In 1888 the Allegheny County Courthouse was finished, and by then its influence in Pittsburgh had already been profound. H. H. Richardson predicted, correctly, that it would be his most famous work; he died in 1886 without seeing it completed, when the mania for “Richardsonian Romanesque” in Pittsburgh was only beginning. Fortunately several competent Romanesque architects were available to supply the buildings Richardson could no longer provide.
Frank E. Alden was the Alden of Longfellow, Alden, and Harlow. Longfellow himself had trained with Richardson, and his firm was regarded as the successor to Richardson’s. Here Alden fills a very unpromising lot with a romantically Romanesque pile, built in 1888 while the last stones were still falling into place in the courthouse.
The church is vacant at the moment; it would make a fine studio for some prosperous artist.
Connoisseurs of Victorian lettering will be delighted by the inscriptions.
But let my due feet never fail
To walk the studious cloister’s pale,
And love the high embowed roof,
With antique pillars massy proof,
And storied windows richly dight,
Casting a dim religious light.
There let the pealing organ blow,
To the full-voic’d quire below,
In service high, and anthems clear,
As may with sweetness, through mine ear,
Dissolve me into ecstasies,
And bring all Heav’n before mine eyes.
It is difficult to convey in a photograph the impression we get from entering a glorious Gothic church like Heinz Chapel. In general photographs are too light, either because the photographers laudably attempted to capture the many artistic details of the Gothic interior, or because they used automatic exposure and let their cameras do the thinking. Old Pa Pitt has tried very hard in these pictures to give some impression of the relative lighting as we enter the chapel from the bright light outside. Most of the light is dim, but a pool of light shines in the distance, drawing us toward the altar.
No matter how bright it may be outside, turning to leave the church is walking away from the light.
It’s easy to forget how tall Heinz Chapel is until we see people working on the roof.
Now the Jerusalem Baptist Church, this church was built in 1864, according to the inscription on the front. The Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation identifies the architects as Dahner and Dear.
It is not possible to get a straightforward picture of this inscription without intrusive utility cables. Old Pa Pitt resorted to taking three different pictures from slightly different angles and welding them together, which was probably more work than it was worth. But here is a complete picture of the German inscription, and if drivers on Steuben Street were confused by the sight of a gentleman in eighteenth-century garb lying on the sidewalk pointing a long lens across the street, at least they had something to tell their families when they got home. “Deutsche Vereinigte Evangelische Kirche” is German for “German United Evangelical Church.”
As with many Pittsburgh buildings, the question “How tall is it?” cannot be answered without a paragraph of disquisition on topography. The precipitous Belgian-block street along this side of the church is Sanctus Street.
How should we describe the style of this church? The rounded arches might say Romanesque or classical, although a presentable Gothic building could be made simply by swapping them for pointed arches. We’ll call it classically Victorian.