Tag: Classical Architecture

  • Carnegie Library, Mount Washington Branch

    One of the little neighborhood libraries designed by Alden & Harlow, this one has a prime location on Grandview Avenue, making it possibly the library with the best view in the world.

  • Another Renaissance Palace in Squirrel Hill

    Gilding the capitals of your Ionic porch columns is a subtle way to tell the world, “I have more money than I know what to do with.” Note the half-round extrusion in the shadows on the right-hand side.

  • Soldiers and Sailors Hall at Night

    Soldiers and Sailors Hall

    Night views of the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial in Oakland.

    From Fifth Avenue
  • Pittsburgh Athletic Association, Oakland

    Fifth Avenue façade

    This grand Renaissance palace by Benno Janssen has a lighting scheme that emphasizes its architectural details.

    South corner
    With cannon silhouette

    In the foreground, the silhouette of one of the cannons on the grounds of Soldiers and Sailors Hall.

    East corner
  • Investment Building

    Top of the Investment Building

    Built in 1927, this Fourth Avenue tower was designed by John M. Donn, a Washington architect known for government buildings who seems not to have done anything else around here. The curious ornamental obelisks at the corners of the cap were the inspiration for Philip Johnson’s Tomb of the Unknown Bowler down the street.

    Investment Building
    From a different angle
  • Johnston House, Squirrel Hill

    Johnston house

    Probably built in the 1890s, this grand house on Wightman Street has its very Victorian trim picked out in cheerful colors. Note the thoroughness of the decoration: even the dormers are given little pilasters with Ionic capitals.

    Left dormer
    Oblique view
  • Top of the Keystone Bank Building

    Keystone Bank Building

    The lower floors of this remarkable 1903 bank tower by MacClure and Spahr have been mutilated by modern additions, but from a block away on Forbes Avenue all we can see is the unmutilated top of the building, with its distinctive arched light well.

  • Homewood People’s Bank

    Homewood People’s Bank

    Here is another small bank that gets the architectural message exactly right, as we said a few days ago about the Carnegie National Bank. How could your money not be safe in a bank that looks like this? Imagine, too, how bright and cheerful the banking hall must have been before those tall windows along the side were filled in.


    Winged chimeras guard the cartouche at the top of the great front arch.

    Homewood People’s Bank
  • Carnegie National Bank

    Carnegie National Bank

    Architecture is a kind of message that we instinctively read. When we see a bank that looks like this, we think without even articulating the thought, “That bank is stable and respectable.” The richness of the materials tells us that the bank has plenty of money; the traditional classical design tells us that it is not some fly-by-night institution that somehow swindled its way into a few bucks and will be gone as soon as its trendy design is passé. This bank on Main Street in the borough of Carnegie hits all the right notes with perfect pitch. We have forgotten how to send these architectural messages, but curiously enough we have not forgotten how to read them.

    Decoration over the entrance
    Oblique view
  • Birmingham Turnverein (Lithuanian Hall)

    This building is an epitome of the history of the South Side. The first wave of immigrants after the original English and Scotch-Irish settlers was the Germans. There was a Turnhalle, a German athletic club, on this site by 1872, and probably well before; it was across the street from a German Evangelical church. That original Birmingham Turnverein was a frame building, but this splendid brick structure was put up some time a little before 1910. (If you enlarge the picture, you can see a pair of “BTV” monograms on the façade near the entrance.) Then came the influx of East Europeans, and many of the Germans moved out. This became a Lithuanian Hall; the German church across the street was demolished and replaced with a Ruthenian Catholic church. In the twenty-first century, we have all become antisocial, and clubs and churches have died; the building has been turned into apartments, as many similar buildings have been.