Category: Mount Oliver

  • Mt. Oliver Mens Shop

    The front of this building, which was originally constructed a little before 1910, has been perfectly pickled in the middle twentieth century. It is now an antique store advertising “useful junk,” and if you enlarge the picture, you will see how much of that junk is a perfect match for the era of the storefront itself.

  • Miller Hardware, Mount Oliver

    Here is a building that probably dates from the 1890s, and it appears to be occupied by the business that built it. Miller Hardware has expanded into the building next door as well, but it is still an old-fashioned hardware store.

  • Commercial Building in Mount Oliver

    There are many ways to modernize an old storefront and keep in sympathy with the architecture of the building. Let us label this one incorrect. It was doubtless touted as a quality job by the contractor. But this is why there are architects as well as builders: because the people who are good at putting things together are not always the people who are good at deciding how things ought to be put together.

    The upper two floors of the building are still in remarkably good classical taste. The pediment has been filled in with some kind of siding—who thought ribbed siding would look better than a plain flat surface?—but the ornamental details of the windows and pilasters are still in good shape. It would not take a huge investment to make a tastefully modern front for the ground floor that would not fight the upper storeys with every weapon available to architecture.

  • Renaissance Deco in Mount Oliver

    131–133 Brownsville Road

    Italian Renaissance architecture filtered through an Art Deco lens makes an extraordinarily rich little building on Brownsville Road. The storefronts have been modernized; they would almost certainly not have had doors that open right into pedestrians’ faces when this building was put up in 1928. But the overall impression the building makes is still dignified, with a touch of Venetian fantasy that reminds us of a Pandro S. Berman production.

    False balcony
  • Arts-and-Crafts Storefront, Mount Oliver

    212 Brownsville Road

    This tiny building has a simple but rich front; we suspect that the projecting roof was originally covered with green tile, which would have set off the Arts-and-Crafts stained glass even more.

  • Brownsville Road, Mount Oliver

    Brownsville Road

    Mount Oliver is having a bit of a revival these days. Luckily it never declined far enough to start losing buildings in its main commercial strip here on Brownsville Road, so the street is still lined with uninterrupted shops from Arlington Avenue to Bausman Street. For a while a considerable number of them were empty, but they are filling up again. The building at left with the green awning is the old Murphy’s variety store; it is now being made into artists’ studios by the couple who own the trendy Echt coffeehouse around the corner.

    It is hard to explain Mount Oliver to people outside the hilltop neighborhoods of southern Pittsburgh. It is completely surrounded by the city of Pittsburgh, but it is an independent borough, the sole holdout when the back slopes of Mount Washington were annexed by the city. Its residents pay taxes to the borough government, but also to the city school system, because Mount Oliver buys its schooling from Pittsburgh. To make things a little more confusing and surreal, one of the adjacent neighborhoods of Pittsburgh is called “Mount Oliver,” but it is part of the city, not part of the borough. Street signs at what pass for major intersections in that second Mount Oliver identify it as “Mount Oliver Neigh,” so your horse can read them.

  • Deco Gothic in Mount Oliver

    Deco Gothic building

    This striking terra-cotta front looks like the sort of building that might have been a movie theater. It is not the usual shape for a theater, however (theaters are usually very deep from front to back, and this building is wider than it is deep), and old Pa Pitt would be happy if someone could tell him what this building was. He can also imagine it as a five-and-ten; G. C. Murphy’s was a few doors north on the same side of the street, but there was more than one variety store in Mount Oliver.

    The building now belongs to Miller Hardware, the kind of old-fashioned hardware store craftsmen treasure.

    From up the street
  • Renaissance Commercial Building, Mount Oliver

    215 and 217 Brownsville Road

    An exceptionally elegant pair of storefronts with apartments above in the main business strip of Mount Oliver. Enlarge the picture and enjoy the Renaissance details.

  • Car Barn, Mount Oliver

    This is what old Pa Pitt calls urban archaeology. Without lifting a spade, you can dig through layers of history just by looking at things and asking questions.

    For example, you might pass by this chain store in Mount Oliver dozens of times without seeing anything other than a chain store. But one day you notice the brickwork along the side and begin to realize that it looks like a building that’s more than a century old. Obviously it was not always a Family Dollar. What was it when it was built?

    For the answer we can turn to the Pittsburgh Historic Maps site. There we discover that this was actually a car barn for the Pittsburgh Railways Company, the streetcar operator in Pittsburgh before the Port Authority took over public transit in Allegheny County. A car barn is a place where streetcars are kept when they are out of service. (The main car barn today is at South Hills Village.) A large streetcar company needed car barns here and there throughout the service area. Most of them are gone, but some of them have been adapted to other uses. This one is a store; another one in Windgap became a Catholic church, and perhaps Father Pitt will get its picture soon.

  • Mount Oliver Public School

    The old Mount Oliver Public School and its annex have been beautifully restored for non-academic uses. Mount Oliver residents now get their schooling from Pittsburgh.

    The Annex is almost a duplicate of the original school, except for the tower section.

    Addendum: The Annex is the work of the local Mount Oliver architect Albert C. Storch.1 Since it is a near-duplicate of the original building, we provisionally credit that one to Storch as well.

    1. The Construction Record, September 20, 1913: “Contractors Davidson & Klein, Mt. Oliver, have started foundations for a two-story brick grade school annex, to be erected on Carmon street, Mt . Oliver, for the Board of Education. Plans by Architect Albert Storch, Bausman street, Mt. Oliver. Cost $30,000.” “Carmon street” is a misprint for “Carbon Street,” the former name of Hays Avenue. This was a very sloppily edited magazine. ↩︎