Category: Squirrel Hill

  • 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
  • College of Fine Arts, Carnegie Mellon University

    Creare over the entrance

    The front of the College of Fine Arts in sunset light. Above, the word CREARE (“to create”) inscribed above the entrance by decorative sculptor Achille Giammartini.

    College of Fine Arts, Carnegie Mellon University
    Entrance decoration




  • Carnegie Mellon University

  • Stairway in Baker Hall, Carnegie Mellon University

    Spiral stairway in Baker Hall

    Stairways can be good opportunities for architects to show off, and here is a stairway designed by Henry Hornbostel that defies imitation.

  • Some Details of Margaret Morrison Carnegie Hall, Carnegie Mellon University

    Rotunda of Margaret Morrison Carnegie Hall

    Of all the buildings on the Carnegie Mellon campus, Margaret Morrison Carnegie Hall (named for Andrew Carnegie’s mother) probably makes the most jaw-dropping first impression. It was originally built in 1907 as a separate but related school, the Margaret Morrison Carnegie School for Women, where women would learn the skills women were fitted to learn. When it was discovered that women were fitted to learn everything, the school dissolved into the larger university.

    Henry Hornbostel’s design makes its opening statement with a grand and stripey rotunda that is impressive and welcoming at the same time.

    Entrance to Margaret Morrison Carnegie Hall
    Polychrome ornament

    The polychrome ornament found throughout the campus is laid on lavishly here.


    One of the sconces in the rotunda.

    Side porch

    A side porch with some unusually intricate decoration that nevertheless does not look at all fussy.

  • Skylight in Baker Hall, Carnegie Mellon University

    “My heart is in the work,” said Andrew Carnegie in 1900, and it was a good enough slogan to be immortalized in glass, especially if Carnegie himself was paying for it.

  • Apartment Building on Wightman Street, Squirrel Hill

    Apartment building on Wightman Street, Squirrel Hill

    This apartment building has a few details worth appreciating, though it appears to have lost its cornice. This building also has the biggest art store in Pittsburgh on the ground floor. You walk in the Hobart Street entrance and find yourself in a fairly big art-supplies store. Then you walk back and realize there’s another whole room that size. Then you walk back and realize there’s another whole room that size. Then you walk back and realize there’s another whole room that size. In fact the whole ground floor of this building is given over to art supplies.

    Floral ornament

    This floral ornament presides over the light well.

    Ornamental frieze
    Terra-cotta scallop

    Addendum: The building was put up in about 1924; the architect was Charles R. Geisler. Source: The American Contractor, October 27, 1923: “Apt. Bldg. (36 suites): Hobart & Wightman sts. Archt. C. R. Geisler, Ferguson bldg. Owner & Bldr. L. L. Noffah, 5843 Forbes st. Sketches.”

  • Telephone Exchange, Squirrel Hill

    Telephone exchange in Squirrel Hill

    A particularly grand example of the Renaissance-palace school of telephone exchanges. Father Pitt believes that all our Renaissance-palace telephone exchanges were probably done by the same architect, and some day he hopes to find out who it was.

    Lunette and inscription
    Corner view of the telephone exchange
  • Eclectic Styles on the North Side of Hobart Street, Squirrel Hill

    North side of Hobart Street

    Earlier we looked at the buildings on the south side of Hobart Street in this block and discovered that Spanish Mission and Tudor were the same thing, barring a few tweaks of the ornamentation. The buildings on the north side of the same block are at about the same scale, but they are a more eclectic bunch. Sometimes the individual building is about as eclectic as it can be.

    German Jacobethan Spanish Mission

    Above, for example, you see one in a style old Pa Pitt calls German Jacobethan Spanish Mission.

    Spanish Mission

    This one, on the other hand, is so thoroughly Spanish Mission that residents ought to be required to wear Franciscan tunics.

    Entrance to Hobart Commons
    Spanish Mission apartments

    The one above is quite eclectic, but it harmonizes its influences seamlessly.


    This modernized Tudor conveys its architectural message with textured and patterned brickwork as well as the usual half-timbering.

  • Tudor or Spanish Mission? In Squirrel Hill, You Can Have Both

    Row of apartment buildings

    Who knew? It turns out that Tudor can be Spanish Mission and vice-versa, as long as you add the right decorative touches, and of course the right names. This row of five apartment buildings on Hobart Street, Squirrel Hill, alternates Tudor and Spanish Mission, as you could guess even without seeing them just by the names of the buildings: Cambridge, Granada, Windsor, Armada, and Wemberley. Yet they are all more or less the same building. Only the decorative details change. Tudor buildings have peaked rooflines; Spanish Mission buildings have curvy rooflines and little tiled awnings. Knowing how to make the same building Tudor or Spanish Mission is a great time-saver for an architect.

    Here are the buildings, left to right: