Father Pitt

Why should the beautiful die?

Excelsior Club, South Side

Excelsior Club from the sidewalk
Inscription over the door

This little clubhouse on a narrow back street is modest to the point of shyness: you can walk right past and never notice it, partly because of the well-grown tree in front, but mostly because it is a good citizen of the streetscape. Yet it rewards a closer look. It was built in about 1914 to an Arts-and-Craftsy Spanish Mission design by Edward B. Lang. In the Construction Record, it is credited to E. M. Lang. The address, however, is right for Edward B. Lang; and that magazine is so full of misprints that one often finds an architect’s name spelled three different ways on the same page.(1)

Excelsior Club

Edward Lang is an architect who is not much spoken of these days, but he had some significant buildings to his credit—St. Mark’s Church in the McKees Rocks Bottoms and the Passionist convent in Carrick, to name two. The firm of Edward Lang and Brother was quite productive in the southern city neighborhoods, the Brother being Herman Lang, who is credited with St. George’s Church in Allentown and St. Basil’s in Carrick, among many others.

A different angle
Excelsior Club

For readers who are interested, here is an example of the kind of detective work old Pa Pitt does for you. Why would someone write “E. M. Lang” instead of “E. B. Lang”? The answer is obvious when we remember that the Linotype was by far the most popular machine for typesetting periodicals. The Linotype has its own keyboard arrangement, and the M and B are right next to each other, where a fumblefingered typesetter can easily hit one for the other.

Linotype keyboard

A Linotype keyboard. Copyright 2006 Marc Dufour for Wikimedia, CC BY-SA 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons.


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2 responses to “Excelsior Club, South Side”

    • Father Pitt admits to knowing nothing. There was a famous Jewish club by that name in Cleveland, and Excelsior Clubs devoted to baseball in Brooklyn and other places. These obviously give us no clue about the Pittsburgh club, which is as modestly inconspicuous in old magazines and newspapers as it is on the street. Old Pa Pitt will therefore use his imagination and conjure up a picture of a club of lower-middle-class South Side ladies and gentlemen with literary pretensions who are devoted to the poetry of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

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