Category: Dormont

  • Dwight Avenue Houses in the Dormont Park Plan

    Dwight Avenue

    The Dormont Park plan was laid out in the late 1920s along three “mere” streets—Windermere, Earlsmere, and Grassmere Avenues, each a block long, along with the intersecting parts of Dormont and Kelton Avenues. Just before the Second World War, the Bupp-Salkeld Company added a row of thirteen houses on Dwight Avenue, parallel to the meres. They are mostly well preserved, and they make up a small museum of middle-class styles at the end of the interwar era.

    3031 Dwight Avenue

    It would look better with real shutters, but the stonework is still outstandingly picturesque.

    Window of no. 3067
    Konica Minolta DiMAGE Z6.
  • The Dormont Park Plan

    3064 Windermere Avenue

    The Dormont Park Land Company was incorporated in 1927 and almost immediately began offering lots in a little square of land laid out as the Dormont Park plan, right next to Dormont Park, the one big open space in the borough of Dormont. It was an attempt to give the middle classes what the upper classes got from Mission Hills, Virginia Manor, and similar plans in Mount Lebanon: a classy neighborhood of attractive houses of high architectural merit.

    Dormont Park Plan map
    From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, October 1, 1927.

    “Fully restricted, high-class and exclusive”—but within an easy stroll of the streetcar line (as it still is today).

    3040 Grassmere Avenue

    The neighborhood largely delivered on its promise. A few lots remained unbuilt till after the Second World War, and the houses on them are not up to the high standard of the rest. But the majority are designs of merit, obviously designed by some of our best domestic architects. They are more modest than the ones in the big Mount Lebanon plans, but all the same styles are represented, just on a smaller scale.

    3053 Grassmere Avenue
    3036 Earlsmere Avenue
    3072 Earlsmere Avenue
    Roof slates

    Many of the houses retain their charming original details, like these deliberately irregular roof slates.

    3065 Grassmere Avenue
    3066 Grassmere Avenue
    3057 Grassmere Avenue

    Old Pa Pitt has undertaken to document every house in the plan, and he is already more than two-thirds of the way to the goal. We’ll be seeing some more of Dormont Park, but meanwhile, Father Pitt has established a category for the Dormont Park plan at Wikimedia Commons, where you can see dozens more pictures.

    Cameras: Sony Alpha 3000, Nikon COOLPIX P100.

  • Mattern Avenue, Dormont

    2943 Mattern Avenue

    Mattern Avenue is a short street that illustrates what Father Pitt calls the Dormont Model of Sustainable Development. In population density, Dormont is number 119 out of tens of thousands of municipalities in the United States, and it is the most densely populated municipality in the Pittsburgh metropolitan area—denser than Pittsburgh.1 Yet the streets do not feel crowded. Mattern Avenue has a mixture of large houses designed by prestigious architects, smaller single-family houses, duplexes, and an apartment building, so that a fairly large number of people are housed in a small area, but without piling them up into concrete warehouses. Instead, we get a pleasantly varied streetscape and a quiet residential street that feels roomy.

    The house above and below is by far the most original composition on the street. It seems as though the architect was told, “I want a bungalow, but with three floors.” So that was what the client got: a mad bungalow with some sort of growth disorder.

    Third-floor oriel
  • Bank in Dormont

    Bank in Dormont

    This building originally housed a bank, and was still a PNC branch until a few years ago. It was built in 1926, and it straddles the line between classical and Art Deco.

    Front of the building
    Lion ornament

    You know it’s a bank because it has a vomiting lion at the top of the building.

    Perspective view

    As with many banks, the elaborate stone front hides a building mostly clad in cheaper and more prosaic brick.

  • Some Houses on Broadway, Dormont

    2815 Broadway

    Father Pitt continues documenting the domestic architecture of the Pittsburgh area, in the hope that some of his readers will begin to appreciate the character of the neighborhoods they live in.

    Broadway in Dormont is the boulevard where the streetcars run in the median. That makes it a prominent street, and on one side some of the better-off citizens of the middle-class borough built houses on a lavishly upper-middle-class scale. The Tudor house above has had its porch enclosed, which disguises what would have been an interesting design with an overhanging second-floor sunroom. (Update: Note the comment from a kind correspondent who has pleasant memories of this house when the porch was still there.)


    This one has had vinyl siding applied with fairly good taste, but it would originally have been shingled above the ground floor.


    Here we have arts-and-crafts style applied to the standard Pittsburgh Foursquare arrangement. The wood trim has been replaced with aluminum; there would probably have been prominent carved brackets to add to the arts-and-crafts appeal.


    The archetypal Pittsburgh Foursquare.

    Houses along Broadway

    When these houses were built, the big attraction of this street was its direct trolley link to downtown Pittsburgh.

    Trolley passing

    That is still true today.

  • Refurbishing a Building in Dormont

    After many years of a drab modern front on the first floor, this building on West Liberty Avenue has been given a makeover that brings the ground floor back to something more like the original look.

  • Some Houses on Glenmore Avenue, Dormont

    2850 Glenmore Avenue

    Several of these houses have fallen into the hands of house-flippers, which means that they have been made presentable with cheap materials that disguise the architects’ original intentions. But we can be grateful that they were rescued by capitalism from otherwise certain decay and demolition.

    We begin with a design that, from certain angles, looks almost like a stretched bungalow. The part that is covered with vinyl siding was probably wood-shingled, although it went through a half-timber-and-stucco period that might also have been the original plan.

    stone arch
    Front and steps

    Here is a tidy little bungalow with no stretching at all, and it seems to retain almost all its original Arts-and-Crafts style.

    2856 Glenmore Avenue

    Nothing says “flipped house” like vinyl siding and snap-on shutters for the windows. But the twin gables with swooping extended roofline show us the romantic fairy-tale cottage the architect meant this house to be. The top half, again, was probably wood-shingled; more recently it was covered with asbestos-cement shingles.

    2856 again
    Perspective view
    Prairie-style house in Dormont

    This unusual house brings more than a hint of the Prairie Style to the back streets of Dormont. Plastic cartoon shutters again, but those could be removed by the next enlightened owner, leaving an exterior almost completely original. The patterned brickwork is eye-catching without being garish.

    2840 Glenmore Avenue

    The sunroom protruding from the front was probably an open porch when the house was built.

  • One Side of One Block of Espy Avenue, Dormont

    House on Espy Avenue

    Many well-known architects worked in Dormont, as old Pa Pitt knows from leafing through the construction trade journals of the early twentieth century. Unfortunately, those journals are usually maddeningly vague on locations, so it has been hard to identify which house was designed by which architect. But we can appreciate the art even without knowing the name of the artist.

    Espy Avenue is a street of particularly fine houses, and the finest block is the one between Potomac Avenue and Lasalle Avenue. Here are a few houses from the northwest side of the street, because the sun happened to be shining on that side when Father Pitt was out walking in Dormont.

    House on Espy Avenue
    House on Espy Avenue
    House on Espy Avenue
    House on Espy Avenue
    House on Espy Avenue
    House on Espy Avenue
    This is a house as well
    Oh, look, it’s a house

    Father Pitt will have to come back to Dormont soon when the other side of the street is properly illuminated. But he could not resist taking pictures of this one double house, even with the sun behind it, because it is an exceptional design exceptionally well preserved:

    Duplex in Dormont
    The same duplex from the front

    A few bits of wood have been replaced with aluminum, and the brick walls in front of the porch may not be original, but otherwise this grand duplex is probably much as the architect imagined it.

    All these pictures were taken to test a Sony camera Father Pitt found in a thrift store for about six dollars. It has a Zeiss lens that seems to live up to its reputation. The resolution is 4 megapixels, but our experiments here at Pa Pitt Labs show that a 4-megapixel picture doubled to 16 megapixels from a camera with a good lens looks better than a 16-megapixel picture from a camera with an indifferent lens.

  • Dormont Presbyterian Church

    Dormont Presbyterian Church with Ginkgo biloba leaves

    We have seen this especially fine church before, but since old Pa Pitt was out walking on Potomac Avenue in early-evening light, he decided that we could see it again. It is now the Dormont campus of the nondenominational North Way Christian Community, which fortunately has the money to keep up the exterior.

    Dormont Presbyterian Church, Espy Avenue side
    Tower of Dormont Presbyterian Church
    Side porch
    Espy Avenue entrance

    The parsonage is just the sort of elegant and respectable dwelling you need for your Presbyterian minister. With a broad English Gothic arch at the entrance to link it to the church, it makes a good transition between the monumental church and the prosperous merchant-class houses on Espy Avenue.

    Addendum: Father Pitt tentatively attributes the church to Chauncey W. Hodgdon. Mr. Hodgdon was hired to supervise alterations in 1914, and it was considered unethical for another architect to alter or add to a building within a few years of its construction unless the original one refused, or was unavailable, or was rejected by the client.

  • Stevenson Stop on the Red Line, Dormont

    Many streets in the Pittsburgh area used to have a median where the streetcars ran in a separate right-of-way: Center Avenue in West View and Brookline Boulevard in Brookline are two examples. Broadway in Dormont is the only one where the streetcars still run in the median. We could also count the Silver Line through Bethel Park as a broad instance of the same kind of development, although the streets between which the trolleys run have different names.