Category: History

  • Braddock National Bank

    Braddock National Bank, from an old postcard
    From an old postcard

    This splendid edifice cost about $100,000 when it was built in about 1905. The architects were McCollum & Dowler,1 and that Dowler is the young Press C. Dowler, who would practice architecture for two-thirds of a century and run through every style of his long lifetime, from Romanesque through Art Deco to uncompromising modernism. The building still stands today on Braddock Avenue, and the front still looks about the same.

    1. Source: The American Architect and Building News, July 23, 1904: “Braddock, Pa.—McCollom [sic] & Dowler, Pittsburg, have completed plans for a $100,000 granite and brick bank building for the Braddock National Bank.” ↩︎
  • Residence for Mr. Edward Kneeland by Charles M. Bartberger

    Charles M. Bartberger’s perspective renderings were featured more than once in the American Architect and Building News. From December 29, 1900—two days before the end of the nineteenth century—comes this very pleasant mansion for a wealthy Pittsburgher. Mr. Bartberger, whose father was the successful architect Charles F. Bartberger (and the two of them are mixed up all over the Internet), had established himself as a reliable designer of houses for the fairly-well-off, and this Dutch-colonial house is a variation on a very common style in the East End neighborhoods: not an adventurous design, but a respectable one. Father Pitt does not know where it was built or whether it still stands, but he will be looking out for a house with those distinctive dormers.

  • The Convention in Sky-Scrapers, 1903

    Hartje Building
    The Hartje Building, later the West Penn Building, at First Avenue and Wood Street, is a classic example of the Beaux-Arts skyscraper formula of base, shaft, and cap. The architect was Charles Bickel.

    The three original homes of the skyscraper were New York, Chicago, and Pittsburgh. When people first began to talk of “sky-scrapers,” those were the three cities they mentioned. And for the first three decades or so of skyscraper building, a definite style predominated in all three places—the Beaux-Arts formula of base, shaft, cap. From 1903, only a few years into the skyscraper age, a writer in the Architectural Record observes the uniformity that had quickly come to pervade American skyscraper design.

    When steel construction began to have its effect upon the height and the looks of office-buildings, two tendencies were traceable in their design. In New York there was no attempt to make their appearance express their structure. A convention of treating them as columns with a decorated capital, a long plain central shaft, and a heavier base, was early adopted; and within the limits of this general idea, the regular architectural, structural and decorative forms were used regardless of their ordinary structural functions and associations. In Chicago, on the other hand, while many buildings were designed along the same lines as New York, there was a tendency, partly owing to the influence of Mr. Louis Sullivan, towards a franker expression in the design of these buildings of the plain facts of their steel structure. Such is no longer the case. The new sky-scrapers, which have been, and are being, erected in large numbers in Chicago and Pittsburgh, as well as New York, almost all conform to the conventional treatment, long since adopted in the metropolis—and this in spite of the fact that Mr. Louis Sullivan had between the two bursts of building activity completed several brilliant and comparatively good-looking attempts to solve the problem within the limitations imposed by the structure. Whether or not the American architect has, in this instance, chosen the wrong alternative, he has at any rate, for the time being, adopted a comparatively uniform type for the design of the “skyscrapers.”

    The Architectural Record, December, 1903.

  • Carron Street Baptist Church, Shadyside

    This beautiful and tasteful Colonial Revival church by the Beezer Brothers was featured in the December 15, 1900, issue of the American Architect and Building News. You search Google Maps for it in vain today, and you may be thinking what a shame it is that it disappeared.

    But it didn’t disappear. It’s still there.

    It looks a little more working-class now, but it’s recognizably the same building. Is there a tasteful and wealthy congregation looking for a church? This one is ripe for restoration.

  • First Ward Manual Training School, Allegheny

    The school is long gone, and the site covered by expressways: it was about where the ramps from the Fort Duquesne Bridge join state route 65 on the way to Ohio River Boulevard, very near the North Side subway station. But here is a rendering of Charles M. Bartberger’s design, which is an early school in a somewhat unusual Flemish style by an architect who came to design many of Pittsburgh’s more distinguished school buildings. It was published in the American Architect and Building News for October 13, 1900.

    Old Pa Pitt finds it interesting how many of these architectural renderings include elegantly dressed ladies and gentlemen standing in the street waiting to be run over by an omnibus.

  • Lord & Burnham, Horticultural Architects and Builders

    Lord & Burnham advertisement from 1896
    From the American Architect and Building News, July 25, 1896.

    Lord & Burnham designed Phipps Conservatory in 1892, which was probably their biggest commission ever; and in this 1896 advertisement for their services, we see them showing a model conservatory that is very much like one of the wings of Phipps.

    Phipps Conservatory from a similar angle
    Southeast wing of Phipps Conservatory, with John Massey Rhind’s Robert Burns.
  • Concord Presbyterian Church, Carrick, Newly Built

    The September 1915 issue of The Builder published this picture of the Concord Presbyterian Church in Carrick, along with this description:


    An interesting building, published in this issue, built after the style of the early English Parish Church, and executed in that character exceptionally well both interior and exterior.

    The exterior of the Church is of Rubble Masonry which as a material blends well with the immediate surroundings, the site being on Brownsville Road, Carrick, and of a rural atmosphere. The interior (as the interior of the early English Parish Church) is carried out in a very simple but dignified design, of plaster and timber, finished in a warm color scheme.

    The Church has a seating capacity of 500, the Sunday School accommodating 450.

    The architect, as the page with the photograph above tells us, was George H. Schwan. Although the immediate surroundings were “of a rural atmosphere” in 1915, they would not remain that way for long. Already in the photograph above you can see the great engine of urbanization: streetcar tracks.

    This is the way the church looks today, with its early-settler country churchyard behind it and the decidedly non-rural business district of Carrick in front of it. More pictures of the Concord Presbyterian Church are here.

  • How to Improve a Design by Alden & Harlow

    Here is how the Land Trust Company building (later the Commercial National Bank) looked in 1905:

    Land Trust Company
    From Palmer’s Pictorial Pittsburgh.

    And here is how it looks today:

    Land Trust Company today

    Much better, isn’t it?

  • Six Stories Addition to House Building

    House Building with six new floors
    From The Builder, April 1904.

    The design of the House Building, with its unusual middle section, is explained by the fact that the upper six floors were added some time after the lower seven were put up. This rendering shows the cornice and parapet at the top, without which the building looks a little too casual.

  • Completing Plans for Hebrew Institute

    From The Construction Record, September 26, 1914. The building was put up the next year, and still stands almost exactly as Mr. Cohen designed it.