Tag: Apartment Buildings

  • The Chesapeake and the Chamberlin, Shadyside

    The Chesapeake and the Chamberlin

    A pair of identical apartment buildings, now known by their addresses (5758 Howe and 5754 Howe). They were built in 1908; the architect was C. J. Rieger. Though they have lost their cornices (which, to judge by the size of the scars, must have been elaborate), the rest of the details are well preserved, showing a Renaissance or Baroque style flavored with Art Nouveau.

    Entrance, closer
    Lion’s head
    Female cameo
    Male cameo
    Chesapeake and Chamberlin
    Nikon COOLPIX P100.
  • The Embassy, Mount Lebanon

    The Embassy

    A simple and dignified modernistic apartment building with tasteful Art Deco ornamentation. It is now an assisted-living facility.

    Perspective view
  • The P. W. Hamilton Apartments on Bailey Avenue

    312–318 Bailey Avenue

    If you walk along Bailey Avenue on Mount Washington (a pleasant walk, by the way), you may notice some similar-looking apartment buildings scattered along the south side of the street. The double duplex above is one of them; we see it head on below.


    You might also notice a distinctive ornament at the peak of the roofline:


    Old Pa Pitt noticed it and made a not-too-outrageous guess that it was the initial of the owner. That turns out to be correct. These buildings were all owned by P. W. Hamilton, as we see on a 1923 plat map:

    P. W. Hamilton Apts. on a plat map

    Here are two of them a few doors apart—the one we saw above, and this one:

    292–298 Bailey Avenue

    These buildings have recently had a lot of spiffing up, and they look like very attractive places to live.

    Open doors and stairways

    With these two doors open, we can see how, as is usual with Pittsburgh duplexes, the doors to the upstairs units lead straight to a stairway.

    There are three of these double duplexes, all the same design. Then, as we come to the eastern end of the street, opposite Grandview Park, we find the same design on a larger scale:

    446–460 Bailey Avenue

    It’s a double double duplex.

    Wreath ornament

    The H ornament is not here; instead we get little lunettes, one of them blank and one with a wreath ornament. But the building was owned by P. W. Hamilton, and its outline on the plat map shows how it is made by smashing two of the double duplexes together.

    P. W. Hamilton apartments on a plat map
  • The Master of the Jumbled Bricks

    Jumbled bricks

    Father Pitt has not yet identified the architect of these four apartment buildings in Mount Lebanon, but the style is so distinctive that we can confidently attribute them to the same hand. Adopting the practice of art scholars who name unidentified artists after the most distinctive features of their style, we call this architect the Master of the Jumbled Bricks. Perhaps some reader knows the architect’s real name.

    The buildings all share patches of bricks and brick pieces laid in a jumble, as you see above. They also all use irregular (sometimes multicolored) roof slates and ornamental half-timbering, and even the bricks laid in regular courses are given as irregular a texture as possible. They are all in the exaggerated historicist manner that old Pa Pitt calls the Fairy-Tale Style.

    Half-timbering, slates, and bricks

    We’ll begin with this building on Central Square. The bricks here have had some repair, but we can still see the effort and patient professional work that went into making the building look as though it was built by gnomes.

    119 Central Square
    199 Central Square
    Jumbled bricks

    Not far away, on the other side of uptown Mount Lebanon, another of these apartment buildings stands on Florida Avenue:

    688 Florida Avenue

    Here the jumbling of the bricks is more patterned.

    Jumbled bricks
    688 Florida Avenue
    Entrance in perspective
    Roof slates in different colors

    The polychrome irregular roof slates add to the fairy-tale atmosphere.

    Entrance to no. 688

    The next one, on Bower Hill Road, has fewer jumbles; they are placed up at the top among the irregular roof slates as a kind of billboard for the style.

    6 Bower Hill Road
    Jumbles and slates

    Though the shades are more muted, these roof slates are also different colors.

    6 Bower Hill Road
    The Stratford

    Finally, the Stratford on Beverly Road.

    “The Stratford” on a bronze plaque
    Jumbled bricks
    Roof slates
    The Stratford
    The Stratford

    So far, Father Pitt has found these four apartment buildings in Mount Lebanon designed by this unusually whimsical artist. There are probably others lurking in plain sight. Does anyone know the architect’s real name?

    Father Pitt will add that he has some reason for suspecting that it might have been Theodore Eichholz, who was known to work in the fairy-tale style, and who designed an extraordinary whimsy in Highland Park, the Bendet house on Cordova Road, which uses jumbled bricks across the entire front. But this is only a vague suspicion. Anyone with better information is earnestly desired to inform us.

    (Update: More and more evidence is pointing to Charles Geisler, resident of Beechview and architect of numerous apartment buildings in Mount Lebanon and Dormont, as well as Squirrel Hill, as the Master of the Jumbled Bricks. This is what the television reporters call a developing story, and old Pa Pitt will update this article with any more certain conclusions.)

  • Shirley and Neighbor, Mount Lebanon

    Shirley and Her Neighbor

    Here we have two apartment buildings on more or less the same plan, but differing in their details.

    Shirley inscription
    Shirley apartments

    The Shirley has two immediately striking features. First, the broad round arch at the entrance:

    Entrance to the Shirley

    Second, the two-storey window (interrupted by inscription) in the stairwell, which also terminates with an arch.

    Windows of the stairwell

    Its neighbor uses contrasts in color to create a striking appearance.

    680 Florida Avenue
    680 Florida Avenue

    The entrance is more classical, and instead of one tall window, the stairwell has two arched windows filled with colorful art glass.

    Window with art glass
  • Rose Court, Mount Lebanon

    Rose Court

    The Rose Court apartments were built in about 1928 or 1929, and they have hardly changed at all externally. They are a complex of seven buildings in the Central Square area of Mount Lebanon, built in a subdued Georgian style around pleasant garden courts, so that one side of each building faces a garden.

    Panorama of Rose Court
    Rose Court with weeping cherries
    Weeping cherries again
    Rose Court
    Rose Court
    Rose Court
  • Hampton Hall, Oakland

    Hampton Hall

    We have seen this Tudor palace before, but there is no reason we should not see it again, with some different details this time.

    Entrance and light well

    The entrance lobby. The interior is filled with richly colored tiles, some with decorative figures like this griffin.

    Griffin tile
  • The Georgian, Shadyside

    The Georgian

    Many of the apartment buildings in the East End sold a kind of architectural fantasy to prospective residents. The Georgian went the obvious step further and named itself after its own architectural style. It adapts Georgian elements with some success to the configuration of a large city apartment house, arranged around a pleasant garden court. The needs of the automobile, however, mean that the dominant impression as we read the name of the building in front is of a blank metal door. Father Pitt decided to crop out the garage door for the picture of the court below.

    The Georgian
  • Apartment Building in Bloomfield/Garfield

    Apartment building on Gross Street

    Father Pitt was so much taken with this apartment building when he glimpsed it from Penn Avenue in Garfield that he walked a quarter of a block or so out of his way to get pictures of it. The inset balconies are delightful, and the irregular side uses space efficiently while still flooding the rooms inside with light from multiple angles. But old Pa Pitt’s favorite thing was the oversized arch with orbiting leaded glass at the entrance.

    Front of the building
    Perspective view
  • The Fairfax, Oakland

    Front wall of the Fairfax

    One of our grandest apartment buildings, the Fairfax just got a thorough going-over. It was opened in 1927 as the Fifth Avenue Apartments, but changed its name with its ownership a year later and has been the Fairfax ever since. The architect was Philip Morison Jullien from Washington (that’s Big Worshington to Picksburghers from the South Hills), who also gave us the Arlington Apartments.

    Front elevation

    The architectural style is sometimes referred to as “Jacobethan,” meaning that it takes inspiration from the long period of the reigns of Elizabeth I and James I, without being too pedantic about the exact period.


    This Jacobean Gothic arch is about as broad as it can be and still qualify as an arch.

    Entrance and decorations above
    The Fairfax, perspective view

    The perspective above is impossible. There is no place to stand far away enough to get a natural-looking perspective view of the Fairfax. The lens had to be at a very wide angle to capture the whole building, which created what photography critics of a century ago would have called “violent perspective.” Father Pitt has made some intricate adjustments, at the cost of some distortion of individual objects like the cars on the street, to create a more natural-looking view of the sort Mr. Jullien might have given the client in his perspective rendering. In fact, different parts of the picture are at different perspectives, and if you look closely you can see the seam running down through the blue car toward the right.