Category: Marshall-Shadeland

  • Engine House, Marshall-Shadeland

    Firehouse at Shadeland Avenue and Dickson Street

    This Romanesque—or shall we say Rundbogenstil? Because we like to say “Rundbogenstil”—firehouse was built for the city of Allegheny, probably in the 1890s to judge by our old maps. The alterations since then can be explained by the fact that a firehouse is basically a men’s club, and men’s clubs in Pittsburgh gradually fill in their windows and block as much natural light as they can. It does make one wonder what they expect to do with that tower now, but perhaps firemen have secret initiation rituals for which a dark tower is the ideal setting.

    Firehouse from the engine end
  • St. John the Baptist Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Church, Marshall-Shadeland

    St. John the Baptist Orthodox Church

    The congregation moved to a generic late-twentieth-century church building in the North Hills this year, finally following most of its members to the suburbs. (The congregation was secure enough to be able to move without taking out a loan, which is good news for them even if it’s bad news for the North Side.) That leaves this building in an uncertain state. Right now it is still being well maintained, but its neighborhood is not yet valuable. Perhaps with the revival of city living, it will be worth doing something with in the next few years.

    Cornerstone with a date of 1937

    The church was built in 1937, when the Depression was still with us and its congregation probably was not rich. The building is a curious construction in a style old Pa Pitt has decided to call “Modular Byzantine.” The parade of identical rectangles across the tall face of the church makes it look as though it was put together by a methodical and meticulous child playing with blocks.

    Corner view of the church, showing slope of lot

    Because of the extreme slope of the lot, the front has to be very tall if there is going to be any back at all. Since the main entrance is on the lower level, we can add this to our list of churches with the sanctuary upstairs.

    Dome with Byzantine cross

    The gold domes are a landmark on this section of California Avenue, and we hope they can be preserved.

  • Calvary Christian Church, Marshall-Shadeland

    Calvary Christian Church, Marshall-Shadeland

    Chauncey W. Hodgdon had been practicing architecture for well over four decades when he designed this little church. It was built in about 1924,1 and this is Hodgdon on a small budget. He minimized expensive indulgences like stone trim and large windows, while still giving the congregation the respectable Gothic church it dreamed of. Now the building belongs to New Hope Church, which is keeping it in very good shape.

    New Hope Church
    1. Source: The American Contractor, August 11, 1923: “Church: Shadland [sic] av. & Dickson st. Archt. Chauncey W. Hodgdon, Martin bldg. Owner The Calvary Christ. Church. Rev. F. Fink, 3426 Cass st. Brk. & Stone. Archt. taking bids on super. to close Aug. 20.” ↩︎
  • Old Theater in Woods Run

    A. Benedix Theater

    A map from 1923 identifies this building as the “A. Benedix Theatre,” which we would guess was a neighborhood movie palace. It’s crammed into an awkward lot in the Woods Run valley, so that is not a trick of photographic perspective in the picture above: the front really is at an odd angle to the rest of the building. But (in spite of the replacement of the ground floor by a garage) it does have the look and the narrow and deep shape of a low-budget theater. Father Pitt will therefore add this to his collection of silent-movie theaters still standing, unless someone gives him better information.

    Old movie theater


  • Western Penitentiary

    The Wall
    The Pen used to be known to frequent guests as “The Wall.”

    Closed since 2017, the Western Penitentiary (or, more recently, State Correctional Institution—Pittsburgh) will have a hard time finding a buyer. It would perhaps make a fine mansion for an eccentric supervillain, but most real-world supervillains are dreadfully prosaic in their tastes.

    Nevertheless, it is a masterpiece of prison architecture—aesthetically, at least. The architect was Edward M. Butz, and it was built between 1876 and 1882, with various later additions. It looks more like a prison than the Bastille did, and so we present it on Bastille Day, with the cheerful news that no inmates are imprisoned here, but the sad news that it may eventually have to be pulled down by a demolition contractor rather than a revolutionary mob.

    End wall
    With a guard tower
    Through the fence
    Through the trees
  • Old Woods Run Branch Library

    Woods Run Branch Library

    The city of Allegheny was conquered by Pittsburgh in 1907, but the Carnegie Free Library of Allegheny—the first municipally run public library—was an independent institution until 1956. The main library was in the center of Allegheny, where it still stands (though the library has moved out). It had one branch library, opened here in 1916; the first librarian was Helen R. Langfitt, a 1916 graduate of the Carnegie Library School. This little arts-and-crafts building cannot match the elegance of the Alden & Harlow branch libraries in Pittsburgh, but it was a pleasant ornament to the neighborhood.

    Oblique view

    In 1964, the library moved to a modern building around the corner on Woods Run Avenue—a building that itself became dated and was remodernized in 2006.

  • A Forgotten Scheibler Building in the Woods Run Valley

    Between the bridges

    Addendum: Note the comment from David Schwing below, citing the definitive book on Scheibler, which old Pa Pitt really needs to add to his library:

    According to Martin Aurand in “The Progressive Architecture of Frederick G. Scheibler, Jr.” this building was built in 1902 for Robert L. Matthews. This predates the Ohio Boulevard Bridge to the left of the building.

    This makes the building one of Scheibler’s early works; he had left Longfellow, Alden & Harlow in 1898, and apparently carried some of that illustrious firm’s classical aesthetic with him. Many thanks to Mr. Schwing for the information.

    Another addendum: The building was the Robert L. Matthews Departments Store, according to an Architects Tour Program from the Allegheny City Society.

    The original article is below.

    Down in the Woods Run valley, crammed between the Ohio River Boulevard bridge on the one side and the California Avenue bridge on the other, is this strange building, obviously much altered over the years, which once belonged to the Kazimier Pulaski Society. What makes it even more fascinating is that a city architectural survey identifies it as the work of Frederick Scheibler, one of the most interesting early modernist architects in Pittsburgh.

    The building seems to be in use by a “social club,” which as old Pa Pitt understands it differs from a “bar” in that it closes at 3 a.m. instead of 2 a.m. A building permit for alterations to the second-floor interior was issued in October and is still taped to the door.

    Kazimier Pulaski Society

    You may have noticed the doors to nowhere on the second, third, and fourth floors. We can only assume that a fire escape was installed on the front of this building at some time in its history, or possibly balconies. At least we hope that is what those doors indicate. (Update: A reader points out that the fire escape was present as recently as 2017 and can be seen in earlier layers of Google Street View.)

    Top of the building

    Although the details of most of the front have disappeared, the interesting treatment of the fourth floor is mostly preserved.

    Top from the front

    The monogram “RLM,” or possibly “LRM,” in this cartouche suggests that the Kazimier Pulaski Society was not the original builder.

    Cartouche closer up
    With the bridge
  • St. Leo’s, Marshall-Shadeland

    St. Leo’s

    If he had known that the church would be demolished the next year, Father Pitt would have been more careful to document it. As it is, he happened to be passing in 2001 with one of his many odd old cameras, and he decided to take this quick picture before rolling on. The architect was probably John T. Comès, who gave this German congregation an Italian Romanesque church, because why not?

    The church had been vacant for several years when the Sisters of Divine Providence demolished it and built a new Family Support Center. The front of that building bears a mural with a picture of St. Leo’s in it.