The front of this building, which was originally constructed a little before 1910, has been perfectly pickled in the middle twentieth century. It is now an antique store advertising “useful junk,” and if you enlarge the picture, you will see how much of that junk is a perfect match for the era of the storefront itself.
Mt. Oliver Mens Shop
Miller Hardware, Mount Oliver
Here is a building that probably dates from the 1890s, and it appears to be occupied by the business that built it. Miller Hardware has expanded into the building next door as well, but it is still an old-fashioned hardware store.
Vanished Storefront on Brownsville Road, Knoxville
Sometimes old Pa Pitt hasn’t got around to publishing a picture of something before it disappears. Back in January he took this picture of a three-storey commercial building from 1901; it has just been demolished. It was not an extraordinarily fine work of architecture, but the upper floors were pleasingly proportioned and treated with enough ornamentation to make the building a good citizen of the streetscape. The ground floor was a mass of decades’ worth of improvised improvements and adaptations; its last tenant was a general store that advertised “videos” among its wares, which tells us how long that store had been vacant.
Renaissance Deco in Mount Oliver
Italian Renaissance architecture filtered through an Art Deco lens makes an extraordinarily rich little building on Brownsville Road. The storefronts have been modernized; they would almost certainly not have had doors that open right into pedestrians’ faces when this building was put up in 1928. But the overall impression the building makes is still dignified, with a touch of Venetian fantasy that reminds us of a Pandro S. Berman production.
Arts-and-Crafts Storefront, Mount Oliver
This tiny building has a simple but rich front; we suspect that the projecting roof was originally covered with green tile, which would have set off the Arts-and-Crafts stained glass even more.
Brownsville Road, Mount Oliver
Mount Oliver is having a bit of a revival these days. Luckily it never declined far enough to start losing buildings in its main commercial strip here on Brownsville Road, so the street is still lined with uninterrupted shops from Arlington Avenue to Bausman Street. For a while a considerable number of them were empty, but they are filling up again. The building at left with the green awning is the old Murphy’s variety store; it is now being made into artists’ studios by the couple who own the trendy Echt coffeehouse around the corner.
It is hard to explain Mount Oliver to people outside the hilltop neighborhoods of southern Pittsburgh. It is completely surrounded by the city of Pittsburgh, but it is an independent borough, the sole holdout when the back slopes of Mount Washington were annexed by the city. Its residents pay taxes to the borough government, but also to the city school system, because Mount Oliver buys its schooling from Pittsburgh. To make things a little more confusing and surreal, one of the adjacent neighborhoods of Pittsburgh is called “Mount Oliver,” but it is part of the city, not part of the borough. Street signs at what pass for major intersections in that second Mount Oliver identify it as “Mount Oliver Neigh,” so your horse can read them.
Deco Gothic in Mount Oliver
This striking terra-cotta front looks like the sort of building that might have been a movie theater. It is not the usual shape for a theater, however (theaters are usually very deep from front to back, and this building is wider than it is deep), and old Pa Pitt would be happy if someone could tell him what this building was. He can also imagine it as a five-and-ten; G. C. Murphy’s was a few doors north on the same side of the street, but there was more than one variety store in Mount Oliver.
The building now belongs to Miller Hardware, the kind of old-fashioned hardware store craftsmen treasure.
Renaissance Commercial Building, Mount Oliver
An exceptionally elegant pair of storefronts with apartments above in the main business strip of Mount Oliver. Enlarge the picture and enjoy the Renaissance details.
Elder-Ado Building, Knoxville
Jacobean Gothic is filtered through an Art Deco lens in this building from 1927, which has been sympathetically modernized with current materials that fit with and emphasize its distinctive character. The original terra-cotta ornaments have been lovingly preserved. This is a good example of how a commercial building can be brought up to date with good taste on a limited budget. Old Pa Pitt has not been able to determine what the building’s original name was; it now belongs to an organization for senior citizens.
Father Pitt knows how his readers appreciate a good utility cable, so here is a fine closeup of one, unfortunately marred by a date stone in the background.
St. Clair Savings & Trust Co., Knoxville
An Art Deco interpretation of traditional Doric bank architecture, with the added interest of an unusual shape: the lot forces the structure into a triangle. This substantial building from 1931 was abandoned for a while; then it was briefly the Iglesia de Cristo León de Judá, before that congregation took over an old church a few blocks away; then it was abandoned again. Now it is a store with the delightfully appropriate name “Candy Safe Market.” The exterior is a feast of artistic details.
The name comes from St. Clair Township, which originally included much of Allegheny County south of the Monongahela. Today the building is in the Knoxville neighborhood of Pittsburgh, right on the border with Mount Oliver borough.
This pair of griffins over the entrance ought to be guarding a clock, and perhaps they were at some point; but the bronze decoration where the clock should be is fairly old, if it is not original. The banner with the name of the store is hanging over this sculpture, which is why we have to look at it from this angle: old Pa Pitt thought it would be discourteous to take down the banner just to get a better picture.
One of the points of the triangle.