Category: South Side

  • Victorian Commercial Building on Sarah Street, South Side

    2616 Sarah Street

    Formerly a storefront with apartments above, but the storefront—as with many backstreet stores—has been converted to another apartment. The well-preserved Victorian details are picked out with a colorful but tasteful paint scheme.

    Dentils and diamond
    Kodak EasyShare Z981.
  • St. Michael School, South Side

    St. Matthew School

    This little Slovak school, which opened in 1917, was designed by German-American architect Herman Lang, known for some splendid churches (notably St. George’s in Allentown and St. Basil’s in Carrick). He gave it a dignified and symmetrical façade that no one will ever see like this, because it faces a tiny narrow alley with room for one car to squeeze past the buildings on either side. It is impossible to photograph the school without resorting to trickery, but old Pa Pitt has never been above trickery. You will notice the seams if you enlarge this picture, but that is because this is one of the most impossible photographs Father Pitt has ever attempted.

    The building is in good shape, having been turned into apartments, like almost every other school on the South Side.


    The cornerstone was laid in 1916.

  • Larkins Way, South Side

    Larkins Way

    It is impossible to resist taking pictures of these narrow South Side alleys. Fortunately, with digital photography, a photograph is within a mill or two of free, so there is no reason to resist the temptation.

  • 33rd Street Tunnel, South Side

    To the south, at the base of the steep South Side Slopes, was a small but crowded neighborhood of workmen and their families. To the north was a huge steel mill, a railroad roundhouse and shops, and a big brewery. In between was a railroad yard with more than twenty tracks to cross. How would the workmen get to work without getting run over by switching locomotives every day? The answer was to extend 33rd Street from the Slopes to the Flats as a pedestrian tunnel under the main line, followed by a long pedestrian bridge over the railroad yards.

    Hopkins real-estate plat map from 1923, showing the 33rd Street bridge and tunnel.

    The bridge and the railroad yard are gone now; the tunnel remains, but since it goes nowhere it is blocked. The tunnel entrance is still attractive in its stony simplicity.

  • Stairs into the Grand Concourse

    Stairway down to the Grand Concourse

    The stairway from the Smithfield Street Bridge down into the Grand Concourse of the Pittsburgh & Lake Erie railroad station.

  • Birmingham Public School, South Side

    Birmingham Public School

    All the South Side histories tell us that this school was originally built in 1871, the year before Birmingham was taken into the city of Pittsburgh as part of the South Side. From old maps, however, it appears that only the central part of the school, invisible from the street today, was built that early. The two identical fronts, this one on 15th Street and the other on 14th Street, seem to date from the 1880s. In 1940, the building was sold to St. Adalbert’s parish up the street, which used it as a middle school. It spent more than sixty years as a Catholic school of one sort or another. The last incarnation of the Catholic school closed in 2002, and after that the school—like all the other closed schools on the South Side—was converted to apartments.

    Perspective view
  • The Mystery of the Converted Church on the South Side

    Update: The mystery is solved, thanks to an alert reader who has earned old Pa Pitt’s gratitude. This was the Second Methodist Church of East Birmingham, opened in 1872 and sold at a sheriff’s sale in 1874. There must be an interesting story in the short period between those two dates; usually being a Methodist wasn’t such a risky business.

    The original text of the article is below.

    If anyone knows the history of this building on Larkins Way at 23rd Street, Father Pitt would be happy to hear it. That it was a church at one point is obvious. It fits the pattern of small Pittsburgh churches of the middle and late nineteenth century exactly, and those blocked-in Gothic windows on the end would tell the story if nothing else did. But it was not a church for long before it was converted to four tiny alley houses. It appears without a label as a single undivided building on an 1882 map at the Pittsburgh Historic Maps site, but not in 1872, so it was probably built at some time in the 1870s. By 1890 it is already shown as divided into four parts, probably rental houses, since they were all owned by Jane Morgan. It continued under single ownership through 1923, and that is as much as old Pa Pitt knows about it.

    So what kind of congregation failed in less than twenty years’ time? It is an interesting mystery, and Father Pitt has not yet solved it.

  • Restored Mid-Nineteenth-Century Commercial Building on Carson Street

    1610 East Carson Street

    We saw this old building (probably dating from the Civil War era or before) four years ago, when its modernist façade was being pulled off to reveal a middle-nineteenth-century commercial building behind it. Now the building is restored to something more like its original appearance, though the storefront entrance would have been inset by at least the width of the door to avoid hitting pedestrians in the face, something we have stopped caring about in our more enlightened era. (Note the position of the pedestrians in the picture below, and imagine someone leaving the building in a hurry.)

    Perspective view
  • Victorian Eclectic on Carson Street, South Side

    1710 East Carson Street

    This grand building from the 1880s towers over its lowlier neighbor with a Potemkin attic that has nothing behind it. The next generation of architects would cringe at the fussiness of the details, but they are harmonized well.

    Roof decoration

    Old maps show this building as owned by Mrs. M. A. Fuchs in 1890, and still owned by her in 1923.

  • Pair of Victorian Commercial Buildings on Carson Street, South Side

    Update: A kind correspondent corrects us: these are postmodern Victorian buildings designed by Gunther J. Kaier Architects, which earned the company that built them an award for fitting them so neatly into the streetscape. Father Pitt keeps the original text of the article below to point out how delightful it is to be wrong sometimes.

    These two Italianate buildings are alike in their decorative detailing, and at first glance we might take them for identical twins (discounting the altered ground floors). The one on the right, however, is wider by a small but significant amount. They were built in the 1880s, to judge by old maps, and they appear to have been separately owned from the beginning. The one on the left belonged to S. Bornshire in 1890, and still belonged to S. Bornshire thirty-three years later in 1923.