This fine Renaissance palace, built in 1897, was designed by Samuel T. McClaren. It sits on 40th Street at Liberty Avenue, where it is technically—according to city planning maps—in Bloomfield. Most Pittsburghers, however, would probably call this section of Bloomfield “Lawrenceville,” since it sticks like a thumb into lower Lawrenceville, and the Lawrenceville line runs along two edges of the school’s lot.
For some reason the style of this building is listed as “Romanesque revival” wherever we find it mentioned on line. Old Pa Pitt will leave it up to his readers: is this building, with its egg-and-dart decorations, false balconies, and Trajanesque inscriptions, anything other than a Victorian interpretation of a Renaissance interpretation of classical architecture? Now, if you had said “Rundbogenstil,” Father Pitt might have accepted it, because he likes to say the word “Rundbogenstil.”
We saw the 1884 Arsenal Bank earlier from across Butler Street. Here is the 43rd Street side of the building, which we can see clearly thanks to the disappearance years ago of the neighboring buildings.
There is something about men’s clubs: when they take over a building, the first thing they do is block out as much of the natural light as possible. But the outlines of the old windows are clear enough: it is not hard to imagine this building the way it was when it was a Swedish church.
This is a late example of the style of modest church more typical of the middle 1800s. It has all the elements—the shallow-pitched roof, the walls divided into sections by simple pilasters, the date stone in the gable, the crenellations. We also note that typical nineteenth-century Pittsburgh adaptation to a tiny lot: the sanctuary is on the second floor, with social hall and schoolrooms or offices on the ground floor.
Without the date stone, old Pa Pitt would have guessed that this church was twenty years or more earlier.
The Amvets seem to have moved out, and it looks as if the building is vacant now. Considering the mushrooming value of Lawrenceville real estate, it will probably be filled or demolished soon.
The intersection of Butler and 44th Streets forms an acute angle. The architect of this attractive commercial building (it probably dates from the 1870s) blunted what would otherwise have been an unattractively sharp corner by placing the entrance there, spreading the turn across two angles.
Here is an example of something you never see old Pa Pitt do. The usual jungle of utility cables infested this picture, and Father Pitt took them out. It’s not a perfect job, but it looks good from this distance. Having demonstrated that he is capable of doing it, Father Pitt may never do it again, but it does give us a good look at the front of an interesting old church.
Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church is the oldest open church in Lawrenceville: that is to say, it is the one that has been worshiping in the same building continuously for the longest time. This building was finished in 1874, and it has not changed much since then. In style it is a typical small Pittsburgh church of the time, with a shallow-pitched roof, the walls divided in sections by simple pilasters, and crenellations under the roofline. This is the Romanesque variant of that style. It could be made Gothic by swapping the rounded arches for pointed arches; it could be made classical by adding a few classical decorative elements.
The inscription reads “3.te Deutsche ev. Lutherische Zions Kirche” (“Third German Evangelical Lutheran Zion’s Church”). Someone has traced the date “1823” in white on the date stone in the gable. Father Pitt believes it is a mistake, although he would be happy to be corrected by anyone who knows better. The records indicate that the congregation was founded in 1868; the building opened in March of 1874, so the date 1873 would be plausible. Perhaps layers of paint made the date indistinct, and a painter misread the 7.
Here is the church with the utility cables. Father Pitt had the energy to remove them from one picture, but after that he had to lie down for a while. Since, however, these pictures are all licensed with a public-domain-equivalent CC0 license, nothing stops any motivated readers from adopting the photograph and spending the afternoon eliminating the cables—and that utility pole while they’re at it.
A typical street of miscellaneous rowhouses in Lower Lawrenceville. This part of the neighborhood has become desirable enough that the houses are well maintained, but not desirable enough that they are pseudo-Victorianized yet, so that we still see the full cacophony of things Pittsburghers have thought it might be a good idea to do to a Victorian rowhouse. Below, an Italianate house that seems to be under renovation (note the expensive but asymmetrical new front entrance).
This fine little Renaissance palace, built in 1896, was the first of Carnegie’s branch libraries, and thus arguably the vanguard of the whole idea of branch libraries. It was also the first public library with open stacks, where patrons would just walk to the shelf and pick up the book by themselves. In other libraries—including much of the main Carnegie in Oakland until a few years ago—the patron would ask for the book at the desk, and a librarian would run back to the mysterious stacks and fetch it.
Like all the original libraries in the Carnegie system, this was designed by Alden & Harlow.