Category: Manchester

  • Chimney Pots in Manchester

  • Clarence and Mary Pettit House, Manchester

    Pettit House

    This house has a more detailed history at the Manchester Historic Society’s site, so old Pa Pitt will only mention the highlights. It was built for Clarence and Mary Dravo Pettit in 1891 from a design by Thomas Scott, whose public buildings would mostly be done in a Beaux Arts classical style; here, however, he has jumped on the Richardsonian Romanesque bandwagon, since the style became practically a mania in Pittsburgh after the county courthouse was built in the 1880s.


    It is likely that the decorative stonecarving was done by Achille Giammartini, whose own house was a short stroll from this one.


    If your turret has a decorative foliage frieze, you might as well gild it. And don’t forget the finial at the peak.

    Perspective view of the house
  • Union Methodist Episcopal Church, Manchester

    Manhattan Street face of the Union Methodist Episcopal Church

    Barr & Moser were big names in the architecture of the up-and-coming city of Pittsburgh in the middle 1800s. This church, which opened in 1867, is one of their few surviving works. It is in some ways a typical Pittsburgh neighborhood church, with the sanctuary upstairs. But the three arches at the top of the Manhattan Street face of the building are anything but typical. Some replacement brick in the large center arch suggests that some decorative element decayed and was filled in, but even as the building stands now we can see how modern it must have looked in the time just after the Civil War.

    This picture took six separate photographs to render, but the result is the front of the church almost as the architects drew it.

    From the corner of Manhattan and Pennsylvania
    Cornerstone: New Zion Baptist Church

    The church has belonged to at least three different congregations. It was the Union Methodist Episcopal Church through the early 1900s; by 1923 it belonged to St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church; then in 1961—as this replacement cornerstone records—it was bought by the New Zion Baptist Church. The building does not appear to be in use right now, but we hope it can be maintained.

    Pennsylvania Avenue side of the church
    Union Methodist Episcopal Church
    Canon PowerShot SX150 IS.
  • Fifth Ward Manual Training School, Manchester

    Fifth Ward Manual Training School

    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:

    Main entrance

    Addendum: The particularly fine inscription and relief work were done by Achille Giammartini, who lived a few doors down on Page Street.

  • Italianate Mansion in Manchester

    Italianate mansion

    A splendid Italianate house, splendidly restored, complete with tower to keep an eye on one’s neighbors, as one had to do in the Italian Renaissance.

    Front door

    The current owners’ attention to detail includes proper fabric awnings for the porch.

  • Victorian Gothic in Manchester

    Victorian Gothic house

    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.

  • Achille Giammartini House, Manchester

    In context on Page Street

    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.

    Front of the house
    Grotesque foliage with dragons and faces

    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:

    Grotesque foliage with dragons
  • Romanesque Duplex in Manchester

    Front view of the houses

    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.

    Grotesque face
    Another grotesque face
    Romanesque foliage
    Roof ornament
    Corner view


  • Early-20th-Century Rowhouses, Manchester

    Abdell Street rowhouses

    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.

    Rear of the houses
  • Milliken Row, Manchester

    Milliken row, Manchester

    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.