Category: Aspinwall

  • St. Scholastica’s Convent, Aspinwall

    St. Scholastica’s Convent

    Old Pa Pitt does not definitely know who designed this old convent (now a “ministry center”), but he would not be at all surprised to learn that it was Aspinwall’s own resident big-time architect Frederick Sauer, who could have walked to this site from his house in five minutes, and who was a known lover of yellow brick like this.

    Inscription: “St. Scholastica’s Convent”
    St. Scholastica’s Convent
    St. Scholastica’s Convent
  • A Chimney by Frederick Sauer

    Chimney of one of the Sauer Buildings

    Frederick Sauer was the architect who designed some of our distinguished churches—St. Stanislaus Kostka, St. Mary of the Mount, and St. Stephen’s in Hazelwood, to name three. They are all excellent designs within the conventions of late-Victorian style. The same can be said for the houses and commercial buildings Sauer built.

    But in his old age, Sauer settled down on his big hillside property above the town of Aspinwall and started tinkering. Eventually, with his own hands, he built a group of whimsies that are not quite like anything else in the world. None of his clients ever got anything like these: Sauer was a reliable provider of the expected in architecture. But left to himself, he built a landscape from a fairy tale.

    This is one of the houses he built, and the hand-crafted chimney above is emblematic of Sauer’s fairy-tale approach to building. The current owner was kind enough to spend a few minutes passing on the latest gossip on the Sauer Buildings. Most were held as rental properties, but they have now been sold off individually, and the new owners are for the most part reversing decades of neglect.

    One of the Sauer Buildings
  • Old Church in Aspinwall

    Old church, perspective view

    This old Lutheran church1 is no longer a church, but the exterior has been preserved very well. It is an unusual style for a small church, much like a Queen Anne house with a corner tower. The woodwork in the front gable is especially ornate.

    Decorative woodwork in the gable
    1. It appears on a 1906 Hopkins map as “Evan’l Luth. Ch.” ↩︎
  • Some Houses in Aspinwall

    Aspinwall is a charming little town of brick streets and substantial dwellings crammed into the narrow flat space on the north shore of the Allegheny River. All these houses are on Eastern Avenue, which has quite a collection of Victorian and Edwardian houses.

    Camera: Kodak EasyShare Z1485 IS.
  • The Sauer Buildings in Aspinwall

    Frederick Sauer was a very reliable church architect responsible for many of Pittsburgh’s better Catholic churches, including St. Mary of the Mount. Nothing about his churches would stamp him as an eccentric; he gave his clients exactly the respectable buildings they wanted. But he had a streak of whimsy in him. He bought a large tract of land on the hill over Aspinwall and designed a very conventional and respectable house for himself. Then he started to play in the back yard. Beginning with his chicken coop, for example, he added fairy-tale projections and curious details, building up and out until he had made an apartment building, the Heidelberg Apartments (above). He did much of the building with his own hands, eventually creating half a dozen or so curious structures back in the woods behind his house. They now form the Sauer Buildings Historic District—one of those curious Pittsburgh treasures probably known less to Pittsburghers than to the rest of the world, where they are often mentioned as one of the most interesting flights of architectural eccentricity in America.