back of the house is totally private. You can’t tell there’s another house anywhere near you.”
At the home’s entrance, a pair of iron doors flanked by stained glass windows with red jewels open to a foyer and reception area with a grand staircase. The first floor also has a formal living area, breakfast and dining rooms, a library, conservatory, bar, elevator lobby, main and serving kitchens, a powder room, and access to the 54-by-24-foot in-ground pool with glass tile and an automatic cover.
The main kitchen has black granite covering the walls, countertops and floors. The serving kitchen was designed as a staging area with storage for glassware, china and other dining necessities. The appliances are high-end — Wolfe, Asko, Bosch, and Franke — and include Sub-Zero refrigerators and freezers. Floors on the main level are Portuguese limestone with different patterns to create a flow from room to room.
All the home’s mechanics were renovated as well, says Silversmith, including six HVAC systems and three water heaters.
“Rarely can you find a house in this kind of condition,” she says. “It’s a building — not your normal house. The design and function work so well together.”
The second-floor bedrooms include a primary bedroom suite with two dressing areas and an oversized en suite bathroom. The main level has a media room with a projector and screen and a built-in audio system. The home has high-speed internet access, a security camera system with exterior video surveillance, and a fire system. Twenty-four intercoms enable communication throughout the house. The third level is unfinished.
The Eliases have decided to sell because their three children are grown and they’re starting a new phase in life, says Silversmith. Philip Elias is president and CEO of VELOCITY World Media and Elias/Savion Advertising.
“They’ve enjoyed it so much, they felt like it should go to somebody else who would really enjoy it as they did,” she says. “They had family gatherings. The pool was the center in the summer. The kids brought friends home from school. They’re very warm and gracious people, and kids always felt welcome there.”
The home’s history and architecture have attracted potential buyers already, says Silversmith, though she acknowledges it may not be a quick sale.
“It’s like any house — you have to find the right buyer for it,” she says. “I think it’s the kind of house that could attract somebody who didn’t know they were looking for a house. Since I put it on the internet, I’ve had people texting me saying, ‘I’ve always liked that house.’
“I think people are getting tired of seeing the same white kitchen at different price points. This house really has its own character, built from an exciting time period. It has a bar that feels like you’re walking into a hotel from the 1920s.”