Tag: Broadway

  • Boylan Building, Beechview, in 1930

    Boylan Building in 1930

    The Boylan Building in Beechview, as photographed on February 18, 1930, by a Pittsburgh city photographer.1 We can see that the second floor was an open space useful for all sorts of things—a bowling alley and pool hall, but also dances and basketball games. The barber shop at the left end prominently advertises that it is a UNION SHOP; non-union barber shops were prone to mysterious explosions.

    The picture below was taken in 2021 (and nothing substantial has changed since then), so we can see how sensitively this building has been restored for use as a community center. The corner entrance on the left has been filled in, but on the whole the building is pretty much as it was almost a century ago—except that it’s in better shape now.

    Boylan Building in 2021
    1. Thanks to our alert correspondent David Schwing for pointing this picture out in the Historic Pittsburgh collection. We have brightened the picture just a bit to make the details of the building more visible. ↩︎
  • Some Houses on Broadway, Dormont

    2815 Broadway

    Father Pitt continues documenting the domestic architecture of the Pittsburgh area, in the hope that some of his readers will begin to appreciate the character of the neighborhoods they live in.

    Broadway in Dormont is the boulevard where the streetcars run in the median. That makes it a prominent street, and on one side some of the better-off citizens of the middle-class borough built houses on a lavishly upper-middle-class scale. The Tudor house above has had its porch enclosed, which disguises what would have been an interesting design with an overhanging second-floor sunroom. (Update: Note the comment from a kind correspondent who has pleasant memories of this house when the porch was still there.)


    This one has had vinyl siding applied with fairly good taste, but it would originally have been shingled above the ground floor.


    Here we have arts-and-crafts style applied to the standard Pittsburgh Foursquare arrangement. The wood trim has been replaced with aluminum; there would probably have been prominent carved brackets to add to the arts-and-crafts appeal.


    The archetypal Pittsburgh Foursquare.

    Houses along Broadway

    When these houses were built, the big attraction of this street was its direct trolley link to downtown Pittsburgh.

    Trolley passing

    That is still true today.

  • Rowhouses on Broadway

    Rowhouses on Broadway

    It sounds like a good name for a 1930s Warner Brothers musical, but we’re talking about the Broadway in Beechview, where the streetcars still run on the street. One of the characteristic forms of cheap housing in Pittsburgh streetcar neighborhoods is the rowhouse terrace, where a whole row of houses is built as one building. “This method of building three or six houses under one roof shows a handsome return on the money invested,” as an article about the Kleber row in Brighton Heights put it. In other words, here is a cheap way to get individual houses for the working classes.

    Architecturally, it poses an interesting problem. How do you make these things cheap without making them look cheap? In other words, how do you make them architecturally attractive to prospective tenants?

    In the row above, we see the simplest and most straightforward answer. The houses are identical, except for each pair being mirror images, which saves a lot of money on plumbing and wiring. The attractiveness is managed by, first of all, making the proportions of the features pleasing, and, second, adding some simple decorations in the brickwork.

    Architects (or builders who figured they could do without an architect) often repeated successful designs for cheap housing, making it even cheaper. A few blocks away is an almost identical row.

    Another row on Broadway

    The wrought-iron porch rails are later replacements, probably from the 1960s or 1970s, but the shape, size, and decorative brickwork are the same, except that here we have nine decorative projections along the cornice instead of five.

    Now here is a different solution to the terrace problem:

    Terrace on Broadway
    Another row of houses

    Here we have two rows of six houses each. Once again, the houses are fundamentally identical, except for half of them being mirror images of the other half. But the architect has varied the front of the building to make a pleasing composition in the Mission style, which was very popular in the South Hills neighborhoods in the early 1900s. Instead of a parade of identical houses, we get a varied streetscape with tastefully applied decorations that are very well preserved in these two rows.

    Incidentally, terrace houses like these look tiny from the front, but they often take full advantage of the depth of their lots to provide quite a bit of space inside. They are common in Pittsburgh because they were a good solution to the problem of cheap housing: they gave working families a reasonably sized house of their own that they could afford.

  • Hampshire Stop, Beechview

    A two-car Red Line train stops at the inbound Hampshire safety island on Broadway in Beechview.

  • Beechview Christian Church

    Beechview Christian Church

    The building now belongs to Mercy Intellectual Disabilities Services, which has altered it to suit a radically different purpose. But the outlines of the church are still clear. The architect was T. Ed. Cornelius,1 about whom Father Pitt knows nothing except that he seems to have had a fairly successful career designing middle-class houses and modest churches—this one was budgeted at $25,000 in 1923, which was not a great deal to spend on building a church.

    This is another case where old Pa Pitt went looking for one of his pictures and discovered that he had never published it. The picture was taken in August of 2022, but only recently did Father Pitt discover the name of the architect.

    1. Source: The American Contractor, June 9, 1923: “Church: $25,000. 1 sty. & bas. 60×80. Shiras av. & Broadway. Archt. T. Ed. Cornelius, Magee bldg. Owner The Beechview Christian Church, Shiras av. & Broadway. Brk. Drawing plans.” ↩︎
  • The Traffic Light in Beechview

    Buildings on Broadway and Beechview Avenue, Beechview

    Central Beechview has one traffic signal, but it’s a very complicated one, regulating traffic on Broadway, Beechview Avenue, and Hampshire Avenue—and also the streetcars.

    Streetcar on Broadway in Beechview

    Yes, that streetcar was still in the intersection when the light turned red. But are you going to argue with the streetcar?

  • Triangular Apartment Building in Beechview

    Apartment building on Broadway, Beechview

    From Broadway this looks like an ordinary apartment building. But the architect, John A. Long,1 had an interestingly Pittsburghish problem to solve. The building is on a triangular lot with a very sharp angle—but that is only the two-dimensional aspect of the problem. In Beechview, there are always three dimensions.

    Corner of the triangle

    The third dimension is up.

    Oblique view

    The building was probably given green tiles on that projecting roofline, since Spanish Mission was a very popular style in Beechview and Dormont. The stonework is picked out in blue since a few years ago, which makes the building look cheerful. That long blue stripe on the ground floor probably marks the top of a storefront that was later converted to an apartment.

    Three buildings together

    Next door was a red-brick building that appears as “I. O. O. M.” on the 1923 map; perhaps it meant “L. O. O. M.,” and this was the original Beechview Moose lodge. The Moose now have their lodge a block down Broadway in a smaller building.

    At some time after 1923, the two buildings were connected by a very narrow filler building, which probably made three more rent-paying apartments possible:

    Filler building

    The arched doorway, with its abstract-Romanesque receding arches, adds interest to what is otherwise a plain building.

    Apartment buildings
    1. We take this information from the Construction Record, September 26, 1914. “Architect John A. Long, Machesney building, has plans for a three-story brick store and apartment building, for A. Gravaut, to be built on Baltimore and Realty avenue, at a cost of $12,000.” This would mean the building was put up in 1915 or so. Although the name doesn’t appear on any of the layers of the Pittsburgh Historic Maps site, there are enough references here and there to make it clear that Broadway was briefly called Baltimore Avenue before reverting to Broadway. The history of street names in Beechview is complicated by at least two wholesale changes just a few years apart. ↩︎
  • Stevenson Stop on the Red Line, Dormont

    Many streets in the Pittsburgh area used to have a median where the streetcars ran in a separate right-of-way: Center Avenue in West View and Brookline Boulevard in Brookline are two examples. Broadway in Dormont is the only one where the streetcars still run in the median. We could also count the Silver Line through Bethel Park as a broad instance of the same kind of development, although the streets between which the trolleys run have different names.

  • Thea, Esther, and Ruth in Dormont

    Thea apartments

    We have seen Ruth before, but here are all three of the ladies on Broadway in Dormont. They form a group, with Ruth facing the other two across the street. Ruth and Thea are identical; Esther is different, but matching in scale, colors, and materials.

    For some reason giving small apartment buildings women’s names was popular in Dormont. If old Pa Pitt had been naming these, he would have kept to a consistent Old Testament theme. Perhaps Ruth, Esther, and Hulda?

    Esther with a trolley
    Convenient to transit.
    Entrance to the Esther
    Ruth, inscription

    The pictures of Ruth were taken in November of 2022. Obviously, the only way to get the sun on all three buildings is to come at two different times.

  • Streetcar on Broadway, Beechview