The Highland Building looms behind the tiny shops of Ellsworth Avenue.
Thanks to a kind correspondent, old Pa Pitt has an opportunity to prove himself right about one thing and wrong about something else. Being wrong is almost as good as being right, because it means learning something new.
Our correspondent sent two pictures that appeared in an advertisement that ran in the Post-Gazette in 1929. The ad was for Frigidaire refrigerating systems, as used in prominent buildings in the city.
First, the Cathedral Mansions apartments on Ellsworth Avenue.
Here Father Pitt was right. A little while ago, we ran this picture of Cathedral Mansions as it looks today:
At that time we mentioned that we suspected it had lost a cornice. Father Pitt was right about that, as you can see from the 1929 picture.
Now, here’s the one we were wrong about:
This building is now an apartment building called Hampshire Hall. As “Haddon Hall” it was a hotel with apartments. Here is what it looks like today:
The obvious change is that modernist growth on the front. When he published these pictures, Father Pitt wrote, “It appears to be a glass enclosure for what was once an elegant verandah.” That is wrong. It seems to have been a replacement for the original dining room or lounge of the hotel. It was probably put there in about 1961: a newspaper ad from December 22, 1961, promotes the Walt Harper Quintet’s appearance at the “newly remodeled Haddon Hall Lounge.”
Many thanks to our correspondent for the pictures, which give us new information about these two notable buildings. If anyone knows the architect of either one, but especially Haddon Hall/Hampshire Hall (which is in a distinctive modernist-Renaissance style), Father Pitt would be grateful for the information.
Update: Our correspondent David Schwing has been studying the career of the developer John McSorley. See his comment below, where he identifies these as two of McSorley’s buildings. The one for which old Pa Pitt could not find a name is called the Ontario.
Another update: We have found that the architect of the Ontario was the Chicago firm of Perry & Thomas.
The intersection of Maryland and Ellsworth Avenues in Shadyside is flanked by apartment buildings with distinctive rounded corners. Above, the Panama. Below, a building that must have looked very modern when it was put up (in the original version of this article, we said “probably around 1920,” but it turns out to have been 1911, which makes it even more strikingly modern); it seems to have no name but its addresses. (Addendum: It was originally called the Ontario.)
A small but substantial Gothic church that could easily pass for a church from any other denomination.
We looked at the Church of the Ascension a little while ago. Here is a view of the entire south side of it that took twelve individual photographs to capture. That is the kind of effort old Pa Pitt is willing to put into documenting his city’s architecture for you, his beloved readers. The whole picture is nearly 11 megabytes, so don’t click or tap on it if you’re on a metered connection.
The Church of the Ascension was designed by William Halsey Wood, a master of Gothic architecture who died very young, at 41, but nevertheless left a substantial body of work. Here he seems to have concentrated his efforts on the massive tower.
Compare these recent pictures to the Father Pitt’s pictures of the same church in 2013.
This exceptionally fine country house on Ellsworth Avenue has been absorbed by the city, but maintains its rural dignity. It was built just after the Civil War in about 1870, and all the best features of the era are represented—generous porch, huge tall windows, and a dignified but not monotonous simplicity of form.
A simple modernist brick box is given an Art Deco flair by distinctively patterned brickwork.
This would be a fairly ordinary building, in what we might perhaps call Renaissance style, except for its curious Art Nouveau ornamentation.
Addendum: According to a city architectural survey, this building, the Everett Apartments, was a work of the extraordinary Hungarian Art Nouveau architect Titus de Bobula.