Tag: Houses

  • Coventry Log Cabin, Moon Township

    Coventry Log Cabin from the chimney end

    A two-century-old log cabin preserved in a Moon Township park. The Moon Township Historical Society gives us its history: it was built about twelve miles from here in 1825 for John Coventry, a Revolutionary War veteran who would already have been fairly old when he built this house. It was inhabited until the later twentieth century, but by the middle 1970s it was abandoned. It was carefully taken apart, with every piece labeled, and reassembled here in Robin Hill Park on the grounds of old Nimick mansion (about which more soon).

    Coventry log cabin
    Front door

    Note the tool marks on the stone slabs used as steps. Barry Fell would probably have read them as Celtic inscriptions.

    Coventry Log Cabin, wood porch
    End of a log

    A lot of care went into shaping the logs to lock together at the corners.

    Back side of the cabin
    Stonework in the chimney

    The chimney is made of irregular local stones skillfully arranged.

    Coventry log cabin
    Henry Aten tombstone

    You may have noticed this tombstone in front of the cabin if you were looking at the pictures above closely. Father Pitt does not know its story—whether it was moved here with the cabin, or whether it was here before the cabin was reconstructed. Perhaps someone from the Historical Society can enlighten us. The inscription is quite legible in spite of a few missing letters:

    APRIL 11, 1877,
    AGED 63 YEARS,
    6 MOS. & 16 DA[YS.]

    [Ble]ssed are the dead who die in the
    [Lo]rd, for they rest from their labors
    [a]nd their works do follow them.

    Cameras: Sony Alpha 3000; Kodak EasyShare Z1285.

  • 905 Penn Avenue

    House at 905 Penn Avenue

    Most of us walk right by this building without giving it much thought, but it stands for a momentous transition in the history of the city. According to the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation, it is probably the last building constructed as a single-family house in downtown Pittsburgh.

    Pittsburgh began in the small triangle that is downtown today, and through the first half of the 1800s, a large part of the population remained within those limits. The city was a warren of narrow streets and narrower alleys where little houses crowded with stores and workshops. After the Civil War, though, the land downtown simply became too valuable to build houses on. The family who built this Italianate house on Penn Avenue, where a number of well-to-do families still lived, could not have guessed that they would be the last to build a house in the Triangle, but they would certainly have been aware that the city was changing rapidly.

    Italianate window decoration

    The Italianate details need a bit of polishing up, but they are still well preserved.

  • Row of Houses, South Side Slopes

    2018–2026 South 18th Street
    Composite of two photographs from a Canon PowerShot SX150 IS.

    This is the edge of the section locals call Billy Buck Hill, the bulge in the Slopes enclosed by a long loop of South 18th Street. These houses along South 18th Street were built shortly before 1910, according to old maps; they are a little grander than some of their neighbors behind them, and they are good exercises in urban archaeology. Not one of them is in original condition, but we can probably reconstruct what they looked like when they were new by comparing the houses.

    First, four out of the five share a blank spot in the wall above the front door that seems unusual. You would expect a window there. The fifth has a window, though it’s an odd oval shape. Nevertheless, that oval window appears to be original. We can tell nothing from the third and fourth houses in the row, which have had their entire fronts replaced with fake stone, but a close look at the first and second houses (enlarge the picture to examine them) shows that the bricks in the front walls have been filled in just where such a window would be, and in a roughly oval shape.

    That projecting second-floor window on the fifth house is also unusual, but here old Pa Pitt is inclined to say it is probably not original. It looks like a local contractor’s more modern renovation. The second house is probably the only one that preserves the original shapes of its windows upstairs and downstairs, although the windows themselves have been replaced.

    All the dormers have been renovated in various ways, but the ones on the first and fifth houses may be closest to what all the dormers originally looked like.

    The first and fifth houses also preserve their original chimneys. Two of the others have lost their tops, and the chimney on the third house has been rebuilt from the same stone substitute that was used for the front.

    Three of the houses have aluminum awnings. The ones on the second and third houses are genuine Kool-Vent.

  • Some Houses on Arlington Avenue, Arlington

    1801 Arlington Avenue

    Arlington is a forgotten neighborhood whose business district has almost disappeared, but it nevertheless has many pleasant residences on its back streets. The spine street, however, was Arlington Avenue, and because it was the main street of the neighborhood, it was where the grandest houses went up. Some of these houses are in very good shape; some are abandoned and being eaten by jungle; and some are in between. The house above is in good shape except for wanting a bit of paint, and its original woodwork is intact.


    The round-ended porch is a work of art that ought to be preserved. Father Pitt wonders whether it always had brick pillars, or whether it was originally supported by wooden columns to match the pilasters in the rear. At any rate, the brick pillars are old enough that they match the house brick exactly.

    1801 Arlington Avenue
    1809 Arlington Avenue

    This frame house could also use a bit of paint, but much of its woodwork is well preserved.

    1809, front door
    1809, woodwork
    Canopy on the side of the house
    1815 and 1817 Arlington Avenue

    This double house is in excellent shape, and almost completely original except for the asphalt shingles on the roof.

    1821 Arlington Avenue

    Next to that tidy double is a house that probably cannot be rescued. It has been neglected for so long that it never even had a chance to be shrouded in aluminum siding, so its original woodwork, crumbling though it may be, is still there for us to document.

    1821 Arlington Avenue
    Gabel of 1821
    Woodwork ornament
    1825 Arlington Avenue

    And finally, next to that abandoned house, this neat and well-kept Pittsburgh Foursquare.

    We should note that city planning maps make Arlington Avenue the border between Arlington and the South Side Slopes. This is one of those cases where the city’s dogmatic insistence on main streets as neighborhood borders leads to obvious absurdity: it means that the Arlington Playground, Arlington Field, Arlington Spray Park, Arlington Recreation Center, Arlington Baseball Field, and so forth, are not in Arlington. In this case, old Pa Pitt ignores the city’s boundaries and speaks of “Arlington” the way Pittsburghers have always meant it.

    Cameras: Konica Minolta DiMAGE Z6; Sony Alpha 3000 with Industar f/3.5 50mm lens.

  • A Stroll on Markham Drive, Mount Lebanon

    136 Markham Drive

    Markham Drive in Mount Lebanon is not yet included in the Mount Lebanon Historic District, but it ought to be. It is a street of architecturally distinctive houses, mostly from the 1930s, that are in an extraordinarily fine state of preservation, at least externally. We have already seen one of them: the “Transition House” designed by Brandon Smith to entice conservative home-buyers to accept modern construction methods. Here is a generous album from the rest of the street.

  • Dwight Avenue Houses in the Dormont Park Plan

    Dwight Avenue

    The Dormont Park plan was laid out in the late 1920s along three “mere” streets—Windermere, Earlsmere, and Grassmere Avenues, each a block long, along with the intersecting parts of Dormont and Kelton Avenues. Just before the Second World War, the Bupp-Salkeld Company added a row of thirteen houses on Dwight Avenue, parallel to the meres. They are mostly well preserved, and they make up a small museum of middle-class styles at the end of the interwar era.

    3031 Dwight Avenue

    It would look better with real shutters, but the stonework is still outstandingly picturesque.

    Window of no. 3067
    Konica Minolta DiMAGE Z6.
  • The Southern Side of Western Avenue, Allegheny West

    947 Western Avenue

    Western Avenue in Allegheny West is an eclectic mix of buildings, from grand mansions to humble rowhouses to Art Deco storefronts. Here are some of the buildings on the southern side of the street, photographed late in the day when the sun was glancing across them.

    939 Western Avenue

    This house, now the Parador Inn, was one of the fine houses put back in top shape by serial restorationist Joedda Sampson. It has a detailed history at the Allegheny West site.

    911 Western Avenue
    Fujifilm FinePix HS10.
  • Transition House, Mount Lebanon

    The drawing by Brandon Smith, architect, shows the “transition” house which is being erected in Mt. Lebanon for Dr. A. W. Coffman, of the Robertson fellowship at Mellon Institute. M. C. McCann ins the builder.
    Transition House

    What, you may ask, is a “transition house”? It is a house designed to look traditional but use the most modern construction methods available in 1936. The idea was that the public could be induced to accept modern construction if it came without the modernist offenses against traditional aesthetics. Architect Brandon Smith—best remembered for some extravagant mansions in Fox Chapel—gave it all the decorative flourishes a 1930s suburbanite might expect from a “Colonial,” but under the stone and brick were super-modern materials developed at the Mellon Institute of Industrial Research.

    Decorative pillar
    Front door
    109 Markham Drive
    Front of the house

    Our information and the architect’s drawing above come from an article about the house in the Pittsburgh Press, published when the house was under construction in 1936. The whole article will interest a few architectural historians, so we have transcribed it below.

  • Columbus Avenue, Manchester

    1305 and 1307 Columbus Avenue, Manchester

    The far end of Manchester still has some work to do. A few houses have been restored; about an equal number are abandoned and condemned. A few have been restored, and then abandoned and condemned. A few have been renovated in a way that seems regrettable. We can only hope that someone will rescue the houses that need rescuing.

    Front door
    Window decoration

    It is always especially sad when we see that the last thing residents were able to do to their house was decorate it for Christmas.

    1313 Columbus Avenue

    Here we have a frame house refurbished to be habitable and comfortable. “Multipane” windows were used, of course, because is there any other kind? (Old Pa Pitt was shocked to visit a house with modern “multipane” windows and discover that the “panes” are really just cartoon lines drawn in plastic across a single sheet of glass.)


    This house suffered a fire years ago and appears to have been abandoned since then. At least some minimal work has been done to stabilize it. The dormer is distinctive; it would have been more so with its original decorative woodwork.


    We find some of the houses in better shape as we approach the western end of the street.

    1415 and 1417
    1415 and 1417
    1419 and 1421
    1421, front door
    1421, woodwork
  • Spanish Mission Style in Sunset Hills

    28 Jonquil Place

    Sunset Hills is a Mount Lebanon plan developed in the 1920s and 1930s. Most of the houses are more modest than the ones in Mission Hills or Beverly Heights. Many of them, however, are fine designs by their architects, and in particular several are among the best examples of the Spanish Mission style in Pittsburgh.

    28 Jonquil Place
    Front door
    Side of the house

    Does your garden shed match the architecture of your house? And does it have two floors?

    200 Broadmoor Avenue
    Front porch
    25 Jonquil Place

    This house is almost a traditional Pennsylvania farmhouse, but with Mission arched porch and stucco.

    25 Jonquil Place
    Canon PowerShot A540.