Tag: German

  • Klee Row, Allegheny West

    Klee row

    A row of identical houses put up in 1884 for Joseph Klee, a successful manufacturer of shoes and one of the founders of the Rodef Shalom congregation. The word “Klee” means “clover” in German, so, of course…


    …all the dormers have clover ornaments.


    Note the basement-level breezeway between houses, which is very unusual in Pittsburgh.

    End of the row
    One of the houses
    Fujifilm FinePix HS10.
  • St. Michael’s Mädchen Schule, South Side Slopes

    St. Michael’s Mädchen Schule

    It seems certain that this building, formerly the girls’ school for St. Michael’s parish, will be demolished sooner or later; what has saved it so far is the expense of demolishing a large building in a neighborhood with low property values. But the South Side Slopes, like many city neighborhoods, have become much more valuable lately.

    Right now, the building appears to house a whole alternate civilization of “homeless” squatters. In an ideal city, perhaps, it could continue to do so, but with a city budget for maintaining it and providing the elementary comforts to the residents. We do not live in that ideal city.

    At any rate, it seemed worth stopping to record a few details of the building before it disappears entirely, and another piece of Pittsburgh’s rich German history is gone. We also have a few pictures from a year and a half ago, including a composite view of the front.

    Entrance, perspective view

    “St. Michael’s Mädchen Schule” (“St. Michael’s Girls’ School”).


    “Errichtet A. D. 1872” (“Erected A. D. 1872”).


    “Wiedererbaut A. D. 1900” (“Rebuilt A. D. 1900”).

    St. Michael’s Mädchen Schule
    Kodak EasyShare Z981.
  • Dritte Deutsche Evangelische Lutherische Zions Kirche, Lawrenceville

    Here is an example of something you never see old Pa Pitt do. The usual jungle of utility cables infested this picture, and Father Pitt took them out. It’s not a perfect job, but it looks good from this distance. Having demonstrated that he is capable of doing it, Father Pitt may never do it again, but it does give us a good look at the front of an interesting old church.

    Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church is the oldest open church in Lawrenceville: that is to say, it is the one that has been worshiping in the same building continuously for the longest time. This building was finished in 1874, and it has not changed much since then. In style it is a typical small Pittsburgh church of the time, with a shallow-pitched roof, the walls divided in sections by simple pilasters, and crenellations under the roofline. This is the Romanesque variant of that style. It could be made Gothic by swapping the rounded arches for pointed arches; it could be made classical by adding a few classical decorative elements.

    The inscription reads “3.te Deutsche ev. Lutherische Zions Kirche” (“Third German Evangelical Lutheran Zion’s Church”). Someone has traced the date “1823” in white on the date stone in the gable. Father Pitt believes it is a mistake, although he would be happy to be corrected by anyone who knows better. The records indicate that the congregation was founded in 1868; the building opened in March of 1874, so the date 1873 would be plausible. Perhaps layers of paint made the date indistinct, and a painter misread the 7.

    Here is the church with the utility cables. Father Pitt had the energy to remove them from one picture, but after that he had to lie down for a while. Since, however, these pictures are all licensed with a public-domain-equivalent CC0 license, nothing stops any motivated readers from adopting the photograph and spending the afternoon eliminating the cables—and that utility pole while they’re at it.

  • St. Michael’s Mädchen Schule, South Side Slopes

    St. Michael’s Mädchen Schule

    Like many ethnic churches, St. Michael’s, a German Catholic church on the South Side Slopes, was the center of a whole village of ethnic institutions. This was a German girls’ school. The building will eventually disappear, but it has sat in this decrepit state for many years now. You can find photographs on line of the wreckage of the once-magnificent interior; old Pa Pitt is not enough of an urban adventurer to risk trespassing charges and serious injury to bring you such pictures himself.

    St. Michael’s Girls’ School

    Perhaps in an expensive neighborhood this building would find a use, but this neighborhood is not likely to become expensive enough to repay the several million dollars it would probably cost to rescue a school of this size.

    St. Michael’s Girls’ School

    Curiously, the girl’s school was much larger and more magnificent than the boys’ school. That building, next door, was clumsily and unsympathetically converted to apartments some years ago; the conversion itself is already showing its age.

    St. Michael’s Boys’ School
    St. Michael’s Boys’ School.
  • First German Evangelical Church, Mount Washington

    First German Evangelical Church

    Here is another church with the sanctuary upstairs, but that is only part of the story. You had to be in good shape to go to services here, because the downstairs entrance is already a full flight of steps up from the street.

    Stairways from street

    Note the direct entrance to the basement or sub-basement from the street level.

    It was not as challenging as it looks to be a member of this church, though. This is the Southern Avenue front; the back extends to Greenbush Street, with an entrance level with the sanctuary. It’s a typical Pittsburgh lot with a two-storey drop from back to front.

    Stained glass

    This stained-glass inscription over the entrance is in abbreviated German. Father Pitt reads it as “Evangelical German United Protestant Church,” but anyone who knows German abbreviations is invited to make a correction in the comments. This was a very German part of the neighborhood a hundred years ago: diagonally across the street was a Männerchor hall, now replaced by an incongruous 1960s suburban-style split-level house.


    The parsonage was built at about the same time as the church (between 1910 and 1923, according to our old maps). The style is a lightly modern arts-and-crafts interpretation of the usual Pittsburgh foursquare house.

    Addendum: It appears that the church and parsonage were built in about 1914 or shortly after, and the architect of both was John A. Long. From the Construction Record for May 16, 1914: “John A. Long, Machesney building, has been selected architect to prepare the plans for the erection of a brick church and parsonage in Mt. Washington, for the German Evangelical Protestant Congregation.” But just a week before, on May 9, 1914: “Architect H. Gilchrist, Frick building, has been selected to prepare plans for a church and parsonage, to be built on Mt. Washington, for the German Evangelical Protestant Congregation. No definite location for the building has been selected.” Since Long also appears a few months later as architect of the parsonage in particular, we are inclined to say that Long was the final choice. September 19, 1914: “Martsolf Brothers, House building, have secured the contract to build a two-story brick veneer parsonage, on Southern avenue, Mt. Washington, at a cost of $6,000, for the First German United Evangelical Protestant Congregation. Architect John A. Long, Benedum Trees building, prepared the plans.” (In the time between the listings, the Machesney Building had changed its name to the Benedum Trees Building; Long had not moved his office.)

    Meanwhile, old Pa Pitt leaves his speculation about E. V. Denick below, so that you can see how wrong he was, unless he was right.

    The former speculation: We have not yet found evidence of the architect of the church, but without a shred of documentation we are going to attribute it to E. V. Denick or Dennick (we find his name spelled both ways). His Bethlehem Evangelical Lutheran Church in Allentown is smaller, but has the same topographic problem to solve—being set into a steep hill—and solves it in a very similar way. The two churches share so many quirks of style that old Pa Pitt is inclined to say that they are the responses of the same architect to the same problem with two very different budgets. That they were both built for German congregations, and very near each other, is social evidence to add to the stylistic evidence.

    Parsonage and church
  • Deutsche Vereinigte Evangelische Kirche, West End

    Deutsche Vereinigte Evangelische Kirche Now the Jerusalem Baptist Church, this church was built in 1864, according to the inscription on the front. The Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation identifies the architects as Dahner and Dear.


    It is not possible to get a straightforward picture of this inscription without intrusive utility cables. Old Pa Pitt resorted to taking three different pictures from slightly different angles and welding them together, which was probably more work than it was worth. But here is a complete picture of the German inscription, and if drivers on Steuben Street were confused by the sight of a gentleman in eighteenth-century garb lying on the sidewalk pointing a long lens across the street, at least they had something to tell their families when they got home. “Deutsche Vereinigte Evangelische Kirche” is German for “German United Evangelical Church.”

    Jerusalem Baptist Church

    As with many Pittsburgh buildings, the question “How tall is it?” cannot be answered without a paragraph of disquisition on topography. The precipitous Belgian-block street along this side of the church is Sanctus Street.

    How should we describe the style of this church? The rounded arches might say Romanesque or classical, although a presentable Gothic building could be made simply by swapping them for pointed arches. We’ll call it classically Victorian.