Tag: Brickwork

  • Whimsical Brickwork in Mount Lebanon

    Apartment Building on Central Square

    Here is another example of the odd whimsies that sometimes pop up as small apartment buildings. This is the storybook-cottage style that was popular for single-family houses in the 1920s and 1930s built up into a storybook castle. But the most remarkable thing about it is the deliberately random decorative brickwork. It reminds old Pa Pitt of something Frank Gehry would do.

    Random brickwork

    This extreme randomness would probably not hold up the whole wall, so it is used only in the sort-of-half-timbered section above the entrance. But the rest of the brickwork was made as cartoonishly irregular as possible.

    Irregular brickwork

    Some bricklayer had a lot of fun—or a lot of under-his-breath cursing—with this assignment. We note, however, that the balcony railings have been repaired. Perhaps they were originally wood, or perhaps the irregular brickwork proved less than sound.

  • The Admiral Apartments, Shadyside

    A simple modernist brick box is given an Art Deco flair by distinctively patterned brickwork.

  • Second Empire House, Jane Street, South Side

    This exceptionally fine Second Empire house sits at the end of a row, and therefore has two exposed surfaces for the architect to play with. Victorian architects did not like plain flat surfaces, and whoever designed this house lost no opportunity to vary the shape and texture.

  • Seldom Seen Arch

    The Wabash Railroad built this picturesque structure to carry its line over Saw Mill Run and the little lane that led back into the village of Seldom Seen.

  • Herringbone

    The sidewalk along Sidney Street, South Side. Old brick sidewalks are pleasant and picturesque; they do tend to be just irregular enough to be hazardous to pedestrians whose eyes are glued to their phone screens.

  • Apartment Building, 17th and Sarah Streets, South Side

    This modest apartment building (it looks as though the ground floor used to be a store) is enlivened by interesting brickwork.

  • Seldom Seen Arch

    This fine arched tunnel, stone faced with a brick interior, was built as part of the great Wabash Pittsburgh Terminal Railway boondoggle, one of the boondoggliest boondoggles in a city known for boondoggles.

    Just off Saw Mill Run Boulevard is a little parking lot. You have to look for it: it’s on the turnoff to Woodruff Street, and it’s almost invisible till you’re right there. From there you can reach the arch, which is well worth a visit for its own sake. The interior in particular is more interesting than interiors of tunnels usually are. The engineers had fun with this one.

    If you walk through the tunnel into the green world beyond, you’ll find that you’re walking on a broad path of gravel and occasional asphalt. This was Watkins Lane, the only way into a little farm village called Seldom Seen, or Shalerville before that. Like a surprising number of isolated bits of the city of Pittsburgh, it remained a farming village, with farming, even into the twentieth century. It was abandoned by some time in the 1960s, and the forest has reclaimed it. We’ll see more of Seldom Seen in the future.

    Stream valleys in the Pittsburgh area are valuable as being the only nearly level routes through the landscape, and you will never find a major stream valley without railroad tracks in it. But as we can see here, the Saw Mill Run valley has had three railroads in it at once, one of which is still active.

    In the spring Saw Mill Run is often a raging torrent, but it is much more placid in the summer.

  • Patterns in the Bricks

    Shadows highlight the unusually intricate brickwork on the Schiller Glocke Gesang und Turn Verein, South Side.


  • Decorative Brickwork in Dormont

    Dormont, a little borough on the southern border of Pittsburgh, is a pleasant place, and surprisingly densely populated. It’s number 62 on the list of United States cities by population density—more densely populated, for example, than Chicago, Newark, Philadelphia, or Miami. That’s all the more remarkable because Dormont has no tall buildings to speak of. It’s mostly made up of row after row of densely packed single-family homes. But there are also a fair number of small apartment buildings like these, and many of them make up what they lack in architectural distinctiveness with brickwork in decorative patterns. These two buildings face each other across Voelkel Avenue.