Tag: California Avenue

  • Greater Allen African Methodist Episcopal Church, Brighton Heights

    California Avenue side of the Greater Allen African Methodist Episcopal Church

    This church has a complicated history that perhaps someone from Brighton Heights could help old Pa Pitt sort out. It was built in 1907 as a Congregational church, replacing an earlier frame building. By 1923 it was the Eleventh United Presbyterian Church. Now it belongs to the Greater Allen African Methodist Episcopal congregation, which has kept it in beautifully original shape, right down to the uncleaned black stones, which Father Pitt loves.

    Cornerstone with A. D. 1907 inscribed
    Davis Avenue side
    Davis Avenue side straight on
    Rear of the church
  • Three Flemish Houses by Frederick Osterling, Brighton Heights

    Osterling houses on California Avenue

    This trio of Flemish-style houses is one of the most remarkable features of the Brighton Heights neighborhood. Frederick Osterling lived in Brighton Heights and designed several houses worth seeing there; these from about 1900 were beautifully restored as the “Osterling flats” a few years ago.

    Center house
    All three houses
  • St. John the Baptist Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Church, Marshall-Shadeland

    St. John the Baptist Orthodox Church

    The congregation moved to a generic late-twentieth-century church building in the North Hills this year, finally following most of its members to the suburbs. (The congregation was secure enough to be able to move without taking out a loan, which is good news for them even if it’s bad news for the North Side.) That leaves this building in an uncertain state. Right now it is still being well maintained, but its neighborhood is not yet valuable. Perhaps with the revival of city living, it will be worth doing something with in the next few years.

    Cornerstone with a date of 1937

    The church was built in 1937, when the Depression was still with us and its congregation probably was not rich. The building is a curious construction in a style old Pa Pitt has decided to call “Modular Byzantine.” The parade of identical rectangles across the tall face of the church makes it look as though it was put together by a methodical and meticulous child playing with blocks.

    Corner view of the church, showing slope of lot

    Because of the extreme slope of the lot, the front has to be very tall if there is going to be any back at all. Since the main entrance is on the lower level, we can add this to our list of churches with the sanctuary upstairs.

    Dome with Byzantine cross

    The gold domes are a landmark on this section of California Avenue, and we hope they can be preserved.

  • 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. (Update: The architects are now identified as Vrydaugh & Wolfe; see the end of this article.) 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.

    Addendum: Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the style—and especially that low tower with four corner pinnacles—this church was designed by Vrydaugh & Wolfe.1 This means that Vrydaugh & Wolfe had two of the four corners of this intersection covered: diagonally across from this church is their Church of the Epiphany.

    1. Source: The American Architect and Building News, July 23, 1904: “Architects Vrydaugh & Wolfe will be ready for bids in a few days on the Methodist Episcopal Church, of Bellevue. The building will be erected at Lincoln and Home Aves., at an approximate cost of $60,000.” ↩︎
  • 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.1) 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
    1. Update: Father Pitt has since identified two other churches by Campbell still standing and in good shape: Carnegie United Methodist Church and the First Presbyterian Church of Ingram, now the Ingram Masonic Hall. They both show strong similarities in style to this one. ↩︎
  • 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.

  • Avalon United Presbyterian Church

    Camera: Samsung Digimax V4.

    This splendid building was put up in about 1906 (Update: It was in the planning stages at the end of 1906; see the end of this article.) It has not been used as a church for about a quarter-century, but it is still kept scrupulously beautiful by the current owners. Compare Father Pitt’s photograph above with the old postcard below, printed when the church was very new (to judge by the utter lack of bushes or other landscaping).

    The style is interesting: old Pa Pitt might almost call it Richardsonian Gothic. It has the heaviness of the Romanesque style that Richardson was famous for, but with pointed arches—only just barely pointed, however, as if they are a little embarrassed about being caught in their Gothicness.

    Addendum: The architects were Allison & Allison. Source: The American Architect and Building News, December 1, 1906: “Avalon, Pa.—Architects Allison & Allison, Westinghouse Building, Pittsburg, have prepared plans for a stone church for the U. P. congregation, Avalon. Address the architects.” Now a private home, but beautifully kept.