Young Men and Women’s Hebrew Association, Oakland

Young Men and Women’s Hebrew Association

If your club was prospering, you could have a clubhouse by Benno Janssen, Pittsburgh’s favorite club architect. Among the club buildings he designed that are still standing we may mention the Twentieth Century Club, the Keystone Athletic Club, the Pittsburgh Athletic Association, the Masonic Temple, and this one, a cultural and athletic center that was one of the ancestors of today’s Jewish Community Center. Like several of Janssen’s other club buildings, this one, built in 1924, takes the form of a Renaissance palace. The building now belongs to Pitt, of course, which calls it Bellefield Hall and still keeps up its splendid indoor swimming pool.

Inscription

The university has glassed in the huge arch that forms the main entrance; old Pa Pitt has ruthlessly manipulated this picture to bring the inscription out from behind the glass.

Cartouche

Father Pitt imagines the sculptor, having worked months to intertwine the letters Y, M, W, and H in this artistic cartouche, proudly presenting his work to Mr. Janssen and being told, “You left out the A.”

With fountain in foreground

A view of the building from Heinz Chapel’s new formal garden across the street.

Terra-Cotta Decorations on the Buhl Building

Terra cotta

The Buhl Building, an earlier work of Benno Janssen, is covered with Wedgwood-style terra-cotta decorations. Below, the Market Street end of the building.

Buhl Building
Terra cotta

Institute Calls to Institute

Mellon Institute reflected in the Software Engineering Institute

The titanic columns of the Mellon Institute reflected in the Software Engineering Institute.

Keystone Athletic Club

Keystone Athletic Club, now Lawrence Hall

Two universities in Pittsburgh have signature Gothic skyscrapers. Everybody knows the Cathedral of Learning at Pitt, but Lawrence Hall at Point Park University is also Gothic and also a skyscraper. By a strange coincidence that probably no one else in history has noticed (this is how dedicated old Pa Pitt is to you, his readers), it is within a foot or two of being precisely half the height of the Cathedral of Learning. (Cathedral of Learning: 535.01 feet; Lawrence Hall: 265.72 feet. Source: Emporis.com.)

It was not always Lawrence Hall, of course. It was built as the Keystone Athletic Club in 1927; the architect was Benno Janssen, who also designed the Pittsburgh Athletic Club, the Twentieth Century Club, and the Masonic Temple, all in Oakland, and a remarkable number of other prominent buildings in the city. The Depression was hard on clubs; the Keystone Athletic Club (doubtless saddled with debt from building a skyscraper clubhouse) collapsed in 1934, and after that the building was a hotel until Point Park College picked it up in the 1960s. It was renamed for the Renaissance mayor David Lawrence, and now it anchors the ever-spreading downtown campus of the university.

Twentieth Century Club and Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania, Oakland

Two great cultural institutions that vacated their landmark buildings for different reasons. The Twentieth Century Club, Pittsburgh’s premier women’s club, fell on hard times like most clubs in our antisocial twenty-first century. The Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania, on the other hand, prospered and moved its collection to the Heinz History Center in the Strip. Old Pa Pitt is delighted to see that the old Historical Society building will soon be a Latin American Cultural Center, so that once again it will be a cultural landmark in Oakland.

The Twentieth Century Club was designed by the prolific Benno Janssen.

The Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania was by the firm of Ingham and Boyd.