Category: Allegheny West

  • Stone Schwartz Building, Allegheny West

    Sony Alpha 3000.

    This Romanesque warehouse appears from old maps to have been built around the turn of the twentieth century for the Allegheny Transfer Company. It later belonged to Donaldson Transfer, as a ghost sign at the top of the building testifies (enlarge the picture to examine it closely). It has been a few things since then, and it was for sale when old Pa Pitt visited it. If you want a distinctive commercial or even residential space in one of our most pleasant neighborhoods, here is your opportunity.

    A few years ago, Father Pitt took a picture of this building in sunset light, but it looks as though he never published it. So here it is now.

    Composite of three pictures from a Canon PowerShot A540.
  • Two Rows on Galveston Avenue, Allegheny West

    1011–1021 Galveston Avenue

    Two rows of houses, both in the Italianate style, but at different scales.

    1009 and 1011 Galveston Avenue

    These more modest houses are, in form, the typical Pittsburgh city house of the nineteenth century. They are raised above the common herd by Italianate detailing, such as the cornice brackets and elaborate entrances.

    1105–1011 Galveston Avenue
    1011 Galveston Avenue
    1013–1021 Galveston Avenue

    These taller and grander houses share many of the same stylistic traits as their smaller neighbors, but they have full third floors, and everything is of a slightly higher grade, including the arched windows and transom over the front door.

    1021 Galveston Avenue
    Front door
    Sony Alpha 3000
  • Allegheny City Stables, North Side

    Allegheny City Stables

    About five years ago we looked at the Allegheny City Stables in the middle of its adaptation into loft apartments. Now the renovation is complete, and a new apartment building has gone up next door, making this block of North Avenue much more inviting. Technically it is across the street from Allegheny West, but it was the Allegheny West Civic Council that saved the building, and socially it forms part of today’s Allegheny West rather than the rest of the “Central Northside” neighborhood as designated on city planning maps.

    Perspective view
    Sony Alpha 3000.
  • The Southern Side of Western Avenue, Allegheny West

    947 Western Avenue

    Western Avenue in Allegheny West is an eclectic mix of buildings, from grand mansions to humble rowhouses to Art Deco storefronts. Here are some of the buildings on the southern side of the street, photographed late in the day when the sun was glancing across them.

    939 Western Avenue

    This house, now the Parador Inn, was one of the fine houses put back in top shape by serial restorationist Joedda Sampson. It has a detailed history at the Allegheny West site.

    911 Western Avenue
    Fujifilm FinePix HS10.
  • Birthplace of the Modern Battery: Hipwell Mfg. Co., Allegheny West

    Hipco Batteries ghost sign

    Is there a household in America that does not keep a stock of AA batteries? Or AAA, C, D? These are reliable power sources that we just drop into electrically powered devices without a moment’s thought.

    You owe that convenience to the Hipwell Manufacturing Company of North Avenue. It was Hipwell that invented the unit-cell battery (see this ad-laden page and this PDF history), thus taming the demon electricity and even giving him a goofy smile.

    Hipwell Mfg Co.

    Until a few years ago, this building still had old advertising posters in the windows, which luckily Father Pitt recorded before they disappeared.

    Hipco Light Where You Need It
    Hipco Dry Cell Batteries
    Hipco Flashlights for Safety
    Hipco Industrial, Commercial, Residential
    831 West North Avenue

    This buff-brick building also belonged to the Hipwell Manufacturing Co, and it was featured as the Hipwell factory in company advertising—but in a form we can only call fictionalized.

    Illustration of the Hipwell factory
    Reproduced in the Allegheny City Society Reporter Dispatch (PDF).

    The distinctive alternating round and flattened arches are there, but there are twice as many of them. The building was never this size, nor was there ever a railroad siding where boxcars were stuffed with Hipco flashlights and batteries.

    View along the front of the building
    Sony Alpha 3000.

    The old Hipwell factory kept turning out flashlights until 2005, which accounts for its fortunate state of preservation. It is now an event venue called Hip at the Flashlight Factory.

  • Brackets and Shutters


    On a building on Western Avenue in Allegheny West.

    940 Western Avenue
    Fujifilm FinePix HS10.
  • Kittanning Brick

    A brick sidewalk in Allegheny West laid with grey Kittanning bricks. That is rare: most sidewalks in Pittsburgh were made with cheap red bricks. Kittanning bricks were special, generally used for facing buildings; in fact, we often see buildings with buff brick on the front, and cheaper red brick for the side and rear walls that no one is supposed to see.

    In the East Coast cities, bricks are red. There are exceptions, mostly high-budget constructions: the Naval Academy in Annapolis, for example, makes extensive use of white brick. But it is striking to East Coasters when they come to Pittsburgh to see that bricks come in a multitude of colors. These are the famous Kittanning bricks, and the leading—though by no means the only—producer of them was the Kittanning Brick Company. They were used more extensively in Pittsburgh and the surrounding area than anywhere else, which is why a street of brick houses in Pittsburgh may be a rainbow of red, buff, grey, and white bricks.

    In 1912, the Congressional Committee on Rivers and Harbors held hearings “On the Subject of the Improvement of Allegheny River, Pennsylvania, by the Construction of Additional Locks and Dams.” Mr. S. E. Martin, one of the titans of the brick industry in Kittanning, was invited to give testimony. Note, incidentally, that in the trade the plural of “brick” was “brick.”

    Mr. PORTER. I now desire to introduce Mr. S. E. Martin, who represents some brickkilns along the Allegheny River, and the brick interests in general in what is known as the Kittanning district.


    Mr. MARTIN. Mr. Chairman and gentlemen, Mr. Porter informs me that the time is a little short, and I wish just simply to present to you an outline of the brick interests as they are represented in what we will term the Kittanning district.

    In this district that will be affected by this proposed improvement there are eight or nine companies manufacturing brick between Templeton and White Rock. An estimate of their combined output is approximately 170,000,000 brick.

    Now, this brick is not common brick, but face brick—brick that are used for facing buildings of all kinds. It makes an approximate tonnage of about 500,000 in the finished product. This brick, known as the Kittanning brick (which is a gray brick or a buff brick in different shades), can be manufactured only from the clay in this district. It has been proven that this clay does not exist outside of this immediate vicinity, and this clay has made a brick that has popularized itself all over the country.

    The CHAIRMAN. What is the name of that brick?

    Mr. MARTIN. Kittanning.

    Mr. BARCHFELD. Is the Plaza Hotel in New York built of that brick?

    Mr. MARTIN. Yes, sir.

    The CHAIRMAN. You say it is the only clay in the world from which that brick can be made?

    Mr. MARTIN. There is no clay that I know of that will manufacture the same brick.

  • Romanesque House by Thomas Scott, Allegheny West

    843 Beech Avenue

    Thomas Scott was one of our most prominent architects at the turn of the twentieth century. Although most of his public buildings were done in a Beaux Arts classical style, he could turn out a very creditable Richardsonian Romanesque early in his career. This house on Beech Avenue was built in 1889, just the year after the Allegheny County Courthouse was completed, which set off the tidal wave of Romanesque architecture in Pittsburgh.

    Side of the house

    The blank side of the house looks as though it was planned to be one of a row of adjacent houses, but it appears from old maps that no house was ever built on either side.

    Those same old maps show us that the owner of the house was H. C. Denny, and Scott would be the house architect for the Denny estate for many years afterward—the Denny estate being an organization that developed properties all over the city, especially on the North Side. Scott himself would later live a little down the street from this house in one of a row of houses built for the Denny estate.

    With sun shining on the house

    Of course, if you have a Romanesque stone front, you need some good Romanesque ornamental carving to decorate it. And although we have no direct evidence of the sculptor, we have little doubt that it was Achille Giammartini, the master of Romanesque decoration, whose signature grotesqueries adorn the cornice.

    Grotesque faces on the cornice
    Porch pillar
    Front of the house
    Perspective view of the house

    Cameras: Fujifilm FinePix HS10; Nikon COOLPIX P100.

  • Klee Row, Allegheny West

    Klee row

    A row of identical houses put up in 1884 for Joseph Klee, a successful manufacturer of shoes and one of the founders of the Rodef Shalom congregation. The word “Klee” means “clover” in German, so, of course…


    …all the dormers have clover ornaments.


    Note the basement-level breezeway between houses, which is very unusual in Pittsburgh.

    End of the row
    One of the houses
    Fujifilm FinePix HS10.
  • Second Empire Mansion in Allegheny West

    841 North Lincoln Avenue

    Built in about 1865, this grand house on North Lincoln Avenue is decorated in the highest Victorian manner, and the current owners have put much thought into the color scheme for painting the elaborate wood trim.

    Woodwork and lilacs
    Porch woodwork

    Though it is hidden in the shadows between houses most of the day, this oriel is nevertheless festooned with decorative woodwork, including these ornate brackets:

    Dormering tower
    Second Empire mansion
    Front of the house in winter