Ligonier Township home features streams, ponds, full-size gym
Jed Hughes knows it is going to be difficult to sell his 52 acres in the Laurel Highlands.
His property — priced at $2.9 million — includes a five-bedroom, 7,000-square-foot home, streams, ponds and wooded trails. It also has a full-size gym in a separate building, and Hughes' own separate workout building.
Hughes is eager to get the sale moving along, but knows he will miss the place, too. The one-time linebackers coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers now is global head of sports practice for Korn/Ferry International, a talent-management firm based in Los Angeles, and works out of New York City most of the time.
But the Ligonier Township house provides a great retreat for him, his wife, Terri, and their son, John-Michael. It also is the site of frequent visits by adult daughter Nikole Farrell, who has a health career in Pittsburgh.
“The house has become a bit of the family,” Hughes says, standing in the breakfast nook beneath tall windows overlooking a pond.
Standing up to an idea
Hughes and his family were living in Ligonier when they bought the property in 1995. The original house on it had burned years earlier, but suggested the placement for their home. It sits at the base of a hilly cup, next to a pond and small waterfall.
When they were designing the house, Hughes and Terri decided to apply some of the thinking of architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Just as Wright designed Fallingwater to spill out of its terrain, they wanted their house to “go vertical.” They thought the house should suggest the same lines of the trees that surround it.
As a result, it stands upright, and the exterior boards are erected in a vertical manner.
The interior look of the building suggests tallness. The foyer spins up around a circular staircase. The ceiling of the living-dining area is two stories tall with windows at the top that draw the eye up. The family room, too, is under a cathedral-like ceiling.
Even the bedroom of son John-Michael, 13, is two stories tall. A basketball hoop is mounted on the front of a loft over his bed. That allows for shooting drills any time, and Terri laughs when she talks about hearing the thumping well into the evening.
Hughes, 65, who was an assistant coach for the Steelers, Minnesota Vikings and Cleveland Browns, as well as at Stanford, the University of Michigan and the University of California at Los Angeles, says he and Terri designed the house.
The house plays off the land with sunrooms on each side of the family room and tall, arched widows lining the south side to catch the sun's rays.
“It just seemed right to open things up to the outside,” Terri says of the design.
While their two offices and the five bedrooms are walled off, the kitchen, breakfast nook, family room and living-dining area flow together in a style that is popular now, but was fairly forward-looking for the mid-'90s.
Terri claims no architectural inspiration, saying it simply “seemed like a good thing to do.”
A place to play the game
The gym seemed like another good thing to Hughes.
He admits he and Terri were not in agreement on it, but he saw a need. As John-Michael began showing some aptitude in basketball and baseball, Hughes decided the boy could use a space where he could practice year-round.
After the gym was built in 2007, Hughes realized one person can use a gym only so much, so he opened it up to church and amateur groups in the area.
Coaches are closely watching the marketing of the property.
“When it's gone, it's gone,” says Mark Zimmerman, coach of Ligonier Valley Little League and Ligonier Valley Girls Softball. He and others are worried they'll lose use of the gym with a new owner.
Jeff Keyes, the pastor of a Latrobe church called the Underground, says the use of the gym “a godsend.” He is also coach of high-school-age, junior-varsity and junior-high baseball and softball teams. He has been using the gym, which has a machine for batting practice, for three years.
“It is really hard to find a gym in Latrobe, even if you have the money to rent it,” he says.
Hughes admits he would regret the loss of the gym's use by local teams.
“But who knows,” he says. “Maybe the next owner wouldn't even want it. Maybe we can separate it from the rest of the sale.”
Hughes admits he does not know where he and the family are heading. But he says John-Michael's educational future is the driving force in the decision.
“He just has to figure out where he wants to go to school,” Hughes says. “High school and college.”
Bob Karlovits is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-320-7852.