Now Calvary United Methodist Church, this church is known for its stained glass by the Tiffany Studios. It was built in 1892–1895; the architects were Vrydaugh & Shepherd and T. B. Wolfe. The exterior is a feast of elaborate and often playful Gothic detail.
Calvary Methodist Episcopal Church, Allegheny West
Henry Chalfant House, Allegheny West
Now Chalfant Hall of the Community College of Allegheny County, and currently getting a thorough renovation. The house was built in about 1900; no one seems to know who the architect was. Henry Chalfant was a successful lawyer whose father was a successful lawyer as well.
Allegheny Preparatory School, Allegheny West
The children of Allegheny millionaires could walk around the corner to this school, where they would presumably be prepared to go on to college and become better educated than their merely rich parents, or perhaps just become wastrel thugs like Harry Thaw. It is now a training center for the city police, most of whom are not children of Allegheny millionaires.
Old Pa Pitt does not know the original purpose of the low industrial-looking building to the left of the school in this picture. It seems to date from between 1910 and 1923, to judge by our old maps, and it belonged to the school. Can anyone enlighten us?
Thaw Mansion, Allegheny West
Architecturally this house is a bit of a mess, but a pleasing mess. It was built in three different stages, the first in 1870 and the last in 1900.
The Thaw family was a bit of a mess, too. William Thaw was a railroad baron who made all the money in the world and had ten surviving children by two wives. Of those children, the one everybody remembers was Harry Thaw, who murdered Stanford White in front of as many witnesses as could possibly be crammed into one nightclub. It was the climax of a career of difficult situations, and in every one of them Harry’s mother used the mighty power of money to extract him from his difficulties. (Harry used money to light cigars with.) You can read about his murder of White and the legal adventures that followed in Harry Thaw’s Wikipedia article; for our purposes it is sufficient to say that the family money saved his hide again, and Clarence Darrow provided him with a nifty new defense called “temporary insanity.” Many who knew Harry Thaw would question the temporariness of the insanity.
This was not the Thaws’ biggest house. Their favorite architect, Theophilus P. Chandler Jr., designed a house for them in Squirrel Hill named Lyndhurst; that one was demolished in the 1940s.
Rhodes Mansion, Allegheny West
Does anyone know the history of this house? A twenty-year-old Post-Gazette article describes the restoration challenges that would have awaited a new owner; Father Pitt does not know the history of the house since then, and he thinks the article may be incorrect about the history before that. The Post-Gazette article says it was built for steel magnate Joshua Rhodes; but the Joshua Rhodes who turns up in every other search lived on Western Avenue and certainly did not have a 32-year-old wife in the early 1900s, which the article says was Grace Rhodes’ age when she died of a brain tumor not long after the house was built. Joshua Rhodes might have built this house for one of his sons; that is old Pa Pitt’s best hypothesis. William B. Rhodes would have been 39 in 1903; Walter J. Rhodes would have been 31. Either one of them might plausibly have had a wife in her thirties in the early 1900s.
Almost all the surviving great houses in Allegheny West have either been repurposed as institutional or office buildings or restored as grand mansions once again. This Tudor palace, however, seems to be in need of a bit of help. Clearly the exterior is in good shape, though the front lawn is not maintained much this year. A suburban doctor’s house would probably cost less than this 40-room mansion. Who’s ready for a do-it-yourself adventure?
The decorative shield over the front door looks from a distance as though it once bore an inscription, but as far as old Pa Pitt can tell it was always decorated with horizontal ridges alone.
Second-Empire Row in Allegheny West
A splendid row of Second Empire houses on Lincoln Avenue, with their wood trim picked out in tasteful polychrome paint. They were built in 1872 and 1873.
J & K Building, Allegheny West
This little building sits next to the old Western Theological Seminary. Old Pa Pitt has not been able to discover its history with the limited research he was willing to put into the question, so he would be delighted to be enlightened in the comments. It looks as though it might have been an addition to the seminary, done in a sort of late Gothic with Art Deco overtones.
Niche on the Western Theological Seminary, Allegheny West
This niche at the top of the central tower of the Western Theological Seminary seems to require a statue of some saint. Since the building was a Presbyterian seminary, it probably never had one. Perhaps we could fill it with a statue of Harry Thaw, patron saint of wastrel playboy sociopaths.
Harry Darlington Jr. House, Allegheny West
Harry Darlington built this house in 1908 for his son, Harry Darlington Junior. The son’s house was two doors down from the father’s (separated by the widow Holmes’ house), but the two houses could hardly be more different in style. Where the father’s is tall, narrow, and massive, this is (comparatively) low and spreading. The architect was George S. Orth, who also designed the William Penn Snyder house a block away on Ridge Avenue.
Western Theological Seminary, Allegheny West
Originally the Western Theological Seminary (a Presbyterian seminary), this building was designed by Thomas Hannah and finished in 1912. The seminary stayed here until 1959, when it merged with the other big Presbyterian seminary in town and became part of the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary in Highland Park.
Like most of the other large buildings on Ridge Avenue, this one now belongs to the Community College of Allegheny County, which calls it West Hall.