Tag: Domes

  • Reflection of the Keenan Building

    Top of the Keenan Building reflected in a modernist skyscraper

    The top of the Keenan Building (designed by Thomas Hannah) reflected in One Oliver Plaza (designed by William Lescaze and now the K&L Gates Center). It occurs to old Pa Pitt that some modernist buildings rely for most of their visual impact on what they reflect: the sky and other buildings, usually. We might say that makes them aesthetic parasites.

  • St. Mary’s Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, McKees Rocks Bottoms

    St. Mary’s Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, McKees Rocks Bottoms

    Now St. Mary Ukrainian Orthodox Parish. The history of Catholic and Orthodox Ukrainian Christians in the United States is complicated, and old Pa Pitt will not attempt to sort it out here. It ends with double Ukrainian churches in many neighborhoods, and that is the case here: there is a more recent Ukrainian Catholic church around the corner from this one.

    This impressive building was designed by Carlton Strong (whose full name was Thomas Willet Carlton Strong, and no wonder he usually shaved off half of it). Strong’s most famous work was the magnificently Gothic Sacred Heart in Shadyside, but he adapts very well to the Byzantine style here and gives the Bottoms a distinctive addition to its skyline.

    Dome
    Cornerstone dated 1922
    Entrance
    Front elevation
    From the rear
    Rectory

    The rectory is in a different style; it is certainly one of the most splendid houses in the Bottoms.

    Rear of the rectory, with fence in Ukrainian-flag colors

    The fence behind the rectory has recently been repainted in a patriotic color scheme.

    Church and rectory

    Carlton Strong, incidentally, came to Pittsburgh as a designer of apartment buildings, giving us the Bellefield Dwellings as his first work here. He later converted to the Catholic faith and became one of our most prominent church architects. You can read a good biography of Carlton Strong by the distinguished local historian Kathleen M. Washy on line:

    Designing in God’s Name: Architect Carlton Strong

  • St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKees Rocks Bottoms

    St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church

    Now billing itself as just an “Orthodox” church, since the Russian Orthodox church in America became autocephalous in 1970 and has long included a broad spectrum of ethnicities. This church was built in 1914, and the architect was George W. King—a name that so far does not appear anywhere else on old Pa Pitt’s Great Big List of Buildings and Architects. “King” does not sound like a particularly Russian name, though Ellis Island could do funny things to people’s names. But he certainly seems to have captured the spirit of Russian church design, and these onion domes are one of the most distinctive features of the skyline of the Bottoms.

    Onion domes from the rear
    Front elevation
    Entrance and porch
    Round window
    Cornerstone dated 1914
    Perspective view from the south
    Rectory

    After the baroque elaboration of the church, the rectory seems almost ruthlessly plain. But it does its job well: it matches the church in materials, thus showing its association, but it directs all attention away from itself and toward the church, which seems theologically appropriate.

  • Domes of St. Nicholas

    The domes of St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church in the McKees Rocks Bottoms.

    Nikita Khrushchev visited Pittsburgh during his reign, and there’s an amusing legend about his trip in from the airport. He was being driven in along the Ohio River Boulevard, which was the way to get downtown before the Parkway West was finished, and he saw the skyline of the McKees Rocks Bottoms out the window. Khrushchev was convinced that the Americans had built a Russian Potemkin village to fool him into thinking…something. His American minders tried to explain that Pittsburgh is just like that, but Khrushchev couldn’t be fooled.

    The legend may be apocryphal, but like most such legends it tells us more about the people who told the legend than it does about the person it was told about. Pittsburghers were intensely proud of exotic landscapes like the Bottoms, and thought of them as things that made their city unique in America.

  • St. John the Baptist Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Church, Marshall-Shadeland

    St. John the Baptist Orthodox Church

    The congregation moved to a generic late-twentieth-century church building in the North Hills this year, finally following most of its members to the suburbs. (The congregation was secure enough to be able to move without taking out a loan, which is good news for them even if it’s bad news for the North Side.) That leaves this building in an uncertain state. Right now it is still being well maintained, but its neighborhood is not yet valuable. Perhaps with the revival of city living, it will be worth doing something with in the next few years.

    Cornerstone with a date of 1937

    The church was built in 1937, when the Depression was still with us and its congregation probably was not rich. The building is a curious construction in a style old Pa Pitt has decided to call “Modular Byzantine.” The parade of identical rectangles across the tall face of the church makes it look as though it was put together by a methodical and meticulous child playing with blocks.

    Corner view of the church, showing slope of lot

    Because of the extreme slope of the lot, the front has to be very tall if there is going to be any back at all. Since the main entrance is on the lower level, we can add this to our list of churches with the sanctuary upstairs.

    Dome with Byzantine cross

    The gold domes are a landmark on this section of California Avenue, and we hope they can be preserved.

  • 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.

  • Saint Nicholas Orthodox Church, Homestead

    Saint Nicholas Orthodox Church, Homestead

    Many other Eastern churches have gilded or painted domes, but these domes are genuine made-in-Homestead stainless steel. Saint Nicholas Orthodox Church has its own Wikipedia article. It is a Ruthenian, or Rusyn, or Carpatho-Russian congregation that belongs to the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese, a group of Ruthenian churches that left the Roman Catholic Church because the American bishops refused to allow them to keep their Eastern Rite traditions, notably married clergy. (The problem was later addressed with a separate Ruthenian Greek Catholic hierarchy for North America—too late to prevent this particular split.) The building itself was begun in 1936, but, what with one thing and another, it was not completed until 1950.

    It was a day of sun and clouds, so we have pictures in very different lighting.

    In the sun
    From the north
    Entrance
  • Sixteenth Street, South Side

    Looking south on South Sixteenth Street with the domes of St. George’s in the distance.

  • Domes of St. John the Baptist

    These famous domes figure in many postcard views of Pittsburgh. There are actually two St. John the Baptist Byzantine Catholic churches on the South Side. This, the Ukrainian one, is the one everyone sees. The lesser-known one is on Jane Street near 18th; it belongs to a Ruthenian congregation that split from the larger St. John the Baptist to have its own liturgy in its own language.

    The picture above is a high-dynamic-range image made from three separate photographs at different exposures. Below, the church from across the Monongahela.

  • Congregation Kaiser Torah, Hill

    Congregation Kaiser Torah

    Several old synagogues remain on the Hill, though their numbers are dwindling and none are still synagogues. This building appears not to be in use right now, though it is still marked on Google Maps as Zion Full Gospel Baptist Church (its one review gives it four stars, and the entire text of the review is “Can’t remember this place either sorry”). The Star of David on the side identifies it as a synagogue, even if we did not have our Pittsburgh Historic Maps to look at. In 1922, the Congregation Kaiser Torah changed its name (for some reason) to Congregation Kether Torah. In the early 1950s the congregation moved to Squirrel Hill and sold the building to the “Carter Chapel Colored Methodist Church,” or C. M. E. Church, as we can still see in one of the layers of lettering on the cornerstone.

    Cornerstone
    Webster Avenue front
    From the opposite corner

    Some addenda: In later sources, the earlier name of the synagogue (are you confused yet?) is spelled Keser Torah or Kesser Torah. The congregation was still meeting at the Hillel Academy a few years ago. It has been small for decades; even in 1958 there were only 50 members, according to “The Story of Kether Torah Congregation,” a clipping from the Jewish Criterion preserved at the Heinz History Center.

    A correction: In an earlier version of this article, Father Pitt mistakenly read the cornerstone as “Carter Chapel A.M.E. Church.” It was a C.M.E. Church, not A.M.E.; it later moved to the former Trinity Methodist Protestant Church on the North Side, but is no longer there.

    Addendum: The architect was Daniel A. Crone, who earlier had designed the old Tree of Life synagogue in Oakland that later became the Pittsburgh Playhouse and was demolished a few years ago. This building would have been finished in about 1920.