Category: Oakmont

  • Oaks Theater, Oakmont

    Oaks Theater

    Pittsburgh architect Victor A. Rigaumont designed dozens of movie houses, large and small, all over the Northeast. Most of them are gone, but a few remain, and this is one of them. It’s still open and still showing movies on a single screen.

    Fujifilm FinePix HS10.
  • Oakmont Presbyterian Church

    Oakmont Presbyterian Church

    A typical corner-tower church in an adapted version of the Perpendicular Gothic style.

  • Some Houses in Oakmont

    421 Fourth Street

    Oakmont is very proud of its Victorian houses, most of which bear plaques with “circa” (in the common American meaning of “here comes a date”) and the date of the construction. But many other styles are represented in Oakmont, from Edwardian through 1920s fairy-tale and 1960s modern—and many of these other houses are excellent examples of their own styles. Here is a little album that will suggest the variety of domestic architecture to be found in Oakmont.

    667 Fourth Street
    511 Sixth Street
    700 Fourth Street
    381 California Avenue
    385 Washington Avenue
    423 Delaware Avenue
    423 Delaware Avenue
    385 California Avenue
    682 Fourth Street

    Cameras: Sony Alpha 3000; Fujifilm FinePix HS10.

  • First Presbyterian Church, Oakmont

    Tower of the church

    This church, built in 1895, is a fine example of what old Pa Pitt would call Pittsburgh Rundbogenstil, because he likes to say “Rundbogenstil.” Otherwise we would just have to call it “Romanesque,” and where’s the fun in that? It now belongs to Riverside Community Church.

    First Presbyterian Church
    Inscription: “First Presbyterian Church”
    Cornerstone with date: AD 1895
    Riverside Community Church
    Fujifilm FinePix HS10.

    An old postcard shows us that little has changed about the building in more than a century.

    Postcard of Presby. Church, Oakmont, Pa.
    From the postcard collection of the Presbyterian Historical Society.
  • Pink Horse-Chestnut

    Fujifilm FinePix HS10.

    Aesculus × carnea blooming in Oakmont.

  • Oakmont Methodist Episcopal Church

    Oakmont Methodist Episcopal Church

    Perhaps a member of the congregation can help sort out the history of these two church buildings in Oakmont.

    Just this first one, which is still a United Methodist church, is complicated enough. It appears from construction listings to have been started under one architect and finished under another. The current form of the church is the work of Pittsburgh’s Chauncey W. Hodgdon, who drew the plans in 1914. That arcaded porch is a typical Hodgdon feature.

    The Construction Record, September 12, 1914: “Oakmont, Pa.—Architect C. W . Hodgdon, Penn building, Pittsburgh, has new plans for the superstructure of a one-story stone church for the First Methodist Episcopal Congregation on Fifth and Maryland street to be built at a cost of $30,000.”


    But the construction listings tell us that Hodgdon was responsible for the “superstructure”: apparently the foundations had been laid already under the supervision of the prolific New Castle architect William G. Eckles.

    The American Contractor, January 25, 1913: “Church: 1 sty. $30,000. Oakmont, Pa. Archt. Wm. G. Eckles, Lawrence Savings & Trust bldg., New Castle. Owner M. E. Church, Oakmont. Plans in progress; architect will be ready for bids March 1. Brick, stone trim, wood cornice, struct. iron, hardwood finish & floors, gas & electric fixtures.”

    Mr. Eckles was a successful and reliable architect who littered Western Pennsylvania with fine schools and churches, so old Pa Pitt has no explanation for why he did not finish this project. We note also that the budget seems to have gone up: under Eckles, it was to have been a brick church with stone and wood accents at $30,000; Hodgdon’s “superstructure” was budgeted at $30,000, which we presume did not include the foundations, and it was all stone.

    Around the corner is an older church whose date stone tells us it was the previous Oakmont Methodist Episcopal Church:

    [Older Oakmont M. E. Church

    Date Stone: Oakmont M. E. Church, 1892.

    This is also a slight mystery, because the date stone says 1892, but the building bears a plaque that says “Circa 1877.” (Many buildings in Oakmont bear date plaques, all with “circa,” probably under the common assumption that “circa” means “here comes a date.”) Father Pitt’s guess is that the tower was built after the church. The building is no longer a church: it is now something called “The High Spire.”

    Old Oakmont M. E. Church

    Cameras: Sony Alpha 3000; Nikon COOLPIX P100.

  • The George Best Plan, Oakmont

    300 block of Third Street

    In 1913, George Best decided to develop a little square of land in Oakmont by subdividing it into tiny lots and putting up modest but attractive houses. To manage the modest-but-attractive part of the scheme, he hired architect George Schwan. In American architectural history he is perhaps most famous as the architect of most of the buildings in the original section of the Goodyear Heights neighborhood of Akron, beginning in 1917. This earlier development is on a more modest scale, but it also involved putting up a bunch of houses at once with enough variation to make the neighborhood attractive.

    301 and 303 Third Street

    The plan had twenty-eight of these houses in four rows of seven. This Sanborn Fire Insurance map from 1921 shows the layout:

    Sanborn Fire Insurance

    Seven houses on one side of Second street, seven on one side of Third, and fourteen somewhat smaller houses on both sides of the narrow alley Beech Street.

    Beech Street

    Originally the houses were brick on the first floors and shingle above, and they would have been charming in their modest way. Over the years the shingles have been replaced with aluminum and vinyl siding, but enough of the original character remains to show what Schwan had in mind.

    303 Beech Street

    These are not great works of the imagination. They are, however, a good solution to the problem posed to the architect. How do you cram as many detached houses as possible into a little square of land and still make them seem attractive? The answer is to vary a few basic designs, and thus create a streetscape with a rhythm that is not strictly repetitive, while at the same time creating a neighborhood that obviously goes together.

    Beech Street
    300 Beech Street
    309 Beech Street
    309 and 311 Third Street

    The real test is time. For more than a century, every single one of these houses has stood and been loved by its residents. Not one has gone missing. By the most reasonable standard, George Schwan’s project was a success, and Mr. Best certainly got his money’s worth from the architect’s commission.

    303 Third Street
    Beech Street
    Fujifilm FinePix HS10.
  • St. Thomas Memorial Church, Oakmont

    St. Thomas Memorial Church

    The outsized corner tower of this Episcopal church defines the rich and splendid building, designed by R. Maurice Trimble and built in 1906. Old Pa Pitt is especially happy that the clock is keeping time, because it’s an extraordinary clock.

    Clock face
    St. Thomas Memorial Church

    Cameras: Sony Alpha 3000; Nikon COOLPIX P100.

  • Oakmont Victorian

    Oakmont is proud of its collection of Victorian houses, most of them frame structures on the respectable and impressive end of the Victorian spectrum rather than the whimsical and gingerbready end. Here is an album of a few of Oakmont’s fine houses.

  • Carnegie Library, Oakmont

    This charming building from 1900 was tastefully expanded in 2006. The new section is obviously of our century, but so well harmonized with the old that it seems an organic growth.