Built in 1914, this little church (now Emmanuel Christian Church) is a fine example of the simple Arts-and-Crafts interpretation of Tudor Gothic that was fashionable for small churches in the early 1900s. The only specifically Gothic detail is the large front window; the tower has a bit of decorative half-timbering, but the rest is unadorned and built with cheap but attractive materials.
This is one of Father Pitt’s favorite modernist churches in the city. It seems like an effortless blending of architectural modernism with the ancient idioms of Eastern Christian tradition, but of course things in art that seem effortless always take a great deal of effort. If modernism in church design always came out looking like this, old Pa Pitt would have adopted it enthusiastically.
We’ll have to wait for winter to get a good view of the whole front of this interesting church, which is obscured by a lush growth of mimosa trees. But we can appreciate some of the details now.
The architect was James N. Campbell. Old Pa Pitt knows of only two churches by Campbell still standing in Pittsburgh: this one and the old Seventh Presbyterian Church on Herron Avenue, Hill District. (There are probably others as yet unidentified.) Both churches have similar styles, and both have similar histories. They both became African Methodist Episcopal churches: this one was Avery Memorial A. M. E. Zion Church for quite a while. They both were abandoned. This one may still have some hope: it looks as though someone has been trying to refurbish it, perhaps as a private home. But it also looks as though the renovations have stalled.
Since Father Pitt considers this an endangered building, he has collected some pictures of the more interesting details to preserve them for posterity in case the worst should come to pass.
Disclosure: old Pa Pitt took some utility cables out of some of these pictures. Fans of Pittsburgh utility cables will have to look elsewhere today.
A beautiful Gothic church from the 1930s. It is typical of Episcopal churches in Pittsburgh: small but rich, Gothic in style, with a steeply pitched roof that makes up more than half the height of the building. Father Pitt does not know who the architect was.
The wooden wheelchair ramp is not the most elegant solution to the problem of access, but it does its job without permanent damage to the building.
Loaves and fishes.
The pelican, a symbol of Christ. In medieval zoology, the pelican was known for feeding her young with her own blood. Modern zoology disputes the data, but as symbolism the legend is irresistible.
Vine and pilaster capitals at the main entrance.
According to the church site, the neatly kept lawn was once the site of a parsonage.
Now it belongs to a contractor, and the filling-in with concrete blocks and artificial siding is probably a fair sample of a Pittsburgh contractor’s taste. But the building is, on the whole, in an excellent state of preservation. It shows up on our 1923 map as the Horst & Mooney Garage, and we can probably guess what brand of cars it sold and serviced.
Architect William P. Hutchins certainly made the most of the site. He had a hillside location, a prominent intersection, and a lot of space to work with, so he oriented the building diagonally and gave the church a west front (liturgically speaking) that hits us with an outsized magnificence as we come up California Avenue. The church was built in 1927; the style is Perpendicular Gothic, and already shows some signs of the streamlining that would mark Hutchins’ later works. (To see how far he would take that streamlining, have a look at Resurrection Church in Brookline, one of Hutchins’ last churches.)
Shields in relief over the three main doors honor important saints with their symbolic attributes.
The cornerstone. The Latin inscription says, “This is the house of God and the gate of heaven.”
Old Pa Pitt noticed that Wikimedia Commons had no current pictures of landmarks in the very pleasant neighborhood of Brighton Heights, except for a few pictures of the Sacrifice monument, most of them taken by Father Pitt. That lacuna has now been filled, and we will be seeing many of the pictures in the next couple of weeks.
A splendid allegorical World War I memorial. Our all-American hero casts off the robes of comfort and offers his sword to whoever needs defending (in Pittsburgh, old Pa Pitt supposes, it is more proper to say “whoever needs defended”). Allen George Newman had a considerable reputation in his day, and this memorial must have cost the neighborhood a good bit of money. Note that the dates of the war are given as 1917-1919; although we commonly take the Armistice in 1918 as the end of the war, it was not technically over until the Treaty of Versailles was signed in 1919.
The pictures in this article have been donated to Wikimedia Commons under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication, so no permission is needed to use them for any purpose whatsoever.