Engine Company 10, West End

Engine Company 10

When classical architecture meets Art Deco in a government building, they form a style old Pa Pitt likes to call American Fascist. He calls it that because it’s similar to the streamlined classicism favored by Mussolini and Hitler, and because its favorite ornament is the fasces, as we see right at the top of the façade of this firehouse, which is now a police station. For some reason the fasces declined in popularity as an ornament on American government buildings after the Second World War.

The Bandstand at West End Park


Thomas Scott designed this elegant Arts-and-Crafts bandstand for West End Park, and it must have been a fine thing to sit out on the grass and hear a thumpy brass band on a lazy summer evening. It has probably been many years since a brass band played here, but the bandstand itself has been restored and is kept in excellent shape. Here we have similar pictures from two cameras with wildly different ideas of color balance.


World War I Memorial, West End Park

War memorial

West End Park is far off the beaten track, and few people outside its own neighborhood (which is technically Elliott, though it belongs at least as much to the West End) ever visit, or even know it exists. But it has one of our best war memorials by one of our best sculptors and one of our best architects.

The sculptor was Frank Vittor, who was already developing the streamlined style that would make him one of Pittsburgh’s two favorite sculptors (the other being Giuseppe Moretti). The architect was William Perry, whose most famous work is St. Bernard’s in Mount Lebanon, a church more magnificent than many cathedrals. Their collaboration produced a striking monument, simple but rich. Unfortunately some restoration has left it with two radically different colors of stone and concrete, which is not how it was meant to look, as we see in this picture from twenty-two years ago:

Memorial in 2000

That picture shows us that the memorial has also lost some sort of bronze ornament on the bottom half of the shaft: we can see the shadow of what seems to have been a shield with double-headed axe set in a bronze band.

Cherubim and shields

St. James Church, West End

St. James, West End

St. James Church was a Catholic parish that closed in 2004. For a while, when the West End was unsuccessfully vying with Lawrenceville to become the next artsy-trendy neighborhood, the building was an art gallery; then, in 2015, it reopened as “St. James Roman Catholic Church.” The slightly ostentatious adoption of the title “Roman Catholic” might suggest to the initiated that this is not a church in the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh. It belongs to a congregation of the Society of St. Pius X, the followers of Archbishop Lefebvre, who repudiate Vatican II and all its works and all its pomps.

Rededication stone

The building was put up in 1884 for a congregation founded thirty years earlier; old Pa Pitt has not been able to determine who the architect was. (The name is not mentioned in the centennial book the congregation published in 1954.) Neighbors in the West End are delighted to have the church building well taken care of.



From the rear

From Main Street

I-House in the West End

House in the West End

This well-preserved house from 1870 or 1876 (according to different sources) has kept its splendid Victorian ornamental woodwork. Architectural historians would call this an I-house, a standard variety of vernacular house very common in this part of Pennsylvania. Its form is very simple: two floors, each a central hall with a room on the left and a room on the right. Often, as on this house, more rooms are added on the back. For many years this house was used as the parsonage for the Methodist church next door.