Tag: Arts and Crafts Style

  • Our Bungalow of Dreams

    The Bridgeville, a bungalow design

    Here is a bungalow from the book Pennsylvania Homes, published in 1925 by the Retail Lumber Dealers’ Association of Pennsylvania, which had its headquarters in the Park Building in Pittsburgh.

    Some graduate student right now is probably writing a thesis on “The Idea of the Bungalow in Early-Twentieth-Century American Thought.” Certainly there is enough material for a hefty academic treatise. We could probably write a thick book just on the cultural implications of 1920s song titles: “Our Bungalow of Dreams,” “We’ll Build a Bungalow,” “A Little Bungalow,” “A Cozy Little Bungalow” (that’s a different song), “There’s a Bungalow in Dixieland,” “You’re Just the Type for a Bungalow.” And so on.

    A “bungalow” in American usage was a house where the rooms were all on the ground level, though often with extra bedrooms in a finished attic. It was the predecessor of the ubiquitous ranch houses of the 1960s. It was associated with the “Craftsman” style promoted by Gustav Stickley and others. Low-pitched roofs, overhanging eaves, and simple arts-and-crafts ornament were typical of the style.

    Bungalow in Beechview
    A bungalow in Beechview.

    Roof brackets
    The Craftsman-style roof brackets on that bungalow.

    What caused American houses to go from predominantly vertical to predominantly horizontal? We will not attempt to answer that question definitively; we have to leave our hypothetical graduate student some material for a thesis. We only offer some suggestions.

    First, there are practical advantages to a one-level design. Advertisements often dwell on the number of steps the bungalow saves the busy housewife, which reminds us that middle-class families were beginning to consider the possibility of getting along without servants.

    Second, a small bungalow could be built very cheap. It is true that a rowhouse could be built even cheaper, but the bungalow offered the privacy of a detached house. Some of these bungalows were extraordinarily tiny: that book of Pennsylvania Homes featured a “one-room” bungalow, with a tiny kitchen, dressing room, and bathroom, and one “great room” that could become a pair of bedrooms at night by drawing a folding partition across the middle. Most were not quite so tiny: a typical bungalow had a living room, dining room, kitchen, bathroom, and one or two bedrooms on the ground floor.

    Floor plan of the Vandergrift
    Floor plan of the Vandergrift, a design for a small bungalow.

    The Vandergrift
    Rendering of the Vandergrift.

    Bungalow in O’Hara Township
    A similar bungalow in O’Hara Township.

    Third, there was the suburban ideal. In the early twentieth century, Americans were persuading themselves that what they wanted was the country life, but with city conveniences—in other words, the suburb. The city did not always have room to spread out horizontally, but the suburbs were more encouraging to horizontality.

    Another bungalow in O’Hara Township
    Another bungalow in O’Hara Township.

    Fourth, the bungalow—as we see in all those songs—earned a place in folklore as the ideal love nest for a young couple. House builders encouraged that line of thinking with a nudge and a wink, and added the helpful incentive that a bungalow for two could be built cheaply with an unfinished attic, and then, as nature took her course, two more bedrooms could be finished upstairs.

    Nevertheless, cheapness was not always the main consideration. The bungalow was a fashion, and fashionable families might build fashionable bungalows that were every bit as expensive as more traditional houses, like this generously sized cement bungalow in Beechview, built in 1911 at a cost of about $4,000, which was above the average for Beechview houses, though many cheaper (and more vertical) houses had more living space.

    Concrete bungalow in Beechview
    The side of that Beechview bungalow.
    The front of the bungalow.

    We hope we have given you, our hypothetical graduate student, enough inspiration to make the bungalow an attractive thesis topic. We eagerly await the results of your research.

  • The Kleber Row Newly Built, Brighton Heights

    Kleber Row in 1916

    Back in October we featured a row of houses designed by T. E. Cornelius on Davis Avenue in Brighton Heights. Thanks to an alert correspondent, here is that same row from the Pittsburgh Daily Post of March 5, 1916, with a caption describing the decidedly modern effect of the style:

    The illustration shows one row of a building operation comprising four rows on Davis avenue, Northside, erected for Henry Kleber by T. Ed. Cornelius, architect. The low raking roofs and heavy square columns give a “Craftsman” effect, and the interior is carried out in a similar style. This method of building three or six houses under one roof shows a handsome return on the money invested.

    Thirteen of these houses were built on the Kleber property. The houses still stand today, and in very good shape.

    The Kleber row today

    The architect and his clients obviously considered this design a success: T. E. Cornelius duplicated it at other sites in the city. It is a backhanded compliment to Mr. Cornelius that some architectural historians have misattributed a group of them in Shadyside to the noted progressive architect Frederick Scheibler. We might pay another compliment to Mr. Cornelius by noting that, everywhere these houses appear, they are in better shape than most of Frederick Scheibler’s rowhouses of similar size and era. These houses were built cheap, but they were built to last.

  • Pittsburgh Stained Glass Studios, West End

    Pittsburgh Stained Glass Studios

    It is a remarkable thing that this stained-glass studio, originally the Pittsburgh Art Glass Co., has been here on a forgotten back street in the West End since 1909. This tidy Arts-and-Crafts building has enormous windows on the first floor to suck in all the natural light available.

    Oblique view
  • Kleber Row, Brighton Heights

    This is only part of the row: there are thirteen of these houses in all. But if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all, except for the one with the paste-on false shutters. The row was built in 1915 or shortly afterward as rental properties for Henry Kleber, Jr.; the architect was T. E. Cornelius,1 who shows up frequently in trade magazines of the time as a designer of middle-class houses. Cornelius’ Arts-and-Crafts sympathies are very much in evidence here: one almost feels as though the roof of the row ought to be thatched.

    By an odd coincidence, there is another line of rowhouses diagonally across Davis Avenue from these, and once again there are thirteen in the row.

    1. Our source for this information is the Construction Record. “Architect T. E. Cornelius, House building, awarded to George E. McKee, 6 Alger Street, the contract for building 13 two-story brick veneered and frame residences on Davis avenue, Northside, for Henry Kleber, Jr., 6020 Crafton street. Cost $25,000.” Kleber is marked as owner on a 1923 map. ↩︎
  • Bellevue Christian Church

    Bellevue Christian Church

    Here is a little Arts-and-Crafts Romanesque church that had money at the wrong time. The modern addition (probably 1960s or early 1970s) is not sympathetic to the church behind it. The elaborate modernist window in the front probably replaced an earlier decorative window; perhaps the church had a fire. If a member of the congregation has any information, old Pa Pitt would be grateful for it.

    Bellevue Christian Church

  • Emmanuel Baptist Church, Brighton Heights

    Built in 1914, this little church (now Emmanuel Christian Church) is a fine example of the simple Arts-and-Crafts interpretation of Tudor Gothic that was fashionable for small churches in the early 1900s. The only specifically Gothic detail is the large front window; the tower has a bit of decorative half-timbering, but the rest is unadorned and built with cheap but attractive materials.

    Addendum: According to the Construction Report for August 23, 1913, the architect was Pierre Liesch. “Architect Pierre Lessch, 18 East Fourth street, Aspinwall, is taking bids on erecting a one-story brick veneer church on Davis avenue near Brighton road, Northside, for the Emanuel Baptist congregation. Cost $15,000.” It should be noted that this magazine is poorly edited and frequently misspells names.

  • Old Woods Run Branch Library

    Woods Run Branch Library

    The city of Allegheny was conquered by Pittsburgh in 1907, but the Carnegie Free Library of Allegheny—the first municipally run public library—was an independent institution until 1956. The main library was in the center of Allegheny, where it still stands (though the library has moved out). It had one branch library, opened here in 1916; the first librarian was Helen R. Langfitt, a 1916 graduate of the Carnegie Library School. This little arts-and-crafts building cannot match the elegance of the Alden & Harlow branch libraries in Pittsburgh, but it was a pleasant ornament to the neighborhood.

    Oblique view

    In 1964, the library moved to a modern building around the corner on Woods Run Avenue—a building that itself became dated and was remodernized in 2006.

  • Knoxville Baptist Church

    Knoxville Baptist Church

    Now Iglesia de Cristo León de Judá, the Knoxville Baptist Church was built in 1909; it is a typical small vernacular-Gothic church with some Arts and Crafts details. The attractive indigo paint applied by the current congregation makes it stand out from others of its type.

    Cornerstone

    Fundamentalist Christians in the United States have always had a deep suspicion of stained glass as creeping idolatry, but the Spanish-speaking Evangelical congregations are the most vengefully thorough about it. As soon as they take over an old church building, the stained glass is removed. Usually it is replaced with clear glass, but this congregation has blocked all natural light from entering the building. Photographs of services on line show that the interior is set up like a theater, and natural light would only interfere with the projections and spotlights.

    Knoxville Baptist Church
    Entrance
    Tower entrance
  • Arts-and-Crafts Storefront, Mount Oliver

    212 Brownsville Road

    This tiny building has a simple but rich front; we suspect that the projecting roof was originally covered with green tile, which would have set off the Arts-and-Crafts stained glass even more.

  • Grace Lutheran Church, Brookline

    Grace Lutheran Church

    Since 1959 this has been Pittsburgh Baptist Church, our first Southern Baptist congregation. But it was built in 1908 as a Missouri Synod Lutheran church, Grace Lutheran. It is perhaps Brookline’s most striking church, built in a unique variant of the Arts-and-Crafts Tudor Gothic style that was popular then. The massing of the forms is particularly pleasing.

    Pittsburgh Baptist Church
    Grace Lutheran, originally

    Addendum: The architect was John A. Long, as we discover in the Construction Record, September 16, 1911: “Martsolf Brothers, House building, have secured contract for the erection of a two-story cement stucco church and parsonage, on Pioneer avenue, Brookline, for the Grace Evangelical Lutheran Congregation. Architect John A. Long, Machesney building, prepared the plans.”