Another elegant little branch library by Alden & Harlow. Although the branch library moved a short distance away to a larger modern building, this one was fortunately taken over by a mosque and is therefore still loved and kept up.
Carnegie Library, Hill District Branch
Carnegie Library, Mount Washington Branch
One of the little neighborhood libraries designed by Alden & Harlow, this one has a prime location on Grandview Avenue, making it possibly the library with the best view in the world.
Regal Shoe Company Building
An elegant little storefront designed by Alden & Harlow in 1908. It now houses a men’s clothing store.
South Hills High School, Mount Washington
Here is a large institutional building whose story of abandonment and decay has a happy ending.
South Hills High School was Pittsburgh’s second great palace of high-school education, right after Schenley High School. For this one, the city hired Alden & Harlow, arguably the most prestigious institutional architects money could buy. They were responsible for the Carnegie Institute and all the branch libraries, in addition to multiple millionaires’ mansions and skyscrapers downtown.
The site of the school is improbably vertical. In those days, “South Hills” meant the back slopes of Mount Washington, and a walk along the side of this school is a steep climb. But the architects met the challenge with a Tudor Gothic palace that seems to have grown on the site. It takes up a whole city block.
The Ruth Street side of the school opened in 1917; the rest of the school—planned from the beginning—opened in 1925. For many years the school took in students from the South Hills and beyond—“beyond” meaning Banksville, Beechview, and Brookline. In 1976, a monstrously modernist new school—Brashear—opened in Beechview, which took in all the students from the southern neighborhoods. With population declining and the building getting old, the city decided to close South Hills altogether in 1986.
And then it sat and rotted for 23 years.
But, as we said, the story has a happy ending. As you see from these pictures, the building is well taken care of now. In 2010 it reopened as apartments for senior citizens, so that once again it is an ornament to its neighborhood.
The wonderfully thorough Brookline Connection site has a long article about South Hills High School, including the architects’ plans.
Carnegie Library, Lawrenceville Branch
This fine little Renaissance palace, built in 1896, was the first of Carnegie’s branch libraries, and thus arguably the vanguard of the whole idea of branch libraries. It was also the first public library with open stacks, where patrons would just walk to the shelf and pick up the book by themselves. In other libraries—including much of the main Carnegie in Oakland until a few years ago—the patron would ask for the book at the desk, and a librarian would run back to the mysterious stacks and fetch it.
Like all the original libraries in the Carnegie system, this was designed by Alden & Harlow.
Carnegie Library, Homewood
This is the neighborhood library every neighborhood dreams of. It was designed by Alden & Harlow (according to Wikipedia, Howard K. Jones, who worked for the firm, may have been principally responsible for this library), and it is the most palatial of their branch libraries in the city. Most of the others are classical, but this is institutional Gothic. Restored to its original splendor, it is kept immaculately beautiful, and it seems to be busy. Old Pa Pitt promised the librarian he would not capture any patrons in the interior shots—which necessitated some patience, because people would keep walking in front of the woodwork.
The rear windows look out on the side of Holy Rosary Church.
A stunningly beautiful Great War memorial for the neighborhood is divided in two halves flanking the entrance.
An ornament at the peak of the Hamilton Avenue façade.
Old Hazelwood Branch Library
Andrew Carnegie peppered the city with neighborhood libraries designed by his favorite architects, Alden & Harlow. They’re all little gems. This one has been abandoned for years, since a new library was built in the mostly empty business district of Hazelwood on Second Avenue. (That block of Second Avenue now seems to be the center of the Hazelwood neighborhood revival.) It is still in good shape, and—unlike an abandoned church or synagogue—it would be a relatively easy building to adapt to new uses.
Old Hazelwood Branch of the Carnegie Library
The original Hazelwood Branch, built in 1890, was abandoned in 2004 in favor of a larger building on Second Avenue. Since then this fine building has been vacant, as far as Father Pitt knows. It is just a short stroll up Monongahela Street from the John Woods House, and an enthusiastic preservationist might be able to get a good deal on both of them at once.
Before he even went looking for the architects, Father Pitt was fairly sure that they must have been Alden & Harlow, Andrew Carnegie’s favorite architectural firm and the architects of numerous other Carnegie libraries, including the big one in Oakland. Old Pa Pitt’s instinct was correct. This is a typically tasteful and substantial Alden & Harlow design. Their branch libraries always feel welcoming: they are proud ornaments to their neighborhoods, but never overwhelmingly ostentatious. They seem to embody Andrew Carnegie’s ideal that no workman, however humble, should ever feel that the neighborhood library is too good a place for the likes of him.