Tag: Alleys

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • The Mysterious Heads in Coffey Way

    Arbuckle Coffee building

    The Liberty Avenue face of this building has been modernized and remodernized so many times that no one would take it for anything remarkably old. But it is actually one of the very few commercial buildings remaining downtown from the Civil War era. It was built in about 1865 for Arbuckle & Company, a dealer in coffee and sugar in the days when Liberty Avenue was the wholesale food district, with a railroad running right down the middle to bring the food in at its freshest. And if you will come around the back with us, you will see one of Pittsburgh’s odd little hidden treasures.

    Coffey Way

    The short alley behind the building is still called Coffey Way, and the back of the Arbuckle building shows the very old bricks we might expect. And among those bricks, in an alley that hardly anyone even knows about, we find “some of the oldest surviving architectural sculpture in the city,” according to Discovering Pittsburgh’s Sculpture by Marilyn Evert.

    Figure 1

    These medallions are obviously meant to represent specific figures, but no one is quite sure which specific figures. This one has been identified as George Washington or Colonel Bouquet (the one who built the blockhouse).

    Figure 2

    This keen-eyed lady has been identified as Jane Grey Swisshelm or Mary Croghan Schenley.

    Figure 3

    This is probably an allegorical head of Liberty, although it has also been identified as an “Indian head” of the sort common on nineteenth-century coins.

    Figure 4

    This one is very likely to be Abraham Lincoln, but “very likely” is the most certainty we can summon up. It could also be John Arbuckle himself, the head of the firm, who appears in a later photograph with a beard and distinctively hollow cheeks. We note that this is the only one of the faces turned left instead of right; if you like to find symbolism in things like that, go ahead.

    John Arbuckle, incidentally, was the inventor of processes for preserving coffee and automating its packaging, so we may regard him as the founder of coffee as a mass-produced consumer product. This little alley, therefore, ought to be on every coffee-lover’s pilgrimage list.

  • Coffey Way

    Coffey Way, an alley in Pittsburgh

    Looking toward Sixth Avenue.

  • An Alley on the South Side

    A long-lens view of Carey Way.

  • Uxor Way and St. Michael’s Church, South Side

    This is one of those only-in-Pittsburgh views: a glorious Romanesque church on the Slopes hovering over little frame alley houses on the Flats. St. Michael’s (now the Angel’s Arms apartments) was designed by Charles F. Bartberger, father of, and often confused with, the prolific Charles M. Bartberger.

  • Wrights Way

    Wrights Way, 2400 block

    Two blocks of alley houses on Wrights Way, South Side.

    2400 block
    2300 block
  • Alley House

    A charming little house in an out-of-the-way alley on the South Side.

  • Strawberry Way

  • Church Converted to Alley Houses, South Side

    From the blocked-up Gothic windows and general shape, we can infer that this was a small church. But at some point not very recently it was converted to four tiny alley houses, made only slightly less tiny by the addition of what are probably kitchens on the back.