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Oil baron's stately mansion in Warren is reminiscent of England's grand Tudors

Saturday, October 20, 2001

By Gretchen McKay, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

WARREN, Pa. -- When the city of Warren was laid out in 1795, the Allegheny National Forest's virgin timber provided the Scotch-Irish immigrants who settled there with a natural livelihood. Lumbering quickly became the town's main industry, followed by farming as the land was cleared.

With the discovery of oil in nearby Titusville in 1859 and then in Warren County two years later, that all changed. By the early 1900s, the city, located about 150 miles northeast of Pittsburgh boasted 13 refineries within a six-mile radius. And the large, stately homes befitting those freshly minted millionaire lords of industry started popping up on the north side of the Allegheny River.

This grand brick English Tudor features a pillared entryway, steep-pitched roof, and sunken courtyard. It was constructed between 1918 and 1920 by Warren oil refinery magnate H. A. Logan who wanted his wife, an English actress, to feel at home in northwestern Pennsylvania. (Franka Bruns, Post-Gazette)

Among Warren's most elegant turn-of-the-century residences is the Logan-Wallace house on West Third Avenue. It took workers three years to build this seven-bedroom brick English Tudor mansion for H. A. Logan, a wealthy oil refinery owner.

As current owner Beverly Sibertson recalls, Harry Logan was married to an English actress and "he wanted to make her feel at home." So he commissioned New York architect Albert Joseph Bodker to design a house reminiscent of one in the English countryside.

The result is a grand brick manor house with a pillared entryway, steep-pitched roof, and sunken courtyard.The Sibertsons bought the historic property three years ago with plans to relocate from Florida. But health and family problems have necessitated a move back south. So the mansion, which the couple has completely restored, is up for sale. The asking price is $425,000.

Constructed between 1918 and 1920, the three-story house features leaded casement windows, marble fireplaces, 7/8-inch-thick oak floors and wooden doors inlaid with a fanciful floral design. It's also incredibly roomy, boasting 6,700 square feet of living space. When the Sibertsons purchased the property in 1998, the landscaping was so overgrown you could barely see the front of the house. The interior, once a showplace, also wasn't in very good condition.

"It had been neglected," says Sibertson.

During the six-month-long renovation that followed, workers refinished all the floors, repaired the plaster walls and decorative molded ceilings -- hand-crafted by European artisans -- and recarpeted most of the house.

One of the first things visitors notice upon entering the large foyer is the elaborate oak and walnut paneling and rounded plaster ceilings. The woodwork, in fact, was what convinced Sibertson and her husband to buy the house instead of building in nearby Jamestown, N.Y.

The foyer leads to a 13- by 14-foot library with a hand-carved, walnut-inlaid ceiling, built-in bookcases and a half-bath. To the right, it leads into the 16- by 34-foot formal living room. Along with wood paneling and molded ceilings, this room, which runs the entire width of the house, features built-in window seats and a massive marble fireplace. French doors lead into a glass-enclosed atrium the Sibertsons used as a billiards room; that room, in turn, opens onto a side loggia. At one time, the loggia was completely open to the outside; previous owners partially enclosed it in the '50s.

Six secret compartments are hidden behind the living room paneling and a dumb-waiter carries wood from the basement directly up to the fireplace.

The formal dining room is located to the left of the foyer. A giant antique mirror adds to the effect of the gold leaf-painted walls and the exquisite fireplace is constructed out of four different kinds of marble. The room also features a built-in china closet with a safe where silver once was locked away from the servants. It leads into a glass-enclosed breakfast atrium, a bright and airy space with a brick floor, beamed ceiling, Palladian windows and two pairs of French doors.

The newer kitchen has delft-blue wood cabinetry with pullout shelves and built-in lazy Susans, dishwasher, double ovens, an electric stove and a gas cooktop. The adjoining butler's pantry, built in 1958, features two warming ovens, a second dishwasher and a General Electric above-the-counter fridge and freezer. A small room off the kitchen, once a servants' dining room, now serves as a home office.

The second floor has four bedrooms, each with a private bath and plenty of closet space. Every room features the same delicately arched ceilings as the first floor, and the bathrooms contain original tile and pedestal sinks.

Two of the bedrooms were originally built as his and her suites. The "hers" bedroom has a separate dressing room with twin closets (one with a jewelry safe) and a walk-in closet with shoes cabinets and hat compartments. The "his" suite has a large, walk-in circular shower with nine jets and a rain showerhead. Both rooms have working gas fireplaces.

The third floor (originally used as servants quarters) houses three more bedrooms, a walk-in cedar closet, and a sewing/storage room with a wall of built-in cabinets. There also is plenty of storage under the eaves.

The finished basement is nearly as impressive. In addition to a workshop, dark room and laundry, the nine rooms include two full baths, a fruit cellar with its original farmer-sized bins and a sunken exercise/rec room. There is also a "safe room" that houses a giant walk-in safe that used to store Logan's stocks and bonds. According to Sibertson, that's where he also stored his liquor during Prohibition. The boiler room features four furnaces and two water heaters.

The Sibertsons didn't limit the renovation to the mansion's interior. Workmen also rebuilt the chimneys, repaired the original slate roof and repointed the brick. The property, which overlooks the Allegheny River, also includes a three-car carriage house with a 1,800 square-foot, two-bedroom apartment above it. A gated, circular drive leads visitors to the rear of the house, where a brick privacy wall features a working fountain.

Located in the city's Historic District, the Logan-Wallace house is currently zoned residential. But new owners could operates it as a bed and breakfast or professional office so long as there is no paid help, according to Sibertson.

For more information on the H.A. Logan house, call Beverly Sibertson at 814-726-9245. You can also take a pictorial tour of the property at www.bbonline.com/forsale/sibertson/index.html.

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