Tag: Centre Avenue

  • Wesley Center AME Zion Church, Hill District

    Wesley Center AME Zion Church

    A striking modernist Gothic church whose clean lines are lovingly preserved by the congregation. Below, we add some bonus utility cables to prove that this is Pittsburgh.

    Wesley Center with utility cables
  • St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Hill District

    Cupola of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Hill District

    Elise Mercur was an extraordinary woman. The first female professional architect in Pittsburgh, and one of the first anywhere, she had a prosperous career for about a decade between 1894 and 1905. Then she retired, and most of her buildings have been crushed by the steamroller of time—or by university presidents who need them out of the way to make room for some donor’s vanity project.

    St. Paul’s Episcopal Church

    This church remains, however. It was built for the St. Paul’s Episcopal congregation; later it passed to the Church of the Holy Cross, a Black Episcopal congregation that eventually moved to Homewood. Right now it belongs to the Christian Tabernacle Kodesh Church of Immanuel.

    Centre Avenue end of the church
    From the side

    Those little triangular dormers are imitated from Richardson, who used them in his famous Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Allegheny West.

    The Wikipedia article on Elise Mercur is unusually thorough, so old Pa Pitt will not repeat its information here. He will add, however, that he has been scanning old trade journals to see whether any other buildings by Mercur have survived, and he will publish any findings in this spot.

    Perspective view

    As the only known remaining work of our first female architect, this church has a historical significance that makes it a preservation priority. Father Pitt assigns it to the Near Threatened category in his classification of our vulnerable landmarks.


    The most striking feature of St. Paul’s is the octagonal cupola.

  • Warren United Methodist Church, Hill District

    Warren United Methodist Church

    The Warren United Methodist Church might qualify for Rundbogenstil were it not for the very slight pointing of the arches, which takes away the Rund part of Rundbogenstil. With its battlemented roofline, it gives the impression of a chapel built into a castle. The attached parsonage is more interesting and more striking than the church when we see it from the street, and our only legitimate complaint about it would be that it draws too much attention toward itself and away from the church.

    Parsonage and church

    Addendum: The architects of the church, and probably the parsonage as well, were Milligan & Miller of Wilkinsburg; it was built in about 1908. Source: Ohio Architect and Builder, July, 1907. “PITTSBURG.—Architects Milligan & Miller, of Wilkinsburg, are drawing plans for a brick and stone church to be erected on Center avenue, for the Warren Methodist Episcopal congregation. Cost $3,000.” A zero has probably been left out of the cost; you could not get a brick and stone church for $3,000, but this could easily be a $30,000 church.

  • Store and Apartments by J. E. Cole, Hill District

    2909 Centre Avenue

    So far this is the only building old Pa Pitt has identified as designed by J. E. Cole, about whom he knows nothing other than that Cole designed this building. The storefront has been modernized, but otherwise the building is in near-original condition. The corner is an obtuse angle, and Father Pitt wonders whether the unusual seam at that corner was the result of the architect’s original plan, or of the low-bidding contractor’s refusal to trim the bricks properly without an extra payment. It was imitated many years later by whoever added the modern storefront.

    Dwelling House Savings
  • Ewart House, Hill District

    Ewart House

    Short of a miracle, nothing can save this rambling manse from the middle 1800s, so we can only remember that it was here with these pictures. It was built in various stages by the Ewart family, who once owned all the land on both sides of Centre Avenue in this part of the Hill. The earliest part was probably built in the 1850s or 1860s; the frame addition may be as late as the twentieth century. The whole building will be demolished when the city gets around to it: it is only blocks from million-dollar houses in Schenley Farms, but those blocks make the difference.

    Gable end
    Perspective view
    Perspective view of the front
    Centre Avenue face
    Ewart House
  • The A. Leo Weil Elementary School, Hill

    Entrance to the A. Leo Weil Elementary School

    Marion Steen was staff architect for the Pittsburgh Board of Public Education for two decades, from 1935 to 1954, and in that time he gave us some striking Art Deco schools. One of the most striking things about them was how different each of them was. Someday soon old Pa Pitt will take a tour of Mount Lebanon to photograph Ingham & Boyd’s schools there, and when he does, you will see that they all have a certain Ingham & Boyd sameness to them—which is not a bad thing: they are good variations on a good theme. But Marion Steen was like a jazz musician who could never play the same solo twice.

    The most striking thing about the 1942 Weil School, which is still in use as a charter school, is the four-storey vertical that marks off the main entrance.

    Sculpture over the entrance

    Old Pa Pitt does not know who is responsible for the strongly Deco allegorical figure pouring out floral treasures for the delighted children below. But he is certain that education is supposed to look something like this.

    Side view of the statue

    The auditorium is an exercise in Deco classicism. Note the textures in the brickwork.

    Auditorium and Soho Street entrance
    Centre Avenue end

    We hope someone will put some effort into preserving the wavy Art Deco metalwork in the railings at the Centre Avenue end of the building.

  • Stevenson Building, East Liberty

    Stevenson building, East Liberty

    This classical building was designed (in 1896) by architect William Ross Proctor to preside over this corner as if it owned both streets. By placing the entrance at the corner, Mr. Proctor refuses to decide whether the building is on Centre or Highland. “Both,” says that entrance.

    Look up as you pass to appreciate the elaborate detail of the cornice.

    Cornice moldings
  • Dome of the Liberty Market, East Liberty

    Better known to Pittsburghers as Motor Square Garden: it opened as a market house in 1900, but failed a few years later and began a long association with the automobile business. The architects were Peabody and Stearns, who also designed Horne’s department store downtown and several prominent mansions in the East End neighborhoods.

  • Cathedral Mansions and Haddon Hall in 1929

    Thanks to a kind correspondent, old Pa Pitt has an opportunity to prove himself right about one thing and wrong about something else. Being wrong is almost as good as being right, because it means learning something new.

    Our correspondent sent two pictures that appeared in an advertisement that ran in the Post-Gazette in 1929. The ad was for Frigidaire refrigerating systems, as used in prominent buildings in the city.

    First, the Cathedral Mansions apartments on Ellsworth Avenue.

    Cathedral Mansions in 1929

    Here Father Pitt was right. A little while ago, we ran this picture of Cathedral Mansions as it looks today:

    Cathedral Mansions today

    At that time we mentioned that we suspected it had lost a cornice. Father Pitt was right about that, as you can see from the 1929 picture.

    Now, here’s the one we were wrong about:

    Haddon Hall in 1929

    This building is now an apartment building called Hampshire Hall. As “Haddon Hall” it was a hotel with apartments. Here is what it looks like today:

    Hampshire Hall (formerly Haddon Hall)

    The obvious change is that modernist growth on the front. When he published these pictures, Father Pitt wrote, “It appears to be a glass enclosure for what was once an elegant verandah.” That is wrong. It seems to have been a replacement for the original dining room or lounge of the hotel. It was probably put there in about 1961: a newspaper ad from December 22, 1961, promotes the Walt Harper Quintet’s appearance at the “newly remodeled Haddon Hall Lounge.”

    Many thanks to our correspondent for the pictures, which give us new information about these two notable buildings. If anyone knows the architect of either one, but especially Haddon Hall/Hampshire Hall (which is in a distinctive modernist-Renaissance style), Father Pitt would be grateful for the information.

  • Centre Court Apartments, Shadyside

    Center Court Apartments

    A simplified Italian Renaissance style, with the ornamentation kept to the minimum. Note the variant spelling of the name on the nameplate over the entrance: when this apartment block was put up, the spelling of Centre Avenue had not been standardized to the British spelling preferred by real-estate developers.