It was a surprise for me to learn that my dear friend, Morgantown home builder and renovator, Kris Knowles, was purchasing a home as opposed to building one. However, it came as no surprise to learn that the home he bought was a one-of-a-kind, mid-century modern, custom sensation. A Morgantown original, a home that had only one previous owner: the Paparozzi family, Marca, Enrico, and their four children.

Kris and his partner of 10 years, Shawn Cockrell, had been living in a home they loved, one that Kris built for them at the top of Grand Street. It had everything they wanted, that is, until they adopted their daughter, Eliza Caroline, “Ellie.” Suddenly the house felt smaller, and Grand St. seemed noisier. They began to think about building something new when Kris heard, through the grapevine, that Marca Paparozzi’s house in South Hills was going to be for sale.

The Paparozzi home, built in 1959 and located at 788 Mountain View Place, was one of the first homes in the bourgeoning neighborhood of South Hills. Originally developed by landowners Kermit Mason and Joseph Courtney in the 1960’s and 70’s, South Hills is a more modern extension of the centrally located South Park, and lies just beyond.

The Paparozzis’ story is one of American dreams; Marca was originally from Salem, WV and went to college at the esteemed Seven Sisters school, Smith College, in Northampton, Massachusetts. While on her Junior year abroad in Florence, Italy, she met her future husband and native Florentine, Enrico Paparozzi.

Enrico was studying to become an ophthalmologist, and the two wanted to make a home for themselves in America. It ended up that, given Marca’s West Virginia roots, the family and connections she had to the state, the couple moved to WV, where Enrico was sponsored by Dr. Trotter at the Medical Center in Morgantown.

They lived in an apartment downtown at first, then Enrico fell in love with the lot in South Hills, and purchased it with plans to build a house for his growing family. The lot itself, ¾’s of an acre, is shaped like a triangle and is one of the highest points in Morgantown. It’s situated at the end of a dead-end street, so no cars pass by. The expansive views encompass the city to one side, soaring views of the mountains East on the other. A more perfect spot on which to build a house would simply be hard to find.

Forest “Squirt” Hawkins, a Morgantown builder who was in high demand at the time, was hired to do the building and Marca’s father acted as supervisor for the construction. The house was built in four months.

When I spoke with Stephania Paparozzi, one of Marca and Enrico’s four grown children, she recalled a childhood spent sled riding down the hills in the neighborhood and playing outside in the woods, “all the time.” “We actually swung on vines.” She said. “Mom had a bell that she would ring when it was time to come home for dinner. We felt like we lived in the country, and we did! It just happened to be close to downtown.”

Stephania said that her parents, now deceased, loved the house very much. Her mother loved working in the yard, “it was her therapy.” Her father was “very proud of the house. He was very proud that he had come to America and built a nice home for his family. The house was his ‘American Dream’ come true.”

While the 4,000-square foot house has evolved over the years, Kris and Shawn have intentionally remained true to its form. Kris says, “We were very fortunate not only to have had the opportunity to buy this house; I mean there is nothing else like it, but also because of the good shape it was in. Marca spared no expense; there is even a back-up generator in the case of a power outage.”

The mid-century aesthetic, clean simplicity and integration with nature, is beautifully expressed in the home’s floorplan. Upon entering the large living room, a wall of windows is on the opposing wall, providing an unfettered view facing East. A wood burning fireplace creates the room’s hearth, or focal point. The kitchen, breakfast nook and dining room are to the left (North) side of the house, and the bathroom and three bedrooms, and master bath are on the right (South) side. There is an entire downstairs the size of the home’s footprint, with another fireplace and two additional bedrooms, as well as one and a half baths, and a large craft room.


Some behind-the-scenes changes were made; new wiring, new expanded foam insulation, and new custom cabinetry in the kitchen. Kris and Shawn added a sound system with volume controls in every room. Kris designed and commissioned Roland Hunn to build a free-standing walnut credenza that is wired for lighting. This custom piece separates the entryway from the living room, and defines the hallway back to the bedrooms. The parquet floors are original as is the crown molding in every room.

The eclectic lamps and recessed ceiling lights (with dimmers) create a warm and lovely glow at night. An extensive art collection brings the walls to life: pieces from New Orleans, Savannah, West Virginia, art-deco prints, and paintings by Kris’s cousin, Lori McPherson add pops of color to the neutral paint palette. An extensive collection of mid-century furnishings that the couple has collected over many years also compliments perfectly the organic feel of the house.

Shawn says the “quiet within the city limits” is one of his favorite parts of living in the house. And the seasonal changes:  In wintertime, the 180 degree view opens up and you can literally see for miles out over the mountains.  Kris says “When it snows it feels like you are living in a snow globe.  It’s magical.”  In the summertime there is an altogether different feeling as the leaves emerge and the view closes in some. The expansive canopy of mature trees creates the impression that Shawn describes as “like being in a tree house.”

The house at the top of Mountain View Place is indeed a special spot, perched high above the city, protected by natural surroundings, yet still so close to everything. “We sometimes have to pinch ourselves when we are sitting in our living room looking at the beautiful mountains and landscape.  We truly feel so lucky to live where we do, in what we think is the best kept secret in town.”  In our discussion about the house, Kris and Shawn said that they feel more like custodians of this exceptional property, rather than owners. With another child on the way, the couple looks forward to many happy years “up on the hill” and hope one day to pass it on to another lucky family.


















Adrian’s Architectural Digest of Monongalia County’ is an occasional series on the remarkable architecture in-and-around Mon County.  Adrian Kiger Olmstead is a Morgantown Realtor and a docent at Frank Lloyd Wright’s house on Kentuck Knob in Chalk Hill, PA.

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