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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This building sits at the complicated corner where Broadway, Hampshire Avenue, and Beechview Avenue come together. Except for the ground floor in the front, it has changed little since it was put up as one of the first commercial buildings in the neighborhood. For many years the fondly remembered Johns’ Drugs (the apostrophe could have gone either way, since the founder was John A. Johns) was here.
We mentioned “the ground floor in the front” because, like many Beechview buildings, this has ground floors on more than one level. On the Hampshire Avenue side is a little speakeasy in what would be the basement level if the ground were flat.
The street sign with “Hampshire St” is anomalous. The street is called “Hampshire Ave” on other signs, including the one across Broadway. Most streets are “avenues” in Beechview, even if the “avenue” is a concrete stairway.
A fine example of the modest Arts-and-Crafts interpretation of Gothic that was fashionable for small churches in the early twentieth century. The building has hardly changed at all since it was put up in 1921, and it is still in use by the congregation that built it. The Community of Christ was formerly known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints; it is a fairly liberal church that accepts but does not insist on the Book of Mormon as scripture and otherwise gets along better with mainstream Protestant denominations than it does with the much larger Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, which accounts for about 98% of Mormons.
This neat little church was probably the first church to be built in the new neighborhood of Beechwood, which was later renamed Beechview when it was taken into the city of Pittsburgh. It has been well refurbished for a Spanish-speaking congregation. Some of the original stained glass is gone, and the tower is bricked in, but on the whole it looks much the way it looked more than a century ago. We also note the aggressive slopes for which Beechview is notorious.
Beechview itself was laid out in 1905, so this would have been one of the earliest buildings.
Beechview’s streets changed their names when the neighborhood entered the city, because Pittsburgh didn’t need yet another set of numbered streets. Sixth Avenue is now Methyl Street; Pennsylvania Avenue is now Hampshire Avenue.
An out-of-towner might think that some horrible territorial war had happened to make Beechview residents throw a concrete wall right across the middle of Sebring Avenue. But the culprit is topography again. The streets in Beechview are laid out in a grid in defiance of the hills, and the only way to make Sebring Avenue intersect Westfield Street was with terracing.
We’ve seen terraces like these on the South Side Slopes, and here is a similar construction for a similar reason in Beechview. As you might guess from the parked cars, the street is two ways on both sides of the divide, which only adds to the delightful confusion. You can turn any which way from Sebring Avenue. The only thing you can’t do is continue on Sebring Avenue.