Tag: Art Deco

  • Moderne Industrial Building on the North Side

    900 West North Avenue

    A streamlined industrial building on North Avenue. We suspect that the part now filled in with red diamonds may have originally been a storefront or showroom for the business.

    Entrance with the inscription “Abbott / 900”
    Galveston Avenue side
    Sony Alpha 3000.
  • Decorations on the County Office Building

    Eagle and county arms

    The County Office Building, which opened in 1931, was designed by Stanley L. Roush, who was the king of public works in Allegheny County for a while. Its combination of styles is unique in Pittsburgh, as far as old Pa Pitt knows. In form it is of the school Father Pitt likes to call American Fascist, the weighty classical style filtered through streamlined Art Deco that was popular for American public buildings between the World Wars, and of which the grandest example in Pittsburgh is the federal courthouse. But the details are Romanesque rather than classical—an acknowledgment of the lingering influence of the great Richardson’s greatest masterpiece, the Allegheny County Courthouse. The carved ornaments are Art Deco adaptations of medieval themes, except for the eagle above, which is not at all medieval, and which clasps the arms of Allegheny County in its talons.

    County Office Building

    The Fourth Avenue side. The County Office Building is roughly square, so the four sides are similar, except that this side lacks an entrance. But this was the side that was lit by the sun when Father Pitt was taking pictures. It took a lot of fiddling and adaptation to get the whole side of the building across a tiny narrow street, so you will see stitching errors and other anomalies if you enlarge the picture.


    An Art Deco gargoyle.

    Decorative relief
    Fujifilm FinePix HS10.
  • Base of the Law & Finance Building

    Base of the Law & Finance Building

    The Law & Finance Building was a rather old-fashioned skyscraper when it went up in 1927–1928. It was designed by Philip Jullien of Washington (D. C., where he wasn’t allowed to design skyscrapers, owing to city height limits that are still uniquely in place) in the base-shaft-cap formula typical of the early age of skyscrapers. It even has the regulation bosses’ floor above the base.

    Base of the Law & Finance Building

    What is unique is the row of ornamental heads above the bosses’ floor, perhaps representing the severed heads of the developer’s political opponents.

    Ornamental heads
    Ornamental head
  • J & K Building, Allegheny West

    834 Ridge Avenue

    This building, in a Deco Gothic style, appears to have been part of the Western Theological Seminary, and perhaps an expert in Allegheny West history can shed some light on it. Old Pa Pitt published a picture of it once before, but recently he noticed the concrete flaking away from the obliterated date stones by the door.

    MCMXXXII just visible

    This is the stone to the right of the door. The date was purposely obliterated (why do people do that?), but it is clearly legible now through the later layer of concrete: 1933, which, judging by the architectural style, would be just right for the date of the building itself.


    The stone to the left of the door bore the date 1872, and Father Pitt must admit to being ignorant of its significance. It is not one of the various dates usually claimed as the foundation of the Western Theological Seminary, which in 1884 claimed to have been founded in 1825. Perhaps a historian from its successor, the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, can enlighten us.

    Floral decoration
    Canon PowerShot SX150 IS.

    This floral ornamentation is carved in the stone that frames the main entrance.

  • 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
  • Bank in Dormont

    Bank in Dormont

    This building originally housed a bank, and was still a PNC branch until a few years ago. It was built in 1926, and it straddles the line between classical and Art Deco.

    Front of the building
    Lion ornament

    You know it’s a bank because it has a vomiting lion at the top of the building.

    Perspective view

    As with many banks, the elaborate stone front hides a building mostly clad in cheaper and more prosaic brick.

  • Salvation Army Building

    Inscription: The Salvation Army

    Thomas Pringle, architect of some of our prominent churches, designed this nine-storey Deco Gothic building for the Salvation Army almost as if it were a skyscraper church, complete with his usual corner tower. Today it is a hotel.

    Salvation Army Building, Pittsburgh
    Entrance to the Salvation Army Building
  • Moderne in Mission Hills

    361 Orchard Drive

    Mission Hills in Mount Lebanon, laid out in 1921, is a neighborhood where houses in all different styles coexist happily. Most of those styles are historical or romantic; this ultramodern house is a definite outlier, and an unexpected treasure in a neighborhood full of treasures. Father Pitt does not know the architect, but because of the striking similarities between this house and one in Swan Acres attributed to Joseph Hoover, we shall tentatively assign this one to Hoover as well. (And old Pa Pitt promises to get to Swan Acres soon and bring back some pictures of that remarkable neighborhood.)

    Perspective view

    Could the house number be more perfectly styled to match the house?

    Perspectivier view

    And is that a genuine Kool Vent awning over the side door?

  • Art Deco Telephone Exchange in Carnegie

    Telephone exchange in Carnegie

    Press C. Dowler was almost certainly the architect of this classic Art Deco telephone exchange, since he designed most of the buildings for Bell Telephone in our area during the Art Deco era.

    The blankness of the first floor is probably original. As much of the switching equipment as possible was on the ground floor, because copper was expensive, and anything that shortened the distance that had to be cabled saved a lot of money.


    The polychrome frieze is an unexpected flash of color on what is otherwise a monochrome building that makes its decorative statements with cleverly patterned brick, a few stone accents, and small terra-cotta ornaments.

    Entrance decoration
    Terra cotta
    Street names

    It used to be usual for corner buildings to carry the names of the streets in lieu of street signs. It was already old-fashioned when this building went up, but who could resist those elegant Art Deco letters?

  • Allegheny General Hospital

    Allegheny General Hospital

    Allegheny General is one of the few classic skyscrapers in Pittsburgh outside downtown. It was built in 1926; the architects were York & Sawyer. These views were taken with a long lens from across the Allegheny River.

    Below, with bonus pigeons:

    Allegheny General Hospital with flying pigeons

    A change in the light makes quite a different picture:

    With sun