Category: Shadyside

  • Chapel, Chatham University


    Old Pa Pitt happened to notice that there were very few pictures in Wikimedia Commons of Chatham University, one of the most beautiful college campuses in Pittsburgh or anywhere. That omission had to be rectified. There are now thirty-two more good pictures in the Chatham University category, and we’ll be seeing many of them in the coming days. This is the chapel, a fine Colonial-revival building from 1940.

    From a distance

    On city planning maps, Chatham is in Squirrel Hill. The University calls this the Shadyside campus. We put it in both categories.

  • Macbeth House, Shadyside

    Built in the 1880s, this fine Queen Anne house shows up in 1890 as belonging to Mrs. Geo. A. Macbeth. The variety of masses and textures is handled with remarkably good taste.

  • Two Varieties of Tudor in Shadyside

    Tudor house

    Two varieties of Tudor house. They have very similar center-hall plans, but the one above emphasizes extravagant and almost cartoonish woodwork, whereas the one below is much more restrained. Old Pa Pitt would have guessed that the second one was later, but the Pittsburgh Historic Maps site tells us that both were built at about the same time, not long before 1910 (between the “1903–1906” layer and the “1910” layer). It would be interesting to know the name of the somewhat eccentric architect who designed the one above.

    Another Tudor house
  • Tudor House on Pembroke Place, Shadyside

    House on Pembroke Place

    A big house or small mansion in a particularly lush Tudor style. The woodwork is decorated with unusual care.

  • Spencer House, Shadyside

    Spencer House

    This house on Amberson Avenue at Pembroke Place was built in the 1880s; it appears on the map in 1890 as belonging to Mrs. C. H. Spencer. The “stick style” is fairly unusual in Pittsburgh, but this is a magnificent example.

    A different angle
  • Calvary Episcopal Church, Shadyside

    Forsythia in front of Calvary Episcopal Church

    Designed by Ralph Adams Cram, this church has a more austere sort of dignity than the architect’s other two works in Pittsburgh, East Liberty Presbyterian and Holy Rosary Catholic. It apparently took some delicate maneuvering to get an Episcopal congregation with low-church sympathies (but lots of money) to accept a Gothic masterpiece.

    North side of the church
    West front
    St. Mark

    St. Mark.

    St. Luke

    St. Luke.

    Side entrance
    St. Andrew
    St. Andrew, closer

    St. Andrew.


    Unusually decorative downspouts.

    South side of the building
    With a tree in front
  • Knable House, Shadyside

    Knable house

    A tasteful Jacobean house built in 1911, as we know from the date stone over the front door. It seems to have been built for a John E. Knable.

    Addendum: The architect was W. F. Struthers, who had formerly been partner with Thomas Hannah.


    Architectural historians sometimes use the term “Jacobethan” for a style that is indeterminately Tudor and Jacobean mashed together.

    Knable house, oblique view
  • Chimney Pots in Shadyside

  • Shady Avenue Cumberland Presbyterian Church

    Shady Avenue Cumberland Presbyterian Church

    Update: This church was demolished in August of 2023.

    Now known as Shady Avenue Christian Assembly, after having spent many years as Shady Avenue Presbyterian Church (without the “Cumberland”).

    Just down the street from the huge and spectacular Calvary Episcopal and Sacred Heart Catholic churches, each the size of many a cathedral, this 1889 church is likely to pass unnoticed. Once you do notice it, though, you will not stop noticing it. It is a bravura performance in a sort of Queen Anne Romanesque style by a Victorian architect who was about 22 years old at the time, and who was not afraid to pull out all the stops and stomp on the pedals for all he was worth. An entire issue of the East Ender, the East End Historical Society’s newsletter, was devoted to the architect, T. C. McKee (PDF), and we take all our information from Justin P. Greenawalt with profound gratitude for his research.

    Thomas Cox McKee (usually known as T. C. McKee) was apprenticed to architect James W. Drum. But in 1886, when young McKee was still only 20, his master was run over by a freight train. Instead of looking for another apprentice position, McKee went out on his own and seems to have been successful right away. He later built a comfortable practice designing homes for the wealthy and small to medium-sized commercial buildings, along with at least one prominent school (the Belmar School in Homewood, still standing). Then, in 1910, he threw it all away and went to Cleveland, where he took odd jobs until he settled down as a designer of soda fountains. No one seems to know what happened, although Mr. Greenawalt’s article hints that it might have had something to do with McKee’s constitutional extravagance.

    That extravagance comes through in every detail of this building. In the age of modernism, this sort of thing was dismissed as a bunch of Victorian noise, but the masses are balanced to form interesting compositions from every angle.

    Gable and tower
    Gable and tower
    1911 addition

    The much more conventional 1911 addition (although even it is a little bit fantastical) was designed by Rodgers & Minnis. Below we see it across the pile of dirt that used to be Shady Hill Center until the property became too valuable to host a suburban-style strip mall.

    1911 Addition


  • Georgian Mansion in Shadyside

    720 Amberson Avenue

    A large house that probably dates from the 1920s, with a recent expansion in the rear; it was getting all new windows when old Pa Pitt took these pictures.

    With trees
    Main entrance
    Oblique view

    A “virtual tour” from a year ago, when the house sold for a little less than two million, shows a computer simulation of a thoroughly modernized interior.