Dollar Bank

Dollar Bank

The adjective “tasteful” does not naturally attach itself to this structure. It has the look of a building specified by a banker who hired an expensive architect and was determined to wring every cent of his money’s worth out of the details. It is magnificent in a slightly horrifying way: this is the kind of monstrosity that was in the minds of the modernists when they condemned all things Victorian. Old Pa Pitt would not change a single swirl or swag or grotesque half-vegetable naked lady.

The architect in question was the firm of Isaac H. Hobbs & Sons from Philadelphia. Isaac H. Hobbs was a kind of celebrity architect. He was familiar to the thousands of ladies across our fair land who read Godey’s Lady’s Book, the premier fashion magazine of the middle 1800s: every month, Hobbs contributed a design for an elaborately Victorian residence for the lady readers to drool over. It was something like having a regular segment on a popular daytime talk show today. According to the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation’s Fourth Avenue walking tour (PDF), Hobbs designed a number of houses around Pittsburgh, but Father Pitt does not know any of them; he wonders whether they were original designs, or whether they were adaptations of the many designs published in Godey’s.

It appears that the crust of 150-year-old ornamentation requires some stabilization: netting is stretched over the top half of the building at the moment.

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