Tag: Art Deco

  • St. Josaphat’s War Memorial, South Side Slopes

    A memorial to the large number from St. Josaphat’s who served in both World Wars. It stands across the narrow street from the church, set into the hillside, with a statue of Christ displaying his Sacred Heart and welcoming us to stop and read the names. As you can guess from the names if you enlarge the picture, St. Josaphat’s was a Polish congregation.

    Statue of Christ
    Art Deco eagle
  • Presbyterian Church of Mount Washington

    Presbyterian Church of Mount Washington

    Now the Vintage Church. This church on Bailey Avenue is a fine example of what happens when streamlined Art Deco meets Tudor Gothic.

    Vintage Church
  • Some Details from Webster Hall

    Webster Hall sign
    Webster Hall

    Father Pitt picked up a Fujifilm HS10 camera very cheaply, and here is a demonstration of its long range. The picture above and the picture below were taken standing in the same spot: the steps of the Mellon Institute across Fifth Avenue. The picture above is not a composite: the lens is wide enough for the whole building. (Of course the perspective has been adjusted, because old Pa Pitt wouldn’t let a picture go without doing that.)

    Scallop-shell ornament

    A scallop-shell ornament over one of the windows in the upper floors. The long lens makes it easy to pick out interesting details, and the details on Webster Hall, designed by Henry Hornbostel, are worth picking out. It’s a kind of Art Deco Renaissance palace, built as luxury apartments, but soon changed into a hotel, and then back to luxury apartments again.

  • Bell Telephone Exchange, Allentown

    Bell Telephone exchange, Allentown, Pittsburgh

    A particularly fine Art Deco design. Neighborhood telephone exchanges were put up all over the city, and the telephone company, which had all the money in the world, always made them ornaments to their neighborhoods. This one still belongs to the successor of the Bell Telephone Company.

    Decorative relief
    Another relief
  • Craig Street Automotive Row, Oakland

    Update: Father Pitt has improved on these pictures and published more or less the same article over again, but with much better lighting.

    Oakland Motor Car Co.

    If this is not unique in North America, it has to be at least very rare: a complete contiguous row of buildings from the early days of the automotive industry, intact and largely unaltered. They are lined up one after another, without any gaps, along Craig Street from Baum Boulevard northward. It is one of Pittsburgh’s unrecognized treasures. Fortunately only one of the buildings seems to be endangered at the moment: the others have found new uses, and the owners have not made substantial alterations to the façades, several of which have fine terra-cotta details.

    In 1905, a splendid amusement park opened on this site: Luna Park, the first of a chain of Luna Parks that spanned the globe.

    Luna Park

    This one did not last long, however: it closed in 1909—partly as a result of competition from the well-established Kennywood Park, where you can now see a smaller model of the Luna Park entrance.

    The closing of the park opened up a broad expanse of cleared land, and the newly rich automobile industry moved in here. By 1923, all these buildings had been constructed in a long row.

    We begin at the corner of Baum Boulevard (the picture at the top of the article), where the grandest of the lot actually sold low-priced cars. This was a dealer in—coincidentally—Oakland motor cars, which were named for Oakland County, Michigan, where they were made. Oakland was General Motors’ cheap division before GM bought Chevrolet.


    The ornate capitals of the corner columns are worth a closer look.


    Next in the row up Craig Street is a Franklin dealer.

    Tire dealers

    Next come two tire dealers in identical buildings. The one on the left sold Kelly-Springfield; the one on the right sold B. F. Goodrich. These buildings are now the Luna Lofts, which probably sounds better than Kelly-Springfield and B. F. Goodrich Tire Lofts.


    Here is the one building Father Pitt considers endangered, beacuse vacant and ill-kept buildings catch fire mysteriously. It belonged to the Van Kleeck Motor Co., which sold Jordan automobiles. The façade is mostly original, though it has had some curious alterations, especially the door to nowhere with its tiny iron balcony.


    Next (and please forgive the glare from the sun in the wrong part of the sky) comes an Oldsmobile dealer.


    And finally the Nash dealer, now home to a branch of North Way Christian Community, which has made the front look gorgeous.

    This is the whole contiguous row along Craig Street, and it is incredible enough that the entire block of buildings has survived intact. There were also other car dealers in the same immediate area, and even more remarkably they have survived, too. In the future, Father Pitt hopes to bring you pictures of the Chevrolet dealer, the Packard dealer, the Studebaker dealer, the Ford dealer, and the Sampson dealer.

  • The Knoxville Junior High School

    Knoxville Junior High School

    This splendid Tudor Deco palace takes up a whole large city block; in fact, it’s the symbolic center of Knoxville, occupying the lot where the original W. W. Knox house stood until the early twentieth century. The school was built in stages, beginning in 1927; the Charles Street front was finished in 1935. The architects were Press C. Dowler and Marion M. Steen, and the building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places for its architectural significance, as part of a package deal with a number of Pittsburgh public schools.

    The school closed in 2006. It may stand for many more years, since Knoxville is not a prosperous enough neighborhood to make it worth demolishing; but it will eventually become too dangerous to let stand, so it is in danger until another use is found for it.


    The main entrance is designed to impress us with the idea that education is important but also delightful.


    These shields above the entrance express an ideal of balance in public education: Art, Science, Trades, Play.

    Side entrance
    Blackletter K

    Even the side entrances are finely decorated.

    View along Charles Street

    A view along Charles Street.

    Zara Street

    The rear of the school along Zara Street.

  • Hillsdale School, Dormont

    Hillsdale School

    Frederick Osterling designed this school for the mushrooming borough in 1912. The building itself grew rapidly, with additions in 1914, 1916, and 1918, all in a matching style. According to the book Dormont by the Dormont Historical Society (one of the Images of America series by Arcadia Publishing), at some point in the second half of the twentieth century, high winds destroyed the original roof, and the building was given an up-to-date flat roof and a new front entrance with this fine late-Art-Deco sign.


    In 1996, the school closed, and in 1999 the borough government moved in, so that this is now the William & Muriel Moreland Dormont Municipal Center. The Dormont Historical Society has a small museum here, open one day a week.

  • Grant Building from First Avenue

    Grant Building

    When Henry Hornbostel’s Grant Building first went up in 1929, it was festooned with Art Deco pinnacles that were removed decades ago. If you enlarge this picture of the south side of the building, you can just make out the shadows left by those vanished ornaments.

  • Allegheny General Hospital

    Allegheny General Hospital

    An Art Deco interpretation of the skyscraper style old Pa Pitt calls “Mausoleum-on-a-Stick,” in which the cap of the skyscraper is patterned after the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus. The architects, York & Sawyer, seem to have been taken with the style; they designed another Mausoleum-on-a-Stick building in the same year (1926) for Montreal. You can see a picture of it in one of old Pa Pitt’s earlier articles on Allegheny General Hospital.

    The original skyscraper hospital was a marvel of practical hospital design. Everything radiates from a central core of elevators, and nothing is more than a few steps from the elevator. Later the hospital was expanded with new buildings in wildly mismatched styles, so that the complex has become the hopeless jungle of dead-end corridors and mismatched floors usual in big-city hospitals.

  • Webster Hall from the Corner of Dithridge Street

    Webster Hall

    An oblique view of Webster Hall. And is that a bus coming toward us? Yes, it is.