Tag: Janssen (Benno)

  • Keystone Athletic Club

    Keystone Athletic Club

    The Keystone Athletic Club was designed by Benno Janssen, Pittsburgh’s favorite architect for high-class clubs of all sorts. Most of them were classical in style, but for this skyscraper clubhouse Janssen chose a simple and streamlined Gothic style instead. It is now Lawrence Hall, the main building of Point Park University, so that two universities in Pittsburgh have trademark Gothic skyscrapers.

    Keystone Athletic Club emblem
    Side of the Keystone Athletic Club
    Terra-cotta tile

    Early in his career, Benno Janssen was a fiend for terra cotta; he was much more restrained later on, but he usually included some characteristically appropriate terra-cotta ornaments.

    Fujifilm FinePix HS10.
  • Acheson House, Shadyside

    Acheson House

    An elegant Tudor or Jacobean mansion designed by MacClure & Spahr and built in 1903, as the dormer tells us. This Post-Gazette story (reprinted in a Greenville, North Carolina, paper that does not keep it behind a paywall) tells us that a 1925 addition was designed by Benno Janssen, who had worked in the MacClure & Spahr office and may have had some responsibility for the original design. The article also tells us how vandals masquerading as interior designers rampaged through the house and painted all the interior woodwork white or pale grey to “banish dark wood,” but at least the exterior is in good shape.

    Dormer with the date 1903
    Perspective view of the house
    Side of the house

    Cameras: Nikon COOLPIX P100; Kodak EasyShare Z1285.

  • Houses by Janssen & Abbott on Schenley Farms Terrace

    Most of the houses in Schenley Farms were built singly: usually the property owner chose an architect, though the land company built a few houses to sell on spec. But on Schenley Farms Terrace, Janssen & Abbott were hired to design a row of seventeen houses all at once. The result is one of those rare tract-house developments where the houses are little masterpieces that combine to make a beautiful and well-thought-out streetscape.

    Schenley Farms Terrace

    (The house at extreme left with the colonnaded balcony is not part of the Janssen & Abbott row.)

    Similar developments stick to one style, but on Schenley Farms Terrace you come across a Colonial Revival house, and then a crisply modern cottage, and then a Pittsburgh Foursquare, and then a French farmhouse. Somehow they all look comfortable together.

    Again, similar developments stick to one scale, but Janssen uses differences in height to make a streetscape that feels as though it just grew there.

    We have quite a large number of pictures here, so we put them behind a “more” link to avoid weighing down the front page.

  • Some Decorations on the William Penn Hotel

    “William Penn Hotel” on the marquee

    The architect Benno Janssen, one of the titans of Pittsburgh architecture, was very fond of terra cotta, as he showed early in his career in the exuberant Wedgwood patterns of the Buhl Building. The William Penn is more restrained, but it is still a feast for lovers of ornament.

    Terra-cotta head
    A similar head from the front
    Window with false balcony
    William Penn between griffins
    Egg and dart with foliage
    William Penn between griffins
    Stylized head

    The head of William Penn in ceremonial Quaker headdress.

  • Young Men’s Christian Association Building

    Young Men’s Christian Association

    Benno Janssen, Pittsburgh’s favorite architect for clubs of all sorts, designed this small skyscraper, which was built in 1923. The view above is an attempt at a perspective rendering something like what Janssen would have shown the clients. It is actually impossible in our narrow streets, so old Pa Pitt had to divide the picture into multiple planes and ruthlessly distort them. If you enlarge the picture, you can see some of the comical effects of that distortion; but the building itself looks about right now.

    Entrance to the YMCA
    Inscription and decoration

    This building received a glowing review from one of Janssen’s fellow architects in the April, 1926, issue of the Charette, the magazine of the Pittsburgh Architectural Club:


    Much has been said from time to time in favorable comment of some of our older important buildings, but thus far nothing has been noted to the writer’s attention with respect to some of the more recent structures. To make particular mention—the Downtown Y. M. C. A. building. A building of the high building category, worthy in its class of as favorable comment architecturally as other buildings of our city renowned in their type. Among the higher buildings erected in recent years throughout the county, it is difficult to select one which surpasses the Y. M. C. A. in point of satisfying design. It is of modern interpretation. A building unified, in which the base shaft and top are related parts, knit together in harmonious composition, enhanced by well studied use of materials and nicety of restraint in carefully selected details. It is a building of design vastly in contrast to many of the present era, whose corresponding parts placed one on top of the other without apparent relation other than the different portions may bear a strain or similarity of type.

    A building to be judged architecturally must be viewed with a knowledge or at least an understanding of the limiting conditions under which, and more often in spite of which, a design is created. Thus a cathedral, a masterpiece, may not exceed in architectural attainment that of a small parish church. An extensive mansion may not be better architecturally than a small cottage, though the problems and limitations of both are not comparable. One might not say in comparing the fine church with the fine mansion that one is fine architecturally and the other is not, simply because they belong not to the same class of buildings. The stringent restrictions of Y. M. C. A. planning and design require little emphasis. Every one who has stepped into one of these buildings is familiar with the compactness of the intricate plan problem, the extremely small bed room sizes and the admission of no wasted spaces or areas. To gain adequate light and air to all these complicated appointments and rooms, and still in the exterior to obtain a related design having wall surface which bears some semblance of structural possibilities to maintain itself, is no mean problem. The Downtown Y. M. C. A. building has met these obstacles and surmounted them in an admirable manner. It is a worthy piece of architecture, and Pittsburgh may well take pride in the fact that it is hers in more ways than one.

    K. R. C.

  • Twentieth Century Club, Oakland

    Ywentieth Century Club

    As you can see, it takes some effort to achieve this kind of symmetry in Pittsburgh, a city where the phrase “ground floor” is ambiguous at best. Pittsburgh’s premier women’s club hired Pittsburgh’s premier architect of clubs, Benno Janssen, to design this splendid Renaissance palace, built—according to the inscription—in 1930. The inscription also tells us that the club was founded in 1894. The rest (on the right) is the club motto: “Not for ourselves alone, but for the whole world.” The building now belongs to Pitt.


    Janssen liked this kind of cartouche with monogram: compare his Young Men and Women’s Hebrew Association.

    Lower entrance

    The entrance on the Bigelow Boulevard side, at lower ground level.

    Relief: Non nobis solum, sed toti mundo

    A relief over the Bigelow Boulevard entrance bears the club motto again. For context, here is an older picture from the corner of Bigelow Boulevard and Bigelow Boulevard (no one said navigating Oakland was easy); the lower entrance is behind the elegant stone wall.

    Corner view
  • Young Men and Women’s Hebrew Association, Oakland

    Another of Benno Janssen’s imposing clubs. We have seen this building from the front before; this corner view gives us an impression of the scale of the whole structure. It is now Bellefield Hall of the University of Pittsburgh.

  • Masonic Temple, Oakland

    Masonic Temple

    Another magnificent clubhouse by Benno Janssen; it is now Alumni Hall of the University of Pittsburgh.

    Masonic Temple
  • Pittsburgh Athletic Association

    One of Benno Janssen’s masterpieces; here we see it from the Cathedral of Learning grounds.

  • Mellon Institute at Twilight

    Mellon Institute at twilight

    The colossal columns of the Mellon Institute illuminated from within.