Father Pitt

Why should the beautiful die?

Kiehnel and Elliott on the Bluff

It is a general principle of research that you can find anything as long as you’re not looking for it. Old Pa Pitt was leafing through a magazine from 1915 called The Construction Record, which has already given him dozens of entries for the Great Big List of Buildings and Architects, when he came across this little item:

Architects Kiehnel & Elliott, Keenan building, have plans for a three-story brick and hollow tile apartment building, to be built on Van Braam and Tustin streets for a private party.(1)

Kiehnel and Elliott were among our most interesting early modernists, but Father Pitt had never heard this building mentioned. Surely it must be long gone—the Bluff has had some tough times. But still, one might take a look, especially since modern technology makes it possible to look at that intersection without leaving one’s comfortable chair. And there it was. Father Pitt leaped out of his chair and ran to the Bluff to get pictures:

Apartment building on the Bluff

Not only is it there and well preserved (except for the cornice, of course), but it has just recently been cleaned up and made to look almost like new. The Kiehnel-and-Elliott style is unmistakable. Look at the pilaster capitals at the entrance:

Pilaster capital

How much more Kiehnel-and-Elliott can you get?

Vertical design in the center

Kiehnel and Elliott would later move to Florida and become the Art Deco kings of Miami, but in their Pittsburgh years they were heavily influenced by the Jugendstil architecture of Germany, where Richard Kiehnel grew up and studied. Ornamentation and decorative brickwork like this can be found in all the German architectural magazines of the early twentieth century.

From the north
From the south


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