A memorial to the large number from St. Josaphat’s who served in both World Wars. It stands across the narrow street from the church, set into the hillside, with a statue of Christ displaying his Sacred Heart and welcoming us to stop and read the names. As you can guess from the names if you enlarge the picture, St. Josaphat’s was a Polish congregation.
Improbable houses on the Slopes, with a view of Oakland in the background.
The line between painted and unpainted on this long building is an artifact of its history. For most of its life this building was divided in two parts: the painted part was the convent, and the unpainted part the orphan asylum. More recently it has been a Franciscan retreat center known as the Burning Bush House of Prayer, whose somewhat archaic site tells us that the building was put up “in three stages, from 1887 to 1889.”
John T. Comès, one of our best ecclesiastical architects, accepted the challenge of an almost impossible site and came up with this distinctive design for a Polish parish. It was built between 1909 and 1916.
According to the South Side Slopes site, “The church closed permanently after a section of ceiling collapsed about the casket of the last caretaker during his funeral mass.” This is the sort of detail a novelist would invent and then throw out as too implausible for a sophisticated audience.
A good example of how a frame house can be restored to look very attractive without breaking the bank. The most important thing is to preserve the trim if at all possible, or to substitute new trim that has the same proportions as the old. This house in what we might call vernacular Second-Empire style is on Pius Street.
This little old firehouse, built in 1894 (according to the sign), has been lovingly restored as a private residence, complete with its own tower and a roof deck that must have a spectacular view. (Those yellow signs in the windows inform the world that the owner has official permission from the city to use a roof deck in his private residence.)
Update: The August 2023 Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation newsletter informs us that the foundation has just awarded a Historic Lanmark plaque to this building. According to the PHLF, the architect was the prolific Charles Bickel. The architect responsible for turning it into a residence in 1982 was Sam Taylor.
On city planning maps, this part of the neighborhood is the South Side Slopes, but it is traditionally called “Arlington.”
Like many ethnic churches, St. Michael’s, a German Catholic church on the South Side Slopes, was the center of a whole village of ethnic institutions. This was a German girls’ school. The building will eventually disappear, but it has sat in this decrepit state for many years now. You can find photographs on line of the wreckage of the once-magnificent interior; old Pa Pitt is not enough of an urban adventurer to risk trespassing charges and serious injury to bring you such pictures himself.
Perhaps in an expensive neighborhood this building would find a use, but this neighborhood is not likely to become expensive enough to repay the several million dollars it would probably cost to rescue a school of this size.
Curiously, the girl’s school was much larger and more magnificent than the boys’ school. That building, next door, was clumsily and unsympathetically converted to apartments some years ago; the conversion itself is already showing its age.
This stairway at the end of 15th Street, South Side, takes pedestrians up to a bridge over the railroad, and then to a stairway up into the South Side Slopes.
St. Michael’s is one of our earliest grand Romanesque churches, finished in 1861. It was designed for a German congregation by the German-born Charles F. Bartberger, who gave us a number of other distinguished ecclesiastical buildings. (He is often confused with Charles M. Bartberger, his son, who gave us a number of distinguished schools.) It was one of the first churches around here to be made into condominium apartments, so it is now preserved as the Angel’s Arms.
It was a rainy day today, and if you enlarge the picture you can pick out the falling raindrops.
Note the date over this side door.
The rectory, which is attached to the eastern end of the church, was built in 1890 and designed by another distinguished German Pittsburgh architect: Frederick Sauer, who gave us many fine churches and the whimsical Sauer Buildings in Aspinwall. Here he has created a very German Romanesque building that harmonizes well with the older church.
A very German corner dome.
Exceptionally fine carved foliage at the entrance to the rectory.
Update: Thanks to Donna Gunton (see the comment below), we know that this was a Polish hall often used for political meetings and other social events. In 1921, when the hall was built, Poland had just been reestablished as an independent country for the first time since 1795, so the name “Liberty Hall” must have occurred naturally to Polish immigrants.
The original article is preserved below so that you can see how far old Pa Pitt was wrong and how close he came to being right.
Old Pa Pitt would be delighted if someone could tell him something of the history of this building. He knows that it was put up in 1921, because the date is proudly displayed at the top of the building. He suspects, from the look of the building and from some random chatter on the Internet, that it was an ethnic club, possibly Serbian—but that is speculation. Technically it is on the Slopes side of the railroad that separates the South Side Flats from the South Side Slopes, but this lower part of the Slopes seems to be socially more connected to the East European Flats than to the German streets above. About fifteen years ago, Liberty Hall was briefly a nightclub; it closed in less than a year, and neighbors rallied to prevent it from opening again. And that is all Father Pitt knows, so he would be happy to hear from someone better informed.