Tasso Katselas
Tasso Katselas

When Stuart and Velma Hirsch built their Fox Chapel home in 1976, they worked closely with Pittsburgh architect Tasso Katselas on the design down to the smallest details, including the two-story ficus tree that anchors an atrium garden beneath arched skylights.

Now in their 80s, the Hirsches are ready to downsize and have put their beloved home at 1092 Fox Chapel Road on the market for $1.7 million.

Built on 3.3 wooded acres at the end of a private drive, this dramatic home has massive windows that bring the outside in.

It was so unique when it was built, that the November 1979 issue of Architectural Record noted: “suburban, expansive, open to views in every direction … a fine statement of design principles explored with intelligence and sympathy for materials.”

“They created such a masterpiece together, and the natural setting is truly beautiful. It’s a nice combination of air and space, and you get a sense of texture also,” says Julie Rost, a Realtor with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices. “This one will take somebody special. It’s for somebody who really wants to not just live there but be part of the house.”

With 4,890 square feet of multi-level living space, the home has four bedrooms, three bathrooms, two powder rooms, a living room with one of two fireplaces, and an open kitchen with a breakfast area and workstations. There’s also a library/den and an “intimate dining room,” Rost says, as well as a game room and mudroom at the entrance from a two-car garage.

Curved brick walls add interest to the dining area and the master bedroom suite. Two of the other bedrooms share a Jack-and-Jill bath. The windows, atrium, decks and patios all connect the interior to the outdoors, where a tennis/sport court is part of the property.

Five other homes are along the road, but the Hirsch property is the only one not visible from the street.

“It’s truly blended in,” says Rost, who doesn’t think anyone in the market for such a home will think twice about the asking price. “The prices have been going up and up and up, so $2 million is sort of the new $1 million, I guess,” she jokes, but adds, “The number of transactions for homes over $1 million [in the Pittsburgh area] is much more than it used to be.”

An exterior bridge leads to the central atrium, and then a walkway brings you from the front door into the living room. From various vantage points inside, you can see into different spaces, allowing it to “feel very open,” Rost says, although “there’s a nice separation of space when you need it.”

“I think they were quite ahead of their time in creating that open kitchen feeling — it opens into the family room and breakfast room, and when they moved into this in 1976, nobody else would have had that,” she says.

Even the garage has a special detail: As you drive down the driveway, there are two bays to pull into, but from the opposite side, a third bay offers storage for a lawn mower.

“This might be for somebody who’s not necessarily looking for a house but is open to a new experience,” she says.

Katselas, an award-winning architect, designed not only homes but also schools, apartments, commercial buildings and multimillion-dollar developments.

Four other Katselas homes in Pittsburgh recently went on the market.

When the Hirsch home and his own were featured in Architectural Record, Katselas told the writer that he credited not only the builder but also Mrs. Hirsch, who “read the specifications carefully and took an active interest in every detail of construction.”

Over the decades the trees surrounding the home have grown, enhancing its placement as part of a natural setting.

“It’s an experience — a fabulous experience,” Rost says. “It would be an absolute joy to entertain in, but also very easy to just exist in. They raised their family there, loved having their kids’ friends over. So, it’s not like it’s a museum just to be observed — it’s absolutely something to be enjoyed and experienced and utilized.”


For more Pittsburgh real estate, read Your move: What $300,000 will buy you in Pittsburgh (if you act fast).

Sandra Tolliver

Sandra Tolliver is a freelance writer, editor and public relations professional in Upper St. Clair.