Tag: California Avenue

  • Greenstone United Methodist Church, Avalon

    Greenstone United Methodist Church, Avalon

    This church was built in 1906; the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation was unable to identify the architect, and so far Father Pitt has had no better luck. It used to be called the Bellevue Methodist Church—Methodist Episcopal, as opposed to Methodist Protestant, since there was one of those, too. This one is in Avalon, which used to be called West Bellevue, and its striking green stone gave it the name by which everybody called it. In 1982, the congregation bowed to the popular will and renamed the church Greenstone.

    This is one of the relatively few churches of this type that have kept their spires.

    The picture above is one of those rare pictures where old Pa Pitt decided to remove all the fat ugly utility cables, because they were just too distracting.

    Greenstone Methodist
    California Avenue front

    The composite picture above shows some of the matching Sunday-school wing. The stitching worked perfectly for the building, but it made a noticeable break in the car parked on the street, which you can see if you enlarge the picture. Father Pitt left a note on the windshield.

    Here is a map.

  • House on California Avenue, Avalon

    The Bellevue line just narrowly misses this house, making it the first building in Avalon outside Bellevue, and the first on California Avenue outside the city, since California Avenue turns into Lincoln Avenue while it passes through Bellevue. The house was used as the Orion C. Pinkerton funeral home, but when old Pa Pitt took this picture a few days ago, the house was for sale.

    This is clearly the work of an architect rather than just a builder, and enough details are preserved that it would be worth restoring. That blank spot above the awning, for example, probably had a stained-glass window in it, and it could have one again.

    The off-center front door bothers Father Pitt. He finds it hard to imagine an architect designing the house that way originally. Yet the ornamental brickwork above the door matches that above the windows, as if it had always been that way. At the cost of making the picture look a little artificial, Father Pitt has compressed the shadows and highlights to make the details under the porch roof mire visible: enlarge the picture and judge for yourself what is going on with that front door.

  • Saint George Ukrainian Catholic Church, Brighton Heights

    St. George Ukrainian Catholic Church

    This is one of Father Pitt’s favorite modernist churches in the city. It seems like an effortless blending of architectural modernism with the ancient idioms of Eastern Christian tradition, but of course things in art that seem effortless always take a great deal of effort. If modernism in church design always came out looking like this, old Pa Pitt would have adopted it enthusiastically.

  • California Avenue Methodist Episcopal Church, Brighton Heights

    California Avenue Methodist Episcopal Church

    We’ll have to wait for winter to get a good view of the whole front of this interesting church, which is obscured by a lush growth of mimosa trees. But we can appreciate some of the details now.

    The architect was James N. Campbell. Old Pa Pitt knows of only two churches by Campbell still standing in Pittsburgh: this one and the old Seventh Presbyterian Church on Herron Avenue, Hill District. (There are probably others as yet unidentified.) Both churches have similar styles, and both have similar histories. They both became African Methodist Episcopal churches: this one was Avery Memorial A. M. E. Zion Church for quite a while. They both were abandoned. This one may still have some hope: it looks as though someone has been trying to refurbish it, perhaps as a private home. But it also looks as though the renovations have stalled.

    Since Father Pitt considers this an endangered building, he has collected some pictures of the more interesting details to preserve them for posterity in case the worst should come to pass.

    Stone ornament
    Tower again
  • St. Francis Xavier Church, Brighton Heights

    St. Francis Xavier Church, Brighton Heights

    Architect William P. Hutchins certainly made the most of the site. He had a hillside location, a prominent intersection, and a lot of space to work with, so he oriented the building diagonally and gave the church a west front (liturgically speaking) that hits us with an outsized magnificence as we come up California Avenue. The church was built in 1927; the style is Perpendicular Gothic, and already shows some signs of the streamlining that would mark Hutchins’ later works. (To see how far he would take that streamlining, have a look at Resurrection Church in Brookline, one of Hutchins’ last churches.)

    Entrance with clouds
    To get the building, the distant hill, and the clouds all properly exposed took three different exposures, all mashed together in one high-dynamic-range photograph. That is how much work Father Pitt is willing to do for you, his readers.

    Shields in relief over the three main doors honor important saints with their symbolic attributes.


    The cornerstone. The Latin inscription says, “This is the house of God and the gate of heaven.”

    Side view of the church

    Old Pa Pitt noticed that Wikimedia Commons had no current pictures of landmarks in the very pleasant neighborhood of Brighton Heights, except for a few pictures of the Sacrifice monument, most of them taken by Father Pitt. That lacuna has now been filled, and we will be seeing many of the pictures in the next couple of weeks.