Tag: Brickwork

  • Art Deco in the Strip

    2001 Penn Avenue

    Almost all the decorative effect of this building is achieved by arranging bricks in different ways. The original windows in the upper floors also have a part to play in the rhythm of the design: it would not be nearly as effective if they were replaced with single panes of plate glass.

    Decorative brickwork
    2001 Penn Avenue
    Kodak EasyShare Z981.
  • 101 Ella Street, McKees Rocks Bottoms

    Front of 101 Ella Street

    Father Pitt does not know the history of this building, and would be delighted to be informed. A real-estate site says it was built in 1920. It is residential now, but it has the look of a club. That impression is strengthened by the brickwork double-headed eagle at the peak of the Ella Street front. Old Pa Pitt is ashamed to admit that he didn’t notice the eagle when he hurriedly snapped these pictures on his way between the Ukrainian National Home and St. Mark’s School, but you can see it pretty well if you enlarge the picture above, and it is a clever bit of bricklaying. The eagle’s heads seem to be sharing some sort of military cap. Was this an Albanian or Serbian club?

    Perspective view of 101 Ella Street

    The windows were arched originally; the arches have been bricked in so that the windows could be replaced with cheap stock models.

    Munson Avenue side

    The two-storey section at the rear is a later addition, after 1923 to judge by old maps; it may have been added when the club was converted to a residence. The bricks are carefully matched to make the link between the parts seamless. The tops of the doorways, however, seem to have been bricked in at different times, one of them with almost-but-not-quite-matching brown bricks, and the other with ordinary red bricks.

    Rear section
  • Double Duplexes by Charles Bier, Homewood

    Double duplex in Homewood

    Charles W. Bier was a fairly successful Pittsburgh architect, especially busy with medium-sized churches, who flirted with Art Nouveau in the days before the First World War, but retreated into a more traditional style in the 1920s (see, for example, his 1923 Mount Lebanon Methodist Episcopal Church). Here we find him at his most radically modern in a line of three identical double duplexes, built in about 1915 or 1916.1

    The whole row from the left
    Entrance arches

    These broad entrance arches with strong vertical lines show up on Mr. Bier’s churches of the period as well.

    Rectangular ornament

    The geometrical brickwork ornaments remind us of the decorations in German art and architecture magazines of the period, and they may be where our architect got his ideas. (According to Martin Aurand, Frederick Scheibler took much inspiration from those German magazines, so they were available here.)

    Right-hand double duplex

    The building at the right end of the row seems to be stuck in the middle of a refurbishing project, with new windows installed and new wood framing inside. We hope the work can continue, because these three striking buildings really are unusual in Pittsburgh and ought to be preserved.

    View along the fronts of the buildings
    The whole row from the right
    1. Source: The Construction Record, September 11, 1915: “Bids are in for the erection of three two-story brick veneered and hollow tile double duplex residences, on Murtland avenue and Idlewild street, for Mrs. W . J. Burkhard, Mrs. Josephine Friday and Mrs. Mary A. Saupp, Blackadore Avenue Extension. Cost $45,000. Plans by Architect Crarles [sic] Bier, Pittsburgh Life building.” ↩︎
  • John Morrow Public School, Brighton Heights

    John Morrow Public School, Brighton Heights

    The original school was designed by Samuel T. McClaren (or McClarren; we see it spelled both ways) in 1895. Over the decades it was encrusted with annexes and additions, until much of the original building was hidden behind later growths.

    Original building

    This is a small section of the original building peeking out between later additions. Note the tapestry brick on the second floor.

    Chimney

    The care that went into designing and assembling this chimney ought to make us denizens of the twenty-first century ashamed of ourselves.

    Annex No. 1

    Annex No. 1 was built after 1903 but before 1910, obscuring the whole eastern side of the original building. This addition was probably also designed by McClaren, and matches the original very closely.

    What is that little rectangular block of wood below the small central windows on the first floor?

    Ten-dollar reward

    It’s a sign, probably almost as old as the building to judge by the style of the lettering, and with some effort we can read almost all of it:

    $10.00 REWARD.
    FOR THE ARREST AND
    CONVICTION OF ANY PERSON
    OR PERSONS FOUND GUILTY OF
    DESTROYING OR COMMITTING
    A NUISANCE ON THIS
    PROPERTY

    Old Pa Pitt has not succeeded in deciphering the very last line, which probably tells us where to apply for our ten bucks.

    Annex No. 2

    In 1922, Annex No. 2 was built, obscuring the west side of the original building. Insofar as Pittsburgh topography allows, it is identical to Annex No. 1, but this time it is dated:

    Date stones: 1922

    The difference in brickwork indicates that there were probably windows here originally.

    Oblique view

    What this town needs is more utility cables.

    1958 addition

    In 1958, the school got its last major addition, which covered most of the Davis Avenue front of the original building. By that time it was simply impossible to match the architecture of the original, but the architect made some attempt to echo it with similar Roman brick and three Rundbogenstil arched windows on the front. The brickwork here looks the same as the brick infilling of the windows in the annex above, which probably dates that work.

    The school is still in use as Morrow Elementary School.

  • 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.