That’s what it’s called now. Old Pa Pitt hopes that the city will not have to build any more large stadiums any time soon, but if it does come to that, Father Pitt suggests a stipulation: there will be no public money in the project and no tax breaks for the owners unless the citizens retain naming rights, which they may not alienate by selling them to a corporation or individual.
Knable House, Shadyside
A tasteful Jacobean house built in 1911, as we know from the date stone over the front door. It seems to have been built for an S. E. Knable.
Architectural historians sometimes use the term “Jacobethan” for a style that is indeterminately Tudor and Jacobean mashed together.
Knoxville Baptist Church
Now Iglesia de Cristo León de Judá, the Knoxville Baptist Church was built in 1909; it is a typical small vernacular-Gothic church with some Arts and Crafts details. The attractive indigo paint applied by the current congregation makes it stand out from others of its type.
Fundamentalist Christians in the United States have always had a deep suspicion of stained glass as creeping idolatry, but the Spanish-speaking Evangelical congregations are the most vengefully thorough about it. As soon as they take over an old church building, the stained glass is removed. Usually it is replaced with clear glass, but this congregation has blocked all natural light from entering the building. Photographs of services on line show that the interior is set up like a theater, and natural light would only interfere with the projections and spotlights.
Vanished Storefront on Brownsville Road, Knoxville
Sometimes old Pa Pitt hasn’t got around to publishing a picture of something before it disappears. Back in January he took this picture of a three-storey commercial building from 1901; it has just been demolished. It was not an extraordinarily fine work of architecture, but the upper floors were pleasingly proportioned and treated with enough ornamentation to make the building a good citizen of the streetscape. The ground floor was a mass of decades’ worth of improvised improvements and adaptations; its last tenant was a general store that advertised “videos” among its wares, which tells us how long that store had been vacant.
Along the Tom the Tinker Trail in the Kane Woods Nature Area.
A. J. Logan & Co. Building
Since we were talking about T. C. McKee a couple of days ago, here is a work of his even earlier than the Shady Avenue Cumberland Presbyterian Church. It was built in 1888, according to Justin P. Greenawalt (PDF), and it was brand new (or possibly still a design on paper) when this advertisement was published in the Allegheny County Centennial Souvenir of 1888. McKee would have been about 21 when he designed this building. It stood on Third Avenue about where PPG Place is now.
Urban renewal hit Pittsburgh hardest in three places: the Lower Hill, East Liberty, and central Allegheny. Of the three, the Lower Hill was definitely the worst hit, with an A-bomb’s worth of destruction leaving a scoured and sterile landscape that is only now recovering. Second-worst was probably Allegheny Center.
Both here and in East Liberty, the visionaries imagined an urban paradise freed from automobiles. The central business district would be pedestrianized, and vehicles would be diverted to a broad loop around the edge. Anthony Paletta came up with a useful term for this design, which was repeated wherever the urban-renewal movement really got going: “strangulation by ring road.” The center ends up isolated from residential neighborhoods around it by a broad boulevard that is forbidding for pedestrians to cross, so they don’t cross it.
On the North Side, almost the entire business district of old Allegheny was destroyed. A few landmarks were left—more than in the Lower Hill—but the streets full of shops were flattened and the very streets themselves eliminated. More than 500 buildings were obliterated. In their place was a modernist paradise of office blocks and a shopping mall (marked by those half-moon arches in the picture) called Allegheny Center. In the picture above, the only visible landmark from the old center of Allegheny is the tower of the Carnegie Library poking up just behind the building that is now called “NOVA Place.”
In hindsight it seems obvious that it was a bad idea, but we should give the planners their due. The new urban paradise seemed like a hit for a while. The shopping mall at Allegheny Center was lively and successful for twenty years after it opened in 1965. It did not really start collapsing until about 1990. Twenty years is not a long time in the history of Pittsburgh and Allegheny, but it was something.
Shady Avenue Cumberland Presbyterian Church
Now known as Shady Avenue Christian Assembly, after having spent many years as Shady Avenue Presbyterian Church (without the “Cumberland”).
Just down the street from the huge and spectacular Calvary Episcopal and Sacred Heart Catholic churches, each the size of many a cathedral, this 1889 church is likely to pass unnoticed. Once you do notice it, though, you will not stop noticing it. It is a bravura performance in a sort of Queen Anne Romanesque style by a Victorian architect who was about 22 years old at the time, and who was not afraid to pull out all the stops and stomp on the pedals for all he was worth. An entire issue of the East Ender, the East End Historical Society’s newsletter, was devoted to the architect, T. C. McKee (PDF), and we take all our information from Justin P. Greenawalt with profound gratitude for his research.
Thomas Cox McKee (usually known as T. C. McKee) was apprenticed to architect James W. Drum. But in 1886, when young McKee was still only 20, his master was run over by a freight train. Instead of looking for another apprentice position, McKee went out on his own and seems to have been successful right away. He later built a comfortable practice designing homes for the wealthy and small to medium-sized commercial buildings, along with at least one prominent school (the Belmar School in Homewood, still standing). Then, in 1910, he threw it all away and went to Cleveland, where he took odd jobs until he settled down as a designer of soda fountains. No one seems to know what happened, although Mr. Greenawalt’s article hints that it might have had something to do with McKee’s constitutional extravagance.
That extravagance comes through in every detail of this building. In the age of modernism, this sort of thing was dismissed as a bunch of Victorian noise, but the masses are balanced to form interesting compositions from every angle.
The much more conventional 1911 addition (although even it is a little bit fantastical) was designed by Rodgers & Minnis. Below we see it across the pile of dirt that used to be Shady Hill Center until the property became too valuable to host a suburban-style strip mall.