We saw these houses a little while ago in pictures taken with a cheap cell-phone camera and in poor lighting. Since the houses will probably not be here forever, old Pa Pitt went back to document them in more even light with a more capable camera. These are the last remnants of a little village along Saw Mill Run, connected to the other side by the one-lane Timberland Avenue bridge. The one with the green siding above dates from the 1880s, the one below from the 1890s, according to the Pittsburgh Historic Maps site. Obviously they had substantial alterations during their lifetimes, but we can still recognize them in this picture from 1909 at the Brookline Connection site.
Abandoned Houses Along Saw Mill Run
Art Deco Apartment Building, East Liberty
Art Deco is not very common in Pittsburgh, although there were a few Art Deco apartment buildings in the East End. Here is one on Negley Avenue that probably will not be with us much longer; it looks as though it is scheduled to be replaced. It is a late Art Deco style; old Pa Pitt would guess it dates from the 1950s. Most of the building is just a modernist block, but the horizontal stripes give it more than average decorative flair, and the vertical forms of the entrance lift it into the realm of Art Deco.
Seventh Presbyterian Church, Hill
Almost certainly nothing can be done to save this grand old Romanesque church on Herron Avenue in what used to be called Minersville. It has been abandoned too long and decayed too far to be revived except by some miraculously heroic effort, and miracles like that seldom happen on the Hill, where even the New Granada Theater has been languishing abandoned for decades. But enough remains of this church that we can at least admire the architecture of it before it comes down. It was built in 1894 as the Seventh Presbyterian Church (some online sources say First Presbyterian of Minersville, but it appears that the smaller frame building that formerly occupied this site was already called Seventh Presbyterian by 1890). By 1923 it was known as the Herron Avenue Presbyterian Church. It would later be bought by the John Wesley African Methodist Episcopal Church, which was founded in 1836, but by the 2000s that congregation apparently could no longer maintain the building. Water from mine runoff was a constant problem, according to the church’s long-out-of-date Wikipedia article.
There are pictures of the vandalized interior various places on line if you look for them. Father Pitt follows his usual policy of not trespassing, so he brings you only a few pictures of the exterior, which is an interesting kind of Romanesque verging on Rundbogenstil—a word old Pa Pitt uses at every opportunity, because he likes to say it.
An iron ornament at the pinnacle of the main tower.
Italianate House, Uptown
This is a particularly grand rowhouse: note how much taller it is than its neighbor, indicating high ceilings. It seems to be abandoned right now, but perhaps it has a chance if the urban pioneers moving into the neighborhood get to it before it mysteriously catches fire. There is much worth preserving: the woodwork is in fairly good shape, and the windows—mostly unbroken—are still original and proper for the period. The location of the house on Fifth Avenue might make it attractive, but also might put it in the way if development mania reaches this part of the street.
Knoxville Christian Church
Unlike its neighbor, the Knoxville Presbyterian Church, this little Gothic church has no one to cut down the weeds and the Pittsburgh palms. It is already half-swallowed by jungle, and it may soon be nothing more than a roughly cube-shaped lump of vegetation. Wouldn’t it make a fine studio for some ambitious artist?