Lithuanian Hall

A building whose design brings a little bit of the Baltics to the South Side. The decorated pediment is unusual or unique here, but would be right at home in Vilnius. The original symmetry is undone by additions on the right-hand side, but this is still a valuable monument of ethnic Pittsburgh that ought to be preserved.

The faded decoration over the main entrance seems to be a stylized version of the arms of Lithuania, but old Pa Pitt would be delighted to be corrected.

The Iroquois

The Iroquois Building

The Iroquois Building, which takes up a whole block of Forbes Avenue, was designed by Frederick Osterling, Pittsburgh’s most consistently flamboyant architect. Osterling designed in a variety of styles: he had his own ornate version of Richardsonian Romanesque, and his last large commission was the Flemish-Gothic Union Trust Building. Here, as in the Arrott Building downtown, he adapts Beaux-Arts classicism to his own flashier sensibilities. The building was finished in 1903.

This clock sits in front of the central light well—a typically ornate Osterling detail.

A naked brick front would never do for Osterling; it must be constantly varied in shape and texture. These grotesque reliefs help.

Croatian Fraternal Union Building

Croatian Fraternal Union Building

UPDATE: The building is now demolished. As Father Pitt remarked below, Pitt usually wins.

This sadly abandoned building, which has its own Wikipedia article, has been sitting empty in what has become a valuable part of Oakland for at least three years. It has come into the hands of the University of Pittsburgh, as everything in Oakland does sooner or later, and Pitt wants to demolish it. Preservationists want to keep it, because it is an important part of Croatian-American history. Pitt usually wins.

The architect was Pierre A. Liesch, a disciple of the great Frederick Osterling. Liesch is credited with some of the detail on the Union Trust Building downtown: “Liesch was a native of Luxembourg and later used a similar Flemish Gothic style for his design of the Croatian Fraternal Union Building,” says Wikipedia. “Similar” is generous. The Union Trust Building is, in Old Pa Pitt’s opinion, a work of colossal genius. This building is interesting and, again in Father Pitt’s opinion, not in the best taste. (His opinion might be different if the building still had the “highly ornate overhanging cornice and a pointed-arch apex topped with a sculptural element” mentioned in the Wikipedia article.) Of course it may well be that the Croatian clients had no budget for colossal genius, and Mr. Liesch gave them what they could afford.

Gailliot Center for Newman Studies

Gailliot Center for Newman Studies

There is still at least one architect in Pittsburgh who can work in the Gothic idiom with modern materials. His name is David J. Vater, and he designed this building on Dithridge Street (which opened in 2007) and the Ryan Catholic Newman Center around the corner on Bayard Avenue. His listing on has this to say about his firm: “Based in Pittsburgh, David J Vater Ra is an architectural firm that provides bathroom design, site planning, and master planning as well as other services.” The fact that bathroom design is mentioned first suggests that the demand for grand Gothic institutional buildings is low.

Second Empire

Second Empire storefronts on Carson Street

The Second Empire style is named after the Second French Empire of Napoleon III. Its most obvious characteristic is the mansard roof with dormers, which supposedly arose in France because, in buildings that were taxed by their interior space, attics were not taxed, and the space under the roof counted as an attic no matter how accommodating it was. The building here at the corner of Carson and 18th Streets is a splendid example of the Pittsburgh implementation of the style.