We saw these houses a little while ago in pictures taken with a cheap cell-phone camera and in poor lighting. Since the houses will probably not be here forever, old Pa Pitt went back to document them in more even light with a more capable camera. These are the last remnants of a little village along Saw Mill Run, connected to the other side by the one-lane Timberland Avenue bridge. The one with the green siding above dates from the 1880s, the one below from the 1890s, according to the Pittsburgh Historic Maps site. Obviously they had substantial alterations during their lifetimes, but we can still recognize them in this picture from 1909 at the Brookline Connection site.
Since 1959 this has been Pittsburgh Baptist Church, our first Southern Baptist congregation. But it was built in 1908 as a Missouri Synod Lutheran church, Grace Lutheran. It is perhaps Brookline’s most striking church, built in a unique variant of the Arts-and-Crafts Tudor Gothic style that was popular then. The massing of the forms is particularly pleasing.
Addendum: The architect was John A. Long, as we discover in the Construction Record, September 16, 1911: “Martsolf Brothers, House building, have secured contract for the erection of a two-story cement stucco church and parsonage, on Pioneer avenue, Brookline, for the Grace Evangelical Lutheran Congregation. Architect John A. Long, Machesney building, prepared the plans.”
If old Pa Pitt were more ambitious, he would remove those utility cables from the photograph, or from the street if he were more ambitious than that.
Resurrection Church was built in 1939 in an interesting modernist Gothic style, anticipating the streamlined modernist Gothic that would have a brief vogue after the Second World War. This design managed to give the congregation a sumptuous Gothic interior while keeping the exterior outlines starkly simple. The main entrance, for example, is recessed far into the building, so that only by standing right in front of it can we see the elaborate Gothic tracery and inscription.
An update: The 1939 church was designed by William P. Hutchins, who gave us many distinguished late-Gothic churches and schools, including St. Mary of Mercy downtown.
One of the side entrances.
“Light of the World” relief over the side entrance.
Before 1939, Resurrection Parish worshiped in the school next door, which was built in 1909. As usual, the Brookline Connection site has a thorough history of Resurrection Parish. From it we learn that the school was built in stages: the first two floors of the front were built first, with the rear and top floor added later. (Addendum: We have found that the architect of the second-floor addition was John T. Comès.1 This strongly suggests that Comès was the architect of the original building.) We are also told that the sanctuary was on the “ground floor,” but as we see from this picture, “ground floor” can be a slippery concept in Pittsburgh.
The school closed some time ago, and it is now a retirement home. Resurrection Church is now a worship site of St. Teresa of Kolkata parish, which also includes St. Pius X church in Brookline and St. Catherine of Siena in Beechview.
- Source: The Construction Record, January 13, 1912: “Architect John T. Comes, 1005 Fifth avenue, will be ready for estimates about January 15th on erecting a one-story brick fireproof parochial addition at Brookline, for the R. C. Church of the Resurrection, Brookline. Cost $15,000.” The original building cost $22,000. ↩︎
The main part of this church building, which now belongs to the Tree of Life Open Bible Church, opened in 1924. The style is a kind of utilitarian Perpendicular, with attractive stone textures and buttresses and a couple of broad pointed Tudor arches characteristic of the English Perpendicular style; but the side windows are plain rectangles.
This and later additions largely conceal an older chapel built in 1913, which became the rear of the new church. The Christian Education wing along the Brookline Boulevard side was built in 1953 in a more elaborate (and earlier) Gothic style that harmonizes well with the main building. Clearly the church was feeling rich in the early 1950s, when many other churches were abandoning Gothic altogether and building modernist warehouses.
The Presbyterians sold this church to the Tree of Life congregation in 2016, but rented space in it for two more years until giving up in 2018.
When this small but rich Gothic church opened in 1929, it was intended to be temporary. A much grander church would be built next to it, and this would become the Sunday-school wing. But decades passed and the new church had not yet been built. Meanwhile Gothic architecture had become extinct. Finally it was decided to keep the original building as the sanctuary and add a new Sunday school and auditorium in a 1960s modern style with pointed arches to recall its Gothic neighbor.
Or, you know, do your best. A typically Pittsburgh sign on Brookline Boulevard.
This church was finished in 1927 and continued to serve the Methodists until about a quarter-century ago. It now belongs to the Brookline Assembly, an Assemblies of God congregation. Old Pa Pitt has not been able to find out who the architect was, but there’s a wealth of other information at the wonderfully well-informed Brookline Connection site, including the interesting fact that the stone is Beaver County sandstone.
The Boulevard, as it’s known in the neighborhood, is Pittsburgh’s broadest commercial street—which strikes out-of-towners as absurd, but Pittsburgh has never been a city of broad streets. The breadth comes from the history of the street: when streetcars ran in Brookline, they ran in a separate right-of-way in what is now the middle of the street, with a narrow lane for automobiles on each side of the tracks—just like Broadway in Dormont today, where the Red Line cars still run. That history also accounts for the Boulevard’s other peculiarity: unlike most business streets, it has almost all the businesses lined up on one side of the street, with the other side more residential.
In every way this is an eclectic street. There’s a high occupancy rate in the storefronts, but very few chains are here, giving the neighborhood an unusually rich collection of odd little one-off shops. The architecture is also eclectic: in one block we can see everything from the beginning of the twentieth century to twenty-first-century International Style revival.
A firehouse that looks like the Platonic ideal of a firehouse. The tower commands a view that must extend for miles: not only is the tower itself tall, but the station is built at the crest of a hill.
Addendum: The architects were Thomas W. Boyd & Co. This is a near-duplicate of the firehouse by the same firm at 3000 Chartiers Avenue, Sharaden, even though that one is dated 1928, eighteen years later