Young Men and Women’s Hebrew Association, Oakland

Young Men and Women’s Hebrew Association

If your club was prospering, you could have a clubhouse by Benno Janssen, Pittsburgh’s favorite club architect. Among the club buildings he designed that are still standing we may mention the Twentieth Century Club, the Keystone Athletic Club, the Pittsburgh Athletic Association, the Masonic Temple, and this one, a cultural and athletic center that was one of the ancestors of today’s Jewish Community Center. Like several of Janssen’s other club buildings, this one, built in 1924, takes the form of a Renaissance palace. The building now belongs to Pitt, of course, which calls it Bellefield Hall and still keeps up its splendid indoor swimming pool.

Inscription

The university has glassed in the huge arch that forms the main entrance; old Pa Pitt has ruthlessly manipulated this picture to bring the inscription out from behind the glass.

Cartouche

Father Pitt imagines the sculptor, having worked months to intertwine the letters Y, M, W, and H in this artistic cartouche, proudly presenting his work to Mr. Janssen and being told, “You left out the A.”

With fountain in foreground

A view of the building from Heinz Chapel’s new formal garden across the street.

228 First Avenue

228 First Avenue

Does anyone know the architect or the history of this building? Father Pitt put in almost fifteen minutes of work trying to find out something about it, but nothing came up in his searches. It is a particularly elegant little façade, and right now you can buy it and preserve it for future generations.

1st Ave Lofts

1st Ave Lofts (Graphic Arts Building)

A dwarf skyscraper with the regulation base-shaft-cap formula, this elegantly simple commercial building was designed by Joseph F. Kuntz and finished in 1907. It used to be known as the Graphic Arts Building before it was turned into luxury apartments. Soon every building downtown will be luxury apartments, and all the commercial offices will have to move to the suburbs.

Penn Station in 2001

Penn Station

It was officially the Union Station, but there was no real union: the other important railroads (the B&O, the P&LE, the Wabash) had their own stations. Most Pittsburghers knew this as the Penn Station for the Pennsylvania Railroad, which owned it and ran most of the trains. Although this view was taken in 2001, little has changed: already the building was high-class apartments, and already the trains came into a dumpy little modern station grafted on the back. Here, on a day of patchy clouds, the afternoon sun shines a spotlight on the station’s most famous feature: the rotunda, one of Daniel Burnham’s most famous architectural achievements, so distinctive that it has its own separate listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

West Penn Building

West Penn Building

Charles Bickel designed this small skyscraper at First Avenue and Wood Street, which was finished in 1907. It’s a perfect demonstration of the base-shaft-cap form of an early skyscraper. In fact we can use this building as a textbook in our short course on how to read a Beaux-Arts skyscraper. The two-storey base contains the public aspects of the building—retail stores, public offices, and so on. The shaft is the main body of the building, a repeated pattern of windows and wall. The cap gives the building a presentable top, since a gentleman would not appear outdoors without his hat. Note also the floor just above the base outlined with a prominent border. That is the bosses’ floor, where the managers and other important people have their offices. “Form follows function,” as Louis Sullivan said; and in this case the form gives concrete shape to a social reality. You have now completed our course, and may award yourself a certificate.

West Penn Building