In Beechview, you always find a streetcar at the end of the rainbow.
At the End of the Rainbow
Christmas Wreath on Broadway
This is the time of year when neighborhood associations put up the Christmas decorations along the main business streets of every neighborhood. Here is one of the wreaths along Broadway in Beechview.
Beechview Firehouse on Top of an Old Church
The firehouse in Beechview is a simple modernist box that seems to have nothing to recommend a second look. At least, nothing from the front; but take a closer look at the foundation.
This does not look like a typical postwar modernist construction, and in fact it is something else entirely. The firehouse was built on top of an old Presbyterian church.
The Beechview United Presbyterian Church divided early in its history. Some congregational argument caused part of the congregation to split off and build a church here in 1918. The foundation of the current firehouse is that church—by which we mean not that it was the foundation of the church, but that it was the church itself. Old Pa Pitt does not know what the intention was; he can only assume that a larger building would eventually have been built on top of it. But old pictures show that this foundation was simply roofed over, with a stubby absurd tower on the corner. Half a dozen steps led up to the entrance in this tower, and then there was nowhere to go but down.
In 1938, twenty years after the breakup, the two Presbyterian churches in Beechview got back together again, and the combined congregation still uses the Beechview United Presbyterian Church on Broadway. But the old church remains as the basement of the firehouse, and we can still pick out the outlines of the Tudor Gothic windows in the stones if we look closely.
Beechview at Night
A streetcar stop in a quiet residential neighborhood of Pittsburgh after dark.
Fallowfield Station and Viaduct, Beechview
The Fallowfield station on the Red Line in Beechview is a kind of parasite on the Fallowfield viaduct. The Fallowfield Avenue end is at street level; the other end of the station is about five storeys above street level. Stations on the Red Line are currently getting a little bit of renovation.
The Fallowfield viaduct is one of three major viaducts, along with a bridge and a tunnel, that are necessary to bring the streetcars from downtown into central Beechview.
The viaduct is as important to pedestrians as it is to streetcars—so important, in fact, that, when the walkway was closed for repairs for a while a few years ago, the Port Authority gave free rides between Fallowfield and Westfield at the other end of the viaduct.
Outbound streetcars approach the viaduct from a curve.
Lee School, Beechview
A small school by a distinguished architect: Charles M. Bartberger, who gave us several fine schools. (He is often confused with his father, Charles F. Bartberger, who designed some prominent churches.) The Lee School is now a retirement home under the name Gualtieri Manor.
The entrance is surrounded by tasteful terra-cotta ornamentation.
This pattern is called a Vitruvian wave, named for Vitruvius, the ancient Roman author whose manual on architecture became the arbiter of everything that was proper in design during the Renaissance.
The arms of the city of Pittsburgh over the entrance.
Domestic Stained Glass in Beechview
A stained-glass window in an early-twentieth-century house in Beechview. Stained glass like this was especially popular between about 1890 and 1920, just when the streetcar suburbs that later became city neighborhoods were mushrooming. These windows are often stolen if the house is vacant for a while, but even so thousands still decorate houses all around the city.
Beechwood School, Beechview
In an out-of-the-way corner of Beechview is this particularly fine school by Press Dowler. The original part of the school was built in 1908 in the borough of West Liberty, because the line between the boroughs of Beechview and West Liberty ran right across the street grid of the developed section of Beechview. “Beechwood” was the name of the original community that became the borough of Beechview, and the company that developed the land on both sides of the border was the Beechwood Improvement Co. In 1909 the two boroughs were both annexed by Pittsburgh, and by 1922 the school was bursting at the seams. Press C. Dowler was hired to design an expansion that more than tripled the size of the school, and he came through with a magnificently ornamented building in the Tudor Gothic style that was all the rage for schools in the 1920s. It is now on the National Register of Historic Places for its architectural merit.
The name and date inscribed over one of the entrances.
The south section is the original 1908 school, but Mr. Dowler completely rebuilt the façade to match his plan for the expanded school, so that today the whole building appears to have been put up at once.
Mr. Dowler did not stint on terra-cotta decoration.
The lamp of learning.
These urns flank the entrances; old Pa Pitt suspects they were designed by the architect himself.
As a bonus for his loyal readers, old Pa Pitt includes a typically Pittsburghish cacophony of utility cables.
Boylan Building, Beechview
The Boylan was one of Beechview’s first commercial buildings—storefronts on the ground floor, apartments above. Over the years it has had some alterations: the front bays have been shrouded in aluminum, the right-hand storefront was filled in by a contractor with more ambition than taste, and it may have lost a cornice. But the current owner has given us a good lesson in how to refresh a building with that kind of history without spending a lot of money. Fresh paint tastefully applied to pick out the details makes the building look inviting and minimizes the aesthetic damage of the altered storefront.
Corner Store in Beechview
Pittsburgh neighborhoods used to be full of little corner groceries. Most disappeared when big chain supermarkets took over the grocery trade. But occasionally a neighborhood store succeeds; this one in Beechview moved into a storefront that was vacant for some time and seems to be making a go of it.
Of course it used to be that your average corner grocery was only four or five steps from a streetcar line. That is no longer true in most places, but it is still true in Beechview.