A view from the South Side Slopes. Below, a closer look at part of Duquesne University and Mercy Hospital on the Bluff.
South Side, Bluff, and Lower Hill
UPMC Mercy Pavilion Under Construction
Just a few blocks away from our first Eye and Ear Hospital, Mercy Hospital is building a “Pavilion” that will specialize in eye patients. Here we see it from across the Mon.
Saint Joseph’s Hospital, South Side
Built in 1907 (or 1911, depending on our source), this central section has not changed much except for the new windows too small for the openings. The architect was John T. Comès, famous for Romanesque churches like St. Augustine’s in Lawrenceville and St. Leo’s in Marshall-Shadeland. Here he gave the Sisters of St. Joseph a kind of Mediterranean Romanesque tower with a billboard on top. It was later encrusted with featureless modern buildings all around it, and the whole complex is now retirement apartments under the name “Carson Towers.”
This PDF has a picture of the original building. The caption that says “The sculpture over the front door is the only part of the original facade still visible on the building that is now Carson Towers” is obviously wrong; as even a quick glance will show us, almost nothing except the windows and the cornice (cornices often go missing, and somewhere there must be a huge cornice graveyard) has changed about this façade.
Allegheny General Hospital
An Art Deco interpretation of the skyscraper style old Pa Pitt calls “Mausoleum-on-a-Stick,” in which the cap of the skyscraper is patterned after the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus. The architects, York & Sawyer, seem to have been taken with the style; they designed another Mausoleum-on-a-Stick building in the same year (1926) for Montreal. You can see a picture of it in one of old Pa Pitt’s earlier articles on Allegheny General Hospital.
The original skyscraper hospital was a marvel of practical hospital design. Everything radiates from a central core of elevators, and nothing is more than a few steps from the elevator. Later the hospital was expanded with new buildings in wildly mismatched styles, so that the complex has become the hopeless jungle of dead-end corridors and mismatched floors usual in big-city hospitals.
Top of Presbyterian Hospital, Oakland
The top of the tower portion of Presbyterian Hospital is one of several buildings in Pittsburgh inspired by the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus. This one belongs to the sub-style that Father Pitt calls Mausoleum-on-a-Stick: skyscrapers where the echo of the Mausoleum is at the top of the tower. Two of those in Pittsburgh are hospitals (Allegheny General is the other), and Old Pa Pitt would be delighted to know why “hospital” seems so likely to make architects think “Mausoleum.”
Pittsburgh’s first hospital is also our last remaining Catholic hospital, operating as part of the UPMC empire under an agreement that allows it to retain its Catholic principles. It sits at the top of the Bluff, and if you have to be sick one consolation may be that your room has a swell view. In this picture, the UPMC logo lowers symbolically over the complex from the top of the U. S. Steel tower.
Cranes on the Bluff
Saint Joseph’s Hospital
The old St. Joseph’s Hospital became Carson Towers, a senior citizens’ apartment building, in 1977. But the central part is the original hospital building from 1911 (or 1907, depending on the source you read), preserving the original inscription. An article in the City Paper explains some of the history. This PDF has a picture of the original building. The caption says that “The sculpture over the front door is the only part of the original façade still visible on the building that is now Carson Towers,” but the most superficial comparison will show that this entire central section is virtually unchanged, except for more modern windows too small to fit the old frames.
West Penn Hospital
Originally the Western Pennsylvania Hospital, but what was the nickname has become the official name in hospital literature. The side that faces Liberty Avenue is modern in an unimpressive way, but the side that faces Friendship Park is a landmark of hospital architecture. By stitching a large number of photographs together, we can get a picture of the whole building the way the architect imagined it.