The Frater House
Constructed 1888, restored in 1999
Owner: Ed Graf
In the late 1880s, St. Mary’s German Catholic Church (built in 1854) was one of the centers of activity for the mostly German-speaking residents of Deutschtown. The church properties included The Priory and an adjacent school (no longer standing) in which German lessons were taught. The first Benedictine pastor, Father Celestine Engelbrecht, invited five Marianist Brothers to teach at the school in the summer of 1871, and the Brothers arrived to open to the school in September. The Frater House was built in 1888 to house the Brothers.
The architect, Henry Moser, also designed the Priory Hotel, and the two structures bear a number of similarities in design. A house, built on the site in the early 1800s, was razed for the new structure, which would cover the entire lot, including the well in the back yard of the original building. The basement served as the kitchen for the Brothers and the well was easily incorporated into the design. In 1939, to the regret of Father Lambert Daller, consent was given for the Brothers to leave and answer Bishop Boyle’s request to start North Catholic High School.
After years of neglect by absentee landlords, Ed and Mary Ann Graf bought the Frater House in 1995 and worked with an architect, Michael Eversmeyer, to perform the restoration. A 1999 Post-Gazette article quoted Everysmeyer as saying that there was not much that could be preserved. He said, “We ended up with an opportunity to adapt it to the Graf’s purposes and maintain a certain character in keeping with the house’s age.”
The front door, pocket doors and delicately carved staircase were saved, but not much else. The floors on the first floor were replaced by hardwood and reproduction mantel and cherry built-in-bookcases were installed. The woodwork that could be saved, along with the reproduction woodwork, was faux finished. A new kitchen was installed with a reproduction tin ceiling and granite countertops. A vintage-style porch was added off the kitchen with a view into a garden patio.
On the second floor, there is a guest room for the grandchildren and a large master bedroom with French doors that lead to a hot tub area above the new garage. This spa area contains a 4,000-pound ceramic-lined stainless steel hot tub which required steel girder supports. There is also a roof garden.
The third floor is for work and play. It contains another guest room, an office with a skylight and a play-room for the grandchildren. At the “tip-top” of the house is a loft with a bridge leading to window areas at either side of the house, which present vistas to the East and West.