Category: Sculpture

  • Niches on the College of Fine Arts Building, Carnegie Mellon University

    Henry Hornbostel designed the front of the Fine Arts Building with niches that display all styles of architectural decoration, and more practically give students a place to sit between classes. The niches have continued to accumulate sculpture in styles from all over the world. The whimsical figures in the Gothic niche may have been done by Achille Giammartini.

    Figure in first niche
    Figure in first niche
    Foliage with critters in first niche
    Lion eating an unfortunate Gothic figure
    Figure in first niche
    Figure in first niche
    Second niche

    In the classical niche, the three orders of Greek architecture: Corinthian, Doric, Ionic, demonstrated with correct proportions.

    Third niche
    Fourth niche
    Sculpture in Indian style, with Egyptian column
  • Decorations on the Maginn Building

    Arch on the Maginn Building

    Father Pitt is fairly certain that the ornamental stonecarving on the Maginn Building was done by Achille Giammartini, Pittsburgh’s master of Romanesque whimsies. The style is Giammartini’s, and the building was designed by Charles Bickel, who is known to have brought in Giammartini for the German National Bank (now the Granite Building) around the corner, as we see in this advertisement:

    Advertisement for Achille Giammartini

    But, you say, speculation is not enough for you. You want the artist’s signature. Well, to old Pa Pitt, this looks like a signature:

    Face with mustache in the corner of the arch

    In fact, Father Pitt has formed the hypothesis that Giammartini littered the city with self-caricatures in Romanesque grotesque. Several other buildings bear carved faces similar to these two in the corners of the arch on the seventh floor of the Maginn Building.

    Grotesque face

    The rest of the ornaments are also in Giammartini’s trademark style: lush Romanesque foliage with slightly cartoonish faces peering out from the leaves.

    Capital
    Capital with face
    Fujifilm FinePix HS10.
  • Third Avenue Front of the Times Building

    Third Avenue front of the Times Building

    The Times Building, designed by Frederick Osterling in his Richardsonian Romanesque period, is a block deep, so it has fronts on both Fourth Avenue and Third Avenue. The Fourth Avenue front is narrower; the Third Avenue front has one more bay, and a single grand arch in the middle. The decorative carving is probably by Achille Giammartini, who is known to have worked with Osterling on the Marine Bank and the Bell Telephone Building, and all his trademark whimsy is on display here.

    Face
    Face
    Foliage
    Face in profile
    Corner of the arch
    Fujifilm FinePix HS10.
  • The Big Rooster

    On DeLuca’s diner in the Strip.

    Nikon COOLPIX P100.
  • Reliefs by Henry Hering on the Federal Reserve Bank Building

    Eagle by Henry Hering

    This building, put up in 1930–1931, was a branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, and the Clevelanders Walker & Weeks were the architects—but with Henry Hornbostel and Eric Fisher Wood as “consulting architects.”1 Old Pa Pitt doesn’t know exactly how far the consulting went. At any rate, the architects chose sculptor Henry Hering, who had done several prominent decorations in Cleveland, to create the cast-aluminum reliefs for this building. The picture below is from 2015, but it will serve to show the placement of the reliefs:

    Federal Reserve Bank Building

    The three main figures are obviously allegorical; they seem to represent industry, agriculture, and the professions.

    Relief by Henry Hering
    Relief
    Relief
    Decoration in aluminum
    1. Source: Walter Kidney, Henry Hornbostel: An Architect’s Master Touch, where this building is no. 137 in the List of Works. ↩︎
  • The Mysterious Heads in Coffey Way

    Arbuckle Coffee building

    The Liberty Avenue face of this building has been modernized and remodernized so many times that no one would take it for anything remarkably old. But it is actually one of the very few commercial buildings remaining downtown from the Civil War era. It was built in about 1865 for Arbuckle & Company, a dealer in coffee and sugar in the days when Liberty Avenue was the wholesale food district, with a railroad running right down the middle to bring the food in at its freshest. And if you will come around the back with us, you will see one of Pittsburgh’s odd little hidden treasures.

    Coffey Way

    The short alley behind the building is still called Coffey Way, and the back of the Arbuckle building shows the very old bricks we might expect. And among those bricks, in an alley that hardly anyone even knows about, we find “some of the oldest surviving architectural sculpture in the city,” according to Discovering Pittsburgh’s Sculpture by Marilyn Evert.

    Figure 1

    These medallions are obviously meant to represent specific figures, but no one is quite sure which specific figures. This one has been identified as George Washington or Colonel Bouquet (the one who built the blockhouse).

    Figure 2

    This keen-eyed lady has been identified as Jane Grey Swisshelm or Mary Croghan Schenley.

    Figure 3

    This is probably an allegorical head of Liberty, although it has also been identified as an “Indian head” of the sort common on nineteenth-century coins.

    Figure 4

    This one is very likely to be Abraham Lincoln, but “very likely” is the most certainty we can summon up. It could also be John Arbuckle himself, the head of the firm, who appears in a later photograph with a beard and distinctively hollow cheeks. We note that this is the only one of the faces turned left instead of right; if you like to find symbolism in things like that, go ahead.

    John Arbuckle, incidentally, was the inventor of processes for preserving coffee and automating its packaging, so we may regard him as the founder of coffee as a mass-produced consumer product. This little alley, therefore, ought to be on every coffee-lover’s pilgrimage list.

  • Carved Ornaments on Bellefield Presbyterian Church

    Stone head from the side

    Originally the First United Presbyterian Church, this congregation merged with the Bellefield Presbyterian Church down the street, which sold its building (of which only the tower remains) and moved here, with the compensation that this church was renamed Bellefield Presbyterian. The building, designed by William Boyd and built in 1896, is festooned with a riot of carved Romanesque ornaments.

    Bellefield Presbyterian Church
    Door
    Ornaments around the door
    Cherub
    A different cherub
    Yet another cherub
    Cherub again

    Each one of these cherubs has a different face and different ornamental carving surrounding it.

    Capitals
    Different capitals
    Knotwork
    Frieze
    Angled frieze
    Winged cherub head
    Another face
    Bellefield Presbyterian Church
  • Minersville Public School, Upper Hill

    Monkeys on the Minersville Public School, Pittsburgh

    Ulysses L. Peoples was the architect of this school, which opened in 1902 and even then was something unique.

    The building itself is a tasteful but not extraordinary example of Romanesque style with Renaissance overtones—something we might call Rundbogenstil, because we like to say the word “Rundbogenstil.” It is a little bedraggled-looking now, because it closed in 2005. The more modern addition (by the time it was added this was known as the Madison Elementary School) has been adapted for the Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Company, but nobody seems to know what to do with the original section.

    Minersvill Public School

    A fine piece of work for a small school, like many another Romanesque school in Pittsburgh. But the carved decorations around the entrances are like nothing else in the city, or possibly on earth.

    Alligators, rams, lions

    It seems as though the architect and the artist had conceived the curious notion that children should find school delightful, and that the entrance should convey the message that here is a place where we are going to have fun.

    Monkey capital
    Front entrance
    Front entrance
    Cherub?
    Rams’ heads
    Monkey capital
    Monkeys
    Monkeys
    Friezes
    Side entrance
    Rampant
    Battling lions
    Battling lions
    Lions and rams
    Cherubs, dolphins, and salamanders
    Side and rear

    The side and rear of the building. The rear, facing an alley, is done in less expensive brick.

    Front
    Later addition

    The later addition, from 1929, is by Pringle & Robling in quite a different style, a lightly Deco form of modernism.

    A map showing the location of the building.

  • Fifth Ward World War I Memorial, Upper Hill

    Eagle by Frank Vittor

    An unmistakable Frank Vittor eagle; compare it to the eagle on the West End World War I memorial and the one on the portal to the Boulevard of the Allies. City records confirm that Frank Vittor was the sculptor.

    Fifth Ward War Memorial

    The memorial stands in Robert E. Williams Memorial Park, originally Herron Hill Park, which was laid out in 1889. It is a very pleasant green space in a pleasant residential section of the Upper Hill.

    Because war memorials sometimes become illegible for various reasons, and because a historian friend has been trying to reconstruct the names on another World War I memorial and finding the task difficult, old Pa Pitt has decided to record all the names on this memorial. If you enlarge the pictures, you should be able to read every name clearly.

    Inscriptions
    Inscriptions
    Inscriptions
    Inscriptions
    Inscriptions
    Inscriptions

    The emblem of the Corps of Engineers, which in an earlier version of the article Father Pitt had mistaken for the arms of Pittsburgh. Thanks to our commenter below for the correction.

    A map showing the location of the memorial.

  • Decorations by Achille Giammartini on the German National Bank

    Romanesqu apital with face

    The German National Bank—now the Granite Building—is one of the most ornately Romanesque constructions ever put up in a city that was wild for Romanesque. The architect was Charles Bickel, but much of the effect of the building comes from the lavish and infinitely varied stonecarving of Achille Giammartini, Pittsburgh’s favorite decorator of Romanesque buildings.

    We have sixteen more pictures in this article, and this is only a beginning. Old Pa Pitt will have to return several more times with his long lens to document Giammartini’s work on this building.

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