Now part of the Conroy Early Childhood Center, this old school hovers between classical and Romanesque styles, which means that perhaps the best term for it is Rundbogenstil, the word old Pa Pitt most likes to pronounce in public.
Since it has been made an annex of a larger building, it no longer requires its main entrance, which leads to this architectural dissonance:
A beautifully kept vernacular-Gothic house in Manchester. Enlarge the picture to appreciate the details, including the many shapes of roof slates and the more than usually elaborate woodwork along the porch roof.
It looks like an ordinary Romanesque rowhouse, like hundreds of others in Pittsburgh. But as we approach it, we notice an unusually lush growth of grotesque foliage in the carved stone relief.
You can enlarge this picture to admire the many whimsical details. According to a local historian who left a comment here a decade ago, this was the home of Achille Giammartini, the uniquely talented stonecarver whose work can still be found all over the city, especially on the North Side. The comment is worth reproducing in full:
Much of the local stone carving as well as work across the North Side, downtown, Carnegie Mellon University, etc was done by Achille Giammartini who built the house at 1410 Page St, near Page St & Manhattan St, in Manchester (beside Allegheny West). Although this was his personal residence he used the exterior as a “billboard” for his considerable skills. —Mark
Some years later, we received a very interesting comment from G. Blair Bauer, a lineal descendant of the sculptor, in reply to the comment from Mark:
Thank you, Mark. He was my great grandfather and his daughter, my grandmother, told us little about him. I remember one Christmas we got delayed going to my grandmother’s for dinner in Allegheny West because they were tearing down all the old townhouses. My grandmother said that her father had carved a lot of the mantels for the living rooms. My mother was horrified and said she wished that she had known as she would have gotten a mantel for each of us 4 children. Grandma replied, “He worked with his hands; I want to forget about him.” Mother was so enraged we got up and left dinner on the table. I now have an address and will visit his house; hope there is a lot of his work visible.
Well, the front would certainly have left a good impression of his talents. A prospective client who visited Mr. Giammartini at home would get the impression that here was a remarkable artist, and the impression would be conveyed before the client even walked in the door. Even the address has a touch of Romanesque fantasy:
A pair of Romanesque houses, mostly brick but with a splendid stone front. The decorations are extraordinarily fine, and Father Pitt suspects that they were by the extraordinary Achille Giammartini, who lived a few blocks away and was responsible for much of the ornamental stonecarving on the North Side.
An attractive row of small houses built a little before 1910. One of them has had a fire and is under sentence of condemnation; we hope it can be rescued, but it may not be worth enough to restore. It is only yards from Allegheny West, a very desirable neighborhood; but that neighborhood line is there, and these houses are technically in Manchester.
From the back we can see how a good bit of thought was put into making these houses bright and airy while still using the small space efficiently.
The tall houses here probably date from the Civil War era, and they were probably built to be rental properties; they appear on our 1872 map as belonging to A. Milliken. Originally there were three pairs of houses and one single on the corner, all matching; one of the pairs has disappeared and been replaced by smaller modern rowhouses. The newer houses do a good job of matching the style of the neighborhood, but they would have done better if they had been built at the same setback from the street. As for the height, it is probably useless to quibble about that. It is old Pa Pitt’s impression that builders of any given era are very dogmatic about the proper height for a ceiling. Look at the third floor of the house on the corner, and compare it to the third floor of the house next to it: you will see at once that modern ceilings are much lower than ceilings from the 1860s, and that is simply the way it is and nothing can be done about it.
This street is now North Avenue, but when these houses were built it was Fayette Avenue; it did not connect to North Avenue until the later twentieth century.
A block away from the magnificent Calvary Methodist Church was another Methodist church, almost as magnificent—but Methodist Protestant, whereas Calvary was Methodist Episcopal. Calvary is exuberantly Gothic; this is a heavier Romanesque style. For some reason it has never made anyone’s landmarks list, but in Father Pitt’s opinion it deserves recognition and preservation as a fine example of the Richardsonian Romanesque style.
The building later became home to the Carter Chapel C.M.E. Church, a historic Black congregation that had previously been on the Hill in the former Congregation Kaiser Torah synagogue.
Now it is abandoned, and under sentence of condemnation since it started shedding bits of stone. According to a passing neighbor who struck up a conversation with the man with the camera, it was bought for $300,000 some time ago, but the owner seems not to have been able to do anything with it. It is just on the edge of Allegheny West, a very desirable neighborhood, but neighborhood boundaries are everything in real estate, and this church is technically in Manchester.
Since the building may vanish soon, old Pa Pitt spent some time documenting the exterior. To avoid weighing down the front page for the next week and a half, the rest of the pictures are below the metaphorical fold.
Now the New Zion Baptist Church in what may be Pittsburgh’s only clot of three different Baptist churches in the same spot, this former Italian parish church is a good example of the modernist interpretation of Gothic that was popular briefly after the Second World War. The fine reliefs are in a style that filters medieval religious art through a slightly Art Deco lens.
There seems to have been an inscription over the skull and crossbones (representing conquered Death), but it is no longer legible.
Sinite parvulos, et nolite eos prohibere ad me venire: talium est enim regnum caelorum. (Matt. 19:14.)
On the end of Juniata Street, where it meets Chateau Street, is a cluster of three Baptist churches all huddled together. Two of them originally belonged to other denominations, but this one has been Baptist all its life. Originally the Beth-Eden Baptist Church, it is now called Pilgrim Baptist Church. The building was put up in 1903, when weighty Romanesque was still a popular style in Allegheny and Pittsburgh. The massive tower and the rounded end make a strong impression.