Tag: Gothic Architecture

  • St. Scholastica’s Convent, Aspinwall

    St. Scholastica’s Convent

    Old Pa Pitt does not definitely know who designed this old convent (now a “ministry center”), but he would not be at all surprised to learn that it was Aspinwall’s own resident big-time architect Frederick Sauer, who could have walked to this site from his house in five minutes, and who was a known lover of yellow brick like this.

    Inscription: “St. Scholastica’s Convent”
    St. Scholastica’s Convent
    St. Scholastica’s Convent
  • First English Evangelical Lutheran Church

    First English Evangelical Lutheran Church

    Designed by Andrew Peebles, this church, which would be the most magnificent thing in many a neighborhood, is dwarfed by the Grant Street behemoths around it. Other even grander churches on Grant Street (St. Paul’s Roman Catholic Cathedral and St. Peter’s Episcopal) were displaced by commercial interests, but this one has somehow survived since 1887, which may make it the oldest standing building on Grant Street. It’s currently getting some restoration.

    Entrance and 1887 date stone
    Inscription: First English Evangelical Lutheran Church
    False belfry
    Roof ornament
    Grant Street face
    First Lutheran
  • Calvary Methodist Church at Night

    Calvary United Methodist Church at night

    Calvary Methodist Church in Allegheny West is floodlit at night, and old Pa Pitt stopped the other night to get a few pictures. The design of this church is credited to Vrydaugh & Shepherd with T. B. Wolfe. Vrydaugh & Wolfe would soon become a partnership designing a number of fine churches and millionaires’ mansions. Old Pa Pitt does not know what happened to Shepherd.

    West front
    West front
    Calvary United Methodist Church

    These pictures were all taken hand-held with very slow shutter speeds. Photographers will tell you that you cannot take a sharp hand-held picture at 1/10 of a second. What they mean is that you cannot reliably take a sharp picture. With digital photography, where individual pictures cost nothing, what you can do is take a dozen or two pictures and hope that one of them will be sharp.

  • Cathedral of Learning

  • Salvation Army Building

    Inscription: The Salvation Army

    Thomas Pringle, architect of some of our prominent churches, designed this nine-storey Deco Gothic building for the Salvation Army almost as if it were a skyscraper church, complete with his usual corner tower. Today it is a hotel.

    Salvation Army Building, Pittsburgh
    Entrance to the Salvation Army Building
  • Nativity of Our Lord Church, Observatory Hill

    Nativity of Our Lord Church

    Here is an interesting demonstration of how many Catholic parishes developed in the first half of the twentieth century, and a reminder of how ecclesiastical priorities have changed. Father Pitt does not know the whole history of this building, and perhaps a parishioner could fill us in. But the main outline is this:

    Cornerstone: A. M. D. G. Nativity of Our Lord Parish School

    The cornerstone tells us that the building was put up in 1925. But it tells us that this was the parish school—and indeed, if we look at the picture at the top of the article again, we can see that the lower level was built first. Many parishes built a school building first, and worshiped in a space in the school until they could afford to build a sanctuary. In Brookline, for example, Resurrection parish built its parish school first and worshiped in the gymnasium until the main church could be constructed. The Lutherans a couple of blocks away did the same thing: St. Mark’s still worships in the building that was intended to be the Sunday-school wing, with a much grander church that never went up next to it. It was taken for granted that the children would be educated, and in Catholic parishes it was taken for granted that there would be a parish school to give them their daily education; if priorities had to be set, the school went up first, because it was easier to adapt a school for worship than to adapt a church sanctuary for schooling.

    In this case, the sanctuary was built on top of the original school, which was probably the plan from the beginning. We can therefore add this to our list of churches with the sanctuary upstairs, although, because of the steep Pittsburghish lot, the corner entrance is only seven steps up from the sidewalk.


    The belfry is one of the most picturesque aspects of the building.

  • W. J. Gilmore Drug Company Building

    W. J. Gilmore Drug Company Building

    This feast of deco-Gothic terra cotta on the Boulevard of the Allies was designed by Joseph F. Kuntz, who worked for the Wm. G. Wilkins Company. It opened in 1925. Several of Kuntz’s buildings are notable for their terra-cotta fronts: see, for example, the Maul Building and the Hunt Armory.

    View along the front
    Probably cast iron
    Perspective view
  • North End United Presbyterian Church, Observatory Hill

    North End United Presbyterian Church

    Now Emmaus Deliverance Ministries. Designed by John Lewis Beatty, this late-Gothic-style church was built in about 1925. (The cornerstone has been effaced, which old Pa Pitt regards as cheating, though he understands that a new congregation likes to make a new beginning.)

    Emmaus Ministries
    Side entrance

    A Gothic church must maintain a delicate balance: it wants to be impressive, but it also wants to be welcoming. The simple woodwork over the entrances (this one is the basement entrance) gets the balance right: it fits well with the style of the building, matching the angle of the Gothic arches, but it sends the message that we’re just plain folks here.

  • Mount Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church, Observatory Hill

    Mount Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church

    O. M. Topp (the O is for Olaf) was the architect of this rich little church, now a nondenominational church. He had a typically Pittsburghish lot to deal with, and he made the most of its peculiarities, so that one feels as though one has suddenly stumbled into a medieval European village.

    Cornerstone dated 1914
  • Second United Presbyterian Church, Highland Park

    Second United Presbyterian Church

    This church has an unusually eclectic history. It began as the Second United Presbyterian Church. Father Pitt does not know the original architect, but in 1915 there was a devastating fire, and a large reconstruction project was supervised by the architect John Louis Beatty. In 1933 the Presbyterians moved out, and this became the East End Baptist Church. Now it is the Union Project (an arts venue) and the meeting-place of the Jonah’s Call Anglican congregation.

    About two and a half years ago, old Pa Pitt published some pictures of this church, but something seemed different about it. It took a moment to realize: the decorative details on the tower have been cleaned. Back in 2021, all the stone had been cleaned except for the very top of the tower:

    Tower with soot still on it

    But now the tower is clean to its very tip:

    Top of the tower cleaned
    Second U. P. Church
    Union Project
    Main entrance
    Main entrance again
    Gothic arch
    Black pinnacle

    This little pinnacle is still the color the whole church used to be.

    East End Baptist Church

    Map showing the location of the church.