Category: Mount Lebanon

  • Baptist Home, Mount Lebanon

    Baptist Home

    In the early twentieth century, orphans—of whom there were too many—were sent to live in orphanages. We don’t do that anymore, and most of the large orphanages in our area have long since been demolished. This is an exception: it was also an old folks’ home, and that function remains.

    Panoramic view of the front of the building

    Addendum: Here is a rendering of the building the way the architect designed it, from The Builder, June, 1914:

    That whole issue is devoted to works of architect Thomas Hannah, whom we had already identified as the architect from the Construction Record, as you see below.


    The original section was built in 1914, and the architect was Thomas Hannah, as we learn from the invaluable Construction Record:

    November 22, 1913: “Architect Thomas Hannah, Keenan building, has plans under way for an orphanage and home for the aged to be constructed in Mt. Lebanon for the Baptist Orphanage & Home Society of Western Pennsylvania, Union Bank building. The building will contain administration offices and accommodations for about 50 persons.”

    May 16, 1914: “The new building for the Baptist Orphanage, to be built in Mt. Lebanon, Pittsburgh, plans for which were made by Architect Thomas Hannah, Keenan building, Pittsburgh will be a three-story and basement brick structure, 36×105 feet. It is expected that the contract for erecting same will be awarded shortly. Material specifications will include structural steel, concrete foundations, cut stone work, face brick, composition roofing, sheet metal work, concrete porch floors, interior finish of yellow pine, low pressure steam heating system, plumbing, lighting fixtures, etc.”

    Outbuilding

    This simple but elegantly proportioned outbuilding could also be Hannah’s work.

  • Whimsical Brickwork in Mount Lebanon

    Apartment Building on Central Square

    Here is another example of the odd whimsies that sometimes pop up as small apartment buildings. This is the storybook-cottage style that was popular for single-family houses in the 1920s and 1930s built up into a storybook castle. But the most remarkable thing about it is the deliberately random decorative brickwork. It reminds old Pa Pitt of something Frank Gehry would do.

    Random brickwork

    This extreme randomness would probably not hold up the whole wall, so it is used only in the sort-of-half-timbered section above the entrance. But the rest of the brickwork was made as cartoonishly irregular as possible.

    Irregular brickwork

    Some bricklayer had a lot of fun—or a lot of under-his-breath cursing—with this assignment. We note, however, that the balcony railings have been repaired. Perhaps they were originally wood, or perhaps the irregular brickwork proved less than sound.

  • Apartment Buildings on Academy Avenue, Mount Lebanon

    Apartment building

    Academy Avenue in Mount Lebanon, just off the Uptown business district, is a street of small to medium-sized apartment buildings, giving way to single-family houses as the street gets farther from Washington Road.

    Apartment building
  • Two Kinds of Spanish Mission

    Historical Society of Mount Lebanon

    Two houses in the Spanish Mission style sit side by side on Washington Road at the southern end of the Uptown Mount Lebanon business district, and they implement the style in two interestingly different ways. This one, which is now the home of the Historical Society of Mount Lebanon, takes the style fairly seriously. A real Spanish house, in the New World or the Old, turns inward. It shuts the public out, presenting almost blank walls to the outside world. Of course Southwestern houses are also notable for their flat rooflines. In this house we have large expanses of stucco wall facing the street (although the architect has conceded some generously large front windows to Eastern sensibilities) and the flat roof characteristic of Spanish colonial architecture in the Southwest.

    The other house is much more an Eastern house with decorative borrowings from the Spanish Mission style:

    Spanish Mission house on Washington Road

    You could take the basic shape of this house and turn it into an English cottage or an Italian Renaissance palace by changing the details. The stucco, the arcaded porch, and the tile roof are the main things that carry the “Spanish Mission” message.

  • Craftsman-Modernist Apartment Building, Mount Lebanon

    Apartment building on Academy Avenue

    Well, this one didn’t quite work.

    Old Pa Pitt has mentioned how he enjoys seeing the experiments builders try with small apartment buildings. Here we see a builder who seems to have absorbed some of the ideas of modernism and added some Craftsman-style details: the three-over-one windows, the decorative brickwork, the wood-framed entrance. But the details seem applied at random, and a modernist architect would have been more regular in the geometry. Note the lack of rhythm or alignment in the windows, which throws off the whole façade. The second and third floors have windows in groups of 2, 1, 3, 2; the first floor has groups of 2, 1, 2, 1, and they do not line up at all with the windows above them. The entrance does not line up vertically or horizontally with anything else in the building; its awkward corner placement seems to leave some of the trim hanging off the edge.

    Someone will probably come along and tell Father Pitt that this building is by a famous modernist architect, and old Pa Pitt will only say that the architect was having a bad day.

  • Georgian Meets Spanish Mission

    Apartment building on Academy Avenue

    You have probably never heard anyone say this before, but Father Pitt is fascinated by small apartment buildings. Larger apartment blocks are often designed by famous architects, and they may be masterpieces of their kind. But small apartment buildings sometimes preserve the adventurous whimsies of a builder who was not technically an architect but could draw a blueprint all by himself.

    Here is a good example. The third floor of this little apartment building in Mount Lebanon is typical of the Spanish Mission style that was very popular in the near South Hills in the first half of the twentieth century. But below that the details are Georgian. It would be hard to imagine a stranger clash than those two styles—and yet they work well together. Pedestrians walking by never say, “Now there is an outrageously mixed metaphor of a building.” A big-deal architect would probably never do it, but it works.

  • Southminster Presbyterian Church, Mount Lebanon

    Southminster Presbyterian Church

    This tasteful Gothic church, finished in 1928, anchors the south end of the Uptown Mount Lebanon business district. The architect was Thomas Pringle, who also gave us the Salvation Army Building downtown.

    West entrance
  • The Berkshire, Mount Lebanon

    The Berkshire

    A typical courtyard apartment building in a corner of Mount Lebanon that is full of small to medium-sized apartment buildings. This one is in a simple but attractive Jacobean style, where a few effective details carry all the thematic weight.

    Lamppost
  • Mount Lebanon United Methodist Church

    Mount Lebanon United Methodist Church

    One of three fine Gothic churches in a row, this one is actually in Dormont—but not by much. The Mount Lebanon border runs down Scott Road to the right of the building, then jogs behind the building to take in the St. Clair Cemetery.

    Addendum: The church was built in 1923 or after; the architect was Charles W. Bier. Source: The American Contractor, October 13, 1923: “Church: Approx. $150,000. 2 sty. & bas. 100×100. W. Liberty av., Mt. Lebanon. Archt. C. Bier, Pittsburgh Life bldg., Pittsburgh, Pa. Owner Mt. Lebanon M. E. Congr., G. W. Beams, 1225 Peermont, Dormont, Pa. Stone. Gen. contr. let to H. Busse Co., Main & Wabash av., Pittsburgh, Pa. Plmg. to Reynold Gusse, 130 Wabash av., Pittsburgh. Rfg. to Crafton Rfg. & Furnace Co., 7 Crafton av., Crafton, Pa.”

  • Mount Lebanon Evangelical Presbyterian Church

    Mount Lebanon Evangelical Presbyterian Church

    Patterned after York Minster, this English Gothic church sits on the peak of the ridge, so that its outsized towers are visible for miles.