This is one of America's first “romantic” suburbs, a few years before Alexander Jackson Davis's better-known Llewelyn Park in West Orange, New Jersey. Six families contracted to build on this hilltop five miles north of downtown Pittsburgh, in what must have been a reflection of the glorification of rural life in these years by poet Henry David Thoreau. In the end, only four houses rose on the eighty-five-acre site, for William Hill, William Shinn, Robert Sellers, and Wade Hampton. The Hampton (102 Rock Ridge Road) and Sellers (161 Rock Ridge Road) houses are boxy in shape, with their walls covered in shiplap siding. Hill's house (164 Rock Ridge Road) is more recognizably Gothic Revival in its gabled front and vaguely Tyrolean porch design—an amalgam of rural cottage designs found in Andrew Jackson Downing's three books on architecture and landscaping published between 1841 and 1852. Inside, the T-shaped disposition of the main rooms is more dynamic without being in any literal way Gothic. Only the cottage of the colony's founder, William Shinn (168 Rock Ridge Road), fully complies with the ethos, style, and environmental concerns of Downing. It is cruciform shaped, the walls covered with board-and-batten siding, and the bargeboards beautifully cut in intricate curves. Coming up to it on the deliberately winding road from below, one would be well prepared to meet the reclusive Thoreau himself.
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