There are two apartment buildings called King Edward in Oakland (plus a small “annex” on Melwood Avenue). The more visible one, the King Edward Apartments on Craig Street at Bayard, was built in 1929. The original King Edward, built in 1914, is behind on Melwood Avenue at Bayard Street. It seems much more staid than its larger neighbor, until we look closer and discover that it is festooned with these grotesque faces.
Addendum: The architect was H. G. Hodgkins, who also designed Hampton Hall, another Merrie England fantasy.
These two matching apartment buildings on Craig Street were built between 1903 and 1910; although they seem to be known only by their numbers today, on our 1923 map they are marked as “Beverly” and “Bayard.” They once stood at the end of a row of similarly sized apartment buildings, but the others have been replaced by bigger apartment blocks. Those bays must make the front apartments very bright and cheerful on a sunny afternoon.
Old Pa Pitt was not satisfied with the pictures he published of the Craig Street automotive row two weeks ago. The light was wrong: the sun was behind the buildings. We did our best with those pictures, but really the only way to get better ones would be to return at a different time of day. Father Pitt is so thoroughly dedicated to his readers that he did exactly that, so now here is a duplicate of that article, but with better pictures.
If this is not unique in North America, it has to be at least very rare: a complete contiguous row of buildings from the early days of the automotive industry, intact and largely unaltered. They are lined up one after another, without any gaps, along Craig Street from Baum Boulevard northward. It is one of Pittsburgh’s unrecognized treasures. Fortunately only one of the buildings seems to be endangered at the moment: the others have found new uses, and the owners have not made substantial alterations to the façades, several of which have fine terra-cotta details.
In 1905, a splendid amusement park opened on this site: Luna Park, the first of a chain of Luna Parks that spanned the globe.
This one did not last long, however: it closed in 1909—partly as a result of competition from the well-established Kennywood Park, where you can now see a smaller model of the Luna Park entrance.
The closing of the park opened up a broad expanse of cleared land, and the newly rich automobile industry moved in here. By 1923, all these buildings had been constructed in a long row.
We begin at the corner of Baum Boulevard, where the grandest of the lot actually sold low-priced cars. This was a dealer in—coincidentally—Oakland motor cars, which were named for Oakland County, Michigan, where they were made. Oakland was General Motors’ cheap division before GM bought Chevrolet.
Next in the row up Craig Street is a Franklin dealer.
Next come two tire dealers in identical buildings. The one on the left sold Kelly-Springfield; the one on the right sold B. F. Goodrich. These buildings are now the Luna Lofts, which probably sounds better than Kelly-Springfield and B. F. Goodrich Tire Lofts.
Here is the one building Father Pitt considers endangered, because vacant and ill-kept buildings catch fire mysteriously. It belonged to the Van Kleeck Motor Co., which sold Jordan automobiles. The façade is mostly original, though it has had some curious alterations, especially the door to nowhere with its tiny iron balcony. The terra-cotta decorations are well preserved, and Father Pitt was able to pick some of them out with a long lens:
And finally the Nash dealer, now home to a branch of North Way Christian Community, which has made the front look gorgeous.
This is the whole contiguous row along Craig Street, and it is incredible enough that the entire block of buildings has survived intact. There were also other car dealers in the same immediate area, and even more remarkably they have survived, too. We’ll be seeing more of them soon.
We have mentioned before how thick the air was with clubs in Oakland. Here is one that has been almost forgotten: a small clubhouse by a big architect. The Bellefield Club on Craig Street was designed by James T. Steen, who also gave us the House Building, among many others.
The club opened in 1904; since then the building has had some small alterations. Cheap stock windows have replaced the windows upstairs, with cheap filler to take up the rest of the space. (Father Pitt has not seen a picture of the building in its original state; it is possible that there was a balcony behind those upper arches.) The front has been painted in a gaudy combination of brown and cream; it probably looked better with the original yellow brick. But the alterations are not severe and could be reverted by a sensitive owner.
This building was one of those unexpected discoveries one sometimes makes in the big city. Old Pa Pitt was walking up Craig Street to take pictures of the Craig Street automotive row when this building arrested his attention. He must have gone past it in a car or a bus a hundred times, but this time he noticed it. It seemed like something different from the surrounding buildings. Was it an old theater or some institution? The Pittsburgh Historic Maps site revealed that it had been built as the Bellefield Club, and less than twenty years later in 1923 was inhabited by the Pittsburgh Academy of Medicine. A little more poking around found the architect.
Among the institutional buildings and skyscraper apartments on Craig Street are a few domestic survivors of old Bellefield, the pleasant suburban village that occupied the eastern part of Oakland. Here is one of them, a fine Queen Anne house that has lost very little of its original splendor. It now houses the Tamarind Indian restaurant.
The richly decorated front gable is especially worth noting.
A bit of carving picked out by a very long lens.
The sub-gable over the side bay was richly decorated as well. Note the many textures that come together here: roof shingles (they would have been slate originally), wooden shingles, carved wood, wavy board siding, terra-cotta frieze, decoratively textured brick.
The western end of Bayard Manor faces Craig Street. This is the commercial front of the building, since Craig Street is a retail district. The building has a residential front on Bayard Street, which matches the style of this end but does not even hint at sordid commerce. Father Pitt also has perhaps the only picture on the Internet of the entire Bayard Street front of Bayard Manor.
This is a huge composite picture, so don’t click on it unless you have the megabytes to spare. This elegant apartment building on Craig Street had a typically Pittsburgh problem to solve. The lot is irregularly shaped and (of course) not level. The architect’s answer was a façade that is varied enough to mask the fact that it does not quite line up with the street. At first glance, the front seems symmetrical; the second and third glances will reveal the curious staggering of the wall.