Tag: Art Nouveau

  • Decorations on the Central Turnverein


    Now the Gardner Steel Conference Center, the Central Turnverein was German Pittsburgh’s most elegant athletic club. The building is an extraordinary early-modern design by Kiehnel and Elliott, and they trimmed it with geometric decorations inspired by the latest Jugendstil architecture overseas.

    Central Turnverein
    Window frames
    Another rectangle
  • Hampshire Hall, Shadyside

    Hampshire Hall

    Addendum: This was originally called Haddon Hall, and it was built as a hotel, or at least it was a hotel early in its history. We now have a picture of Haddon Hall in 1929, before the modernist growth on the front.

    This is a distinctive building, and old Pa Pitt searched almost fifteen minutes for the architect without success. He would be delighted if someone could tell him who designed this little outcropping of dignified Art Nouveau. Father Pitt might suspect Kiehnel and Elliott as the architects most likely to be working in this style in Pittsburgh, but that is nothing more than a wild speculation.


    The glass-block windows in the front stairwell were probably stained glass when the building opened, and we can hope that those windows are preserved in a private collection somewhere.

    The modernist addition on the front is not as delightful as its architect probably hoped it would be. It was probably put there in about 1961: a newspaper ad from December 22, 1961, promotes the Walt Harper Quintet’s appearance at the “newly remodeled Haddon Hall Lounge.” (In an earlier version of this article, Father Pitt wrote, “It appears to be a glass enclosure for what was once an elegant verandah.” That was wrong: old photos from before the remodeling show no verandah.)

    Flower ornament
    Hampshire Hall
  • Central Turnverein, Oakland

    Central Turnverein

    A Turnverein (German for “gymnastics association”) was a German athletic club, many of which were scattered through the city. This was doubtless the most luxurious of the lot. It is now the Gardner Steel Conference Center of the University of Pittsburgh.

    Art Nouveau is rare in Pittsburgh, but here is a building that crosses Jugendstil with Prairie Style to produce a distinctive classical modernism. (The picture above is big: enlarge it to appreciate the delightful abstract decorative details.) It was finished in 1912, when Jugendstil was perhaps past its peak in Germany but was still adventurously modern here. The architects were Kiehnel and Elliott, who were more experimental in spirit than most Pittsburgh architects of the time. Richard Kiehnel was born in Germany and had absorbed Jugendstil at the source. The firm is actually more famous for its buildings in Florida; Kiehnel designed a Miami mansion for the president of Pittsburgh Steel, and it apparently made such an impression down there that Kiehnel and Elliott moved to Miami in 1922.

    Gardner Steel Conference Center
  • First Hungarian Reformed Church, Hazelwood

    First Hungarian Reformed Church

    And then there’s Titus de Bobula.

    There are few real outliers among the architects who worked in Pittsburgh before the First World War; we had brilliant architects, but we can sort most of them into groups by the styles they worked in. Titus de Bobula’s work, however, is unique here. He brought us a breath of Budapest Art Nouveau, and for a few years he was the favorite architect for East European churches of all sorts.

    And then he was gone—back to Hungary, where his regular job seems to have been trying and failing to overthrow the government. Later he ended up back in the United States, but he never again had a great architectural career. Perhaps that was because he worked with Nikola Tesla, designing the structural parts of Tesla’s never-built (and possibly delusional) superweapons. It might have been a good job at the time, but no permanent structures ever came of it.

    So we should try as hard as we can to preserve what remains of de Bobula’s work. Fortunately this church, built in 1903, still belongs to its original congregation and is still active.

    The shape of the building is similar to the shape of your average Pittsburgh Gothic church, but the details are straight from fin-de-siècle Budapest—right down to Titus de Bobula’s trademark Art Nouveau lettering in the inscriptions.


    The wildly irregular stonework around the uniquely shaped windows may remind you a bit of Gaudi.

    Isten hozott

    “Welcome” in stained glass over the main entrance.


    Titus de Bobula made a habit of signing his buildings. The rail of a later wheelchair ramp obstructs part of this inscription (the contractor was Bodine and Co.), but we can see enough to appreciate the Art Nouveau lettering.

    First Hungarian Reformed Church
  • Art Nouveau Apartment Building in Shadyside

    This would be a fairly ordinary building, in what we might perhaps call Renaissance style, except for its curious Art Nouveau ornamentation.

  • Art Nouveau Stained Glass on Carson Street

    The Art Nouveau style never made much headway in Pittsburgh, but there are a few examples of ornamentation in a style that deserves that name—especially stained glass, which lends itself to the kind of abstraction we associate with Art Nouveau. This window is in a storefront near the Birmingham Bridge.

  • 418 First Avenue

    Update: The massive survey of historic buildings adopted by the city in 1994 tentatively identifies this building as a work of Titus de Bobula. That would certainly explain its eccentric style: Pittsburgh never had another architect like him. It would also date the building between 1903 and 1910. If we read the map correctly, it first appears on the map layer dated 1903–1906 at the Pittsburgh Historic Maps site, so this might have been one of de Bobula’s early commissions here. Our original remarks appear below.

    It has not been possible to find any information about the age or architect of this curious building in the limited time old Pa Pitt was willing to devote to the task. The researchers who compiled information for the Firstside Historic District also threw up their hands. It is a mostly utilitarian small warehouse, but with angular decorations that suggest a prickly version of Art Deco. Right now you can buy it if you like, and then you might find more clues to its origin among the debris of the decades.

  • Old Church in Spring Hill

    One of old Pa Pitt’s many regrets is that he did not buy this old church on Rhine Street in Spring Hill, merely to preserve its unique Art Nouveau façade. Behind the façade was a pedestrian frame building clinging to the side of the hill, but the façade itself was not quite like anything else in Pittsburgh. This picture was taken in 1999; the church was demolished some time after 2016, when the abandoned hulk still appears in Google Street View. The stained glass probably still exists somewhere; it was removed before the building was demolished.


  • St. Peter & St. Paul Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Carnegie

    There are two Ukrainian churches in Carnegie. The Catholic one is an enlarged Quonset hut. This one is an Art Nouveau interpretation of traditional Ukrainian architecture by the Hungarian architect Titus de Bobula. Together with its next-door neighbor, the Russian Orthodox church, it makes this corner of Carnegie look exotically East European.

    The effect is even more curious when the distinctively Ukrainian domes are seen through a distinctively American maze of utility cables.

  • Terra Cotta on Liberty Avenue

    This splendid building, faced with ornate reliefs in terra cotta, is one of those odd-shaped buildings created by the colliding grids of the 1785 street plan for the Triangle. The iron-and-glass awning is particularly artistic, bringing a touch of Art Nouveau to the streetscape.