Now St. Paul A. M. E. Zion Church. This congregation had money in the 1960s, it would seem; a new sanctuary in 1960s modernist Gothic was grafted on the older Sunday-school and office wing, which is in a stony Jacobean style.
Now Iglesia de Cristo León de Judá, the Knoxville Baptist Church was built in 1909; it is a typical small vernacular-Gothic church with some Arts and Crafts details. The attractive indigo paint applied by the current congregation makes it stand out from others of its type.
Fundamentalist Christians in the United States have always had a deep suspicion of stained glass as creeping idolatry, but the Spanish-speaking Evangelical congregations are the most vengefully thorough about it. As soon as they take over an old church building, the stained glass is removed. Usually it is replaced with clear glass, but this congregation has blocked all natural light from entering the building. Photographs of services on line show that the interior is set up like a theater, and natural light would only interfere with the projections and spotlights.
Sometimes old Pa Pitt hasn’t got around to publishing a picture of something before it disappears. Back in January he took this picture of a three-storey commercial building from 1901; it has just been demolished. It was not an extraordinarily fine work of architecture, but the upper floors were pleasingly proportioned and treated with enough ornamentation to make the building a good citizen of the streetscape. The ground floor was a mass of decades’ worth of improvised improvements and adaptations; its last tenant was a general store that advertised “videos” among its wares, which tells us how long that store had been vacant.
Jacobean Gothic is filtered through an Art Deco lens in this building from 1927, which has been sympathetically modernized with current materials that fit with and emphasize its distinctive character. The original terra-cotta ornaments have been lovingly preserved. This is a good example of how a commercial building can be brought up to date with good taste on a limited budget. Old Pa Pitt has not been able to determine what the building’s original name was; it now belongs to an organization for senior citizens.
Father Pitt knows how his readers appreciate a good utility cable, so here is a fine closeup of one, unfortunately marred by a date stone in the background.
An Art Deco interpretation of traditional Doric bank architecture, with the added interest of an unusual shape: the lot forces the structure into a triangle. This substantial building from 1931 was abandoned for a while; then it was briefly the Iglesia de Cristo León de Judá, before that congregation took over an old church a few blocks away; then it was abandoned again. Now it is a store with the delightfully appropriate name “Candy Safe Market.” The exterior is a feast of artistic details.
The name comes from St. Clair Township, which originally included much of Allegheny County south of the Monongahela. Today the building is in the Knoxville neighborhood of Pittsburgh, right on the border with Mount Oliver borough.
This pair of griffins over the entrance ought to be guarding a clock, and perhaps they were at some point; but the bronze decoration where the clock should be is fairly old, if it is not original. The banner with the name of the store is hanging over this sculpture, which is why we have to look at it from this angle: old Pa Pitt thought it would be discourteous to take down the banner just to get a better picture.
One of the points of the triangle.
Knoxville was a fairly rich neighborhood at one time, especially in the area around the old Knox mansion (where the abandoned Knoxville Junior High School is now). This is a good sample of some of the fine houses that still stand in the neighborhood; it needs some work, but it is in good shape overall, and it has not lost most of its distinctive character.
A small church whose weighty Romanesque design makes it seem larger than it is. Of course we have the usual Pittsburgh feast of utility cables in front, which old Pa Pitt is too lazy to take out. The building now belongs to a nondenominational congregation called the Holy Faith Tabernacle Church.
Until 1939, there were two main streams of Methodism in the United States: the Methodist Episcopal Church and the Methodist Protestant Church. Both were represented in Knoxville: we saw the First Methodist Protestant Church of Knoxville earlier.
Now the Graceland Community Church. This old Episcopal church is a frame structure sheathed in Perma-Stone or some similar artificial siding. Old Pa Pitt does not know the history of the building, but from old maps it seems to date to the 1880s. The square windows in the rear part indicate a later extension, after 1923 (according to the maps), and the Perma-Stone may have been applied at the same time.
There is a certain traditional shape for Episcopal churches, and it is often possible to identify, or at least suspect, an old Episcopal church simply by its shape. They tend to be small but rich, with a very steeply pitched roof and Gothic details.
[Correction: In the first version of this article, Father Pitt had carelessly typed “Church of the Resurrection” in the headline. He was thinking of a church of that name in Brookline, which will appear here shortly.]
This building has been much altered and diminished. There was originally more building behind it, and the façade has been drastically remodeled. The front entrance is now a pair of windows, and the original grand arches have been bricked in, with small and mismatched windows. The city’s Hilltop architectural inventory (PDF) classed this as a building with low architectural integrity. But it is very interesting for two reasons. First, the front gives us a good lesson in urban archaeology: enough is left so that we can try to imagine how the original building looked. Second, the fact that there was such a thing as a prominent school of rhetoric in Knoxville is itself an interesting window into times past. The briefest exposure to any of our politicians today will be enough to convince us that a school of rhetoric would be welcome in these parts.
A little bedraggled and somewhat muddled by renovations, the former Hill-Top Branch Young Men’s Christian Association is still a grand building. Old Pa Pitt has not been able to determine the architect, but according to the city’s Hilltop architectural inventory it was built in 1911. The same document says elsewhere that the land for it was donated in 1912, and Father Pitt is imagining an amusing scene in which the projectors of the YMCA are trying to explain to the landowner why they thought it was easier to ask for forgiveness than permission. Above, the Zara Street front of the building.
One of the ornate “modern Ionic” capitals on the front porch.
The Grimes Street side.
Addendum: The architect was E. V. Denick.1
- Source: The Construction Record, May 13, 1911: “The Ley Construction Company, Curry building, have started excavations for a four-story brick building to be constructed on Zara street and Virginia avenue, Knoxville, for the Y. M. C. A., to cost $75,000. Plans by Architect E. V. Denick, 1212 House building.” Certainly this building has lost its top; it is possible that it was once four floors, but more likely that the specifications were changed, or that the magazine (which was sloppily edited) printed the wrong number. ↩︎