Tag: Jacobean Architecture

  • Western Theological Seminary, Allegheny West

    Western Theological Seminary
    Sony Alpha 3000.

    We saw the Western Theological Seminary at the blue hour last month. Here are a few pictures taken just after sunset, when the light is brighter and just touched with gold.


    The building was designed by Thomas Hannah in 1914. It is now West Hall of the Community College of Allegheny County, which has an admirable record of preserving historic buildings.

    Top of the tower
    Perspective view
    Another perspective
    From the sidewalk
  • 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.

  • The Fairfax, Oakland

    Front wall of the Fairfax

    One of our grandest apartment buildings, the Fairfax just got a thorough going-over. It was opened in 1927 as the Fifth Avenue Apartments, but changed its name with its ownership a year later and has been the Fairfax ever since. The architect was Philip Morison Jullien from Washington (that’s Big Worshington to Picksburghers from the South Hills), who also gave us the Arlington Apartments.

    Front elevation

    The architectural style is sometimes referred to as “Jacobethan,” meaning that it takes inspiration from the long period of the reigns of Elizabeth I and James I, without being too pedantic about the exact period.


    This Jacobean Gothic arch is about as broad as it can be and still qualify as an arch.

    Entrance and decorations above
    The Fairfax, perspective view

    The perspective above is impossible. There is no place to stand far away enough to get a natural-looking perspective view of the Fairfax. The lens had to be at a very wide angle to capture the whole building, which created what photography critics of a century ago would have called “violent perspective.” Father Pitt has made some intricate adjustments, at the cost of some distortion of individual objects like the cars on the street, to create a more natural-looking view of the sort Mr. Jullien might have given the client in his perspective rendering. In fact, different parts of the picture are at different perspectives, and if you look closely you can see the seam running down through the blue car toward the right.

  • St. Paul’s Cathedral School, Oakland

    St. Paul’s Cathedral School

    Built in 1907, this Jacobean palace was the work of John T. Comès. We happen to know that it was roofed with McClure’s Genuine Charcoal Iron Re-Dipped Roofing Tin, because in a 1910 advertisement that company proudly reproduced the architect’s perspective rendering of the building:

    Architect’s perspective rendering of St. Paul’s Cathedral School

    Notice in the rendering that Comès has drawn sections of tapestry brick, which is typical of his work—if he was going to use brick, he was going to use it to its full decorative potential. Either he was overruled by the client or he changed his mind, because the building as it stands is just ordinary red brick in Flemish stretcher bond, with stone trim for decoration.


    The building is now the St. Joan of Arc Building of Oakland Catholic High School, and the Trib has a story from 2013 about the renovations to the St. Joan of Arc Building to bring it into the early twenty-first century.

    Detail of a niche
    Perspective view with clouds
  • Holy Innocents School, Sheraden

    Holy Innocents School

    John T. Comès designed the older Holy Innocents Church, which was replaced by the cathedral-sized church that stands today, and it is likely that he designed this school as well. The style is a kind of Art Nouveau Jacobean. It is vacant right now, which puts it in danger, since large vacant buildings are attractive nuisances both for arson and for blue “Condemnation” stickers.

    Inscription over the entrance: Holy Innocents School

    Painting the stone accents grey may have been someone’s solution to the soot problem. It was not a good idea.

    Date stone: A. D. 1907
    Side of the school
  • Langley High School, Sheraden

    Langley High School

    This school began in 1923 as Sheraden High School, then was renamed Langley. It is now an elementary and junior high school. The architects were MacClure & Spahr, whose instinct for late English Gothic made it a memorable Tudor palace.

    Long wall
    Another entrance
  • Liberty School Auditorium, Shadyside

    Auditorium of the Liberty School

    This splendid little auditorium combines the Jacobean style of the main school with a hint of Art Deco. Father Pitt does not yet know who designed the addition. The original school was a design by MacClure & Spahr, and we know that Benno Janssen designed additions to more than one MacClure & Spahr building; this would certainly be in the range of Janssen’s style.

  • St. Matthew’s Convent, South Side

    St. Matthew’s Convent

    St. Matthew’s was a Slovak congregation; you can read the whole history of the parish up to 1955 in its golden-jubilee book at the Historic Pittsburgh site. The church closed some time ago and was converted to apartments; the convent is also secular now, but the front is beautifully maintained. It was built in 1926, and the architect was Albert F. Link. It’s a good example of Link’s style: he streamlines and modernizes a historical style—Jacobean here—and creates something that harmonizes well with the older church next door but still definitely belongs to our modern age of the 1920s.

    Front Door
    St. Matthew’s Convent
  • Alder Court, Shadyside

    Alder Court

    This 1913 Jacobean palace was designed by Henry M. Kropff (his name is misspelled “Kroff” on the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation plaque on the building), and Father Pitt knows absolutely nothing about the architect. Well, that is not entirely true. We have a few stray facts. An obituary tells us that Henry Moeser Kropff was born in 1876 and died in 1952, and his parents were Ferdinand and Melvina Kropff. The AIA Historical Directory entry for Henry M. Kropff tells us that he died in August of 1952, and he had been a member of the American Institute of Architects since 1916. In his long career, he must have produced something besides Alder Court, but a Google search turns up absolutely nothing else. In fact it took three different search engines to turn up the little information old Pa Pitt has just given you. Yet Google Books tells us that Mr. Kropff was very active in the Pittsburgh Architectural Club in the early twentieth century, designing posters for its exhibitions. (From the Inland Architect for July, 1900: “The Poster of the Exhibition, by Mr. Henry M. Kropff, leaves nothing to be desired. The ‘X’ in ‘Exhibition’ looks better reversed.”)

    More trawling in trade magazines may dredge up something interesting eventually. We may suspect that there are numerous apartment buildings and private houses by Henry M. Kropff still standing in Pittsburgh and the surrounding area.

    Update: See the very kind comment from Joanne, who used old newspapers to find several other buildings by Kropff. Most are private houses in rich neighborhoods.

    At any rate, this is a splendid building, well deserving of its landmark status. It is the “court” part of Alder Court that makes it really pleasant: a beautiful gated garden with shady trees and colorful plantings.

    Father Pitt has not been able to identify the coat of arms that presides over the courtyard:

    Coat of arms

    Are these the arms of the original owner? Or just something the architect or his stonecarver made up? Update: See the comment from “von Hindenburg” below, who identifies these as the arms of the Bayard family. The apartments were built on what had been the John B. Bayard estate.

  • First English Evangelical Lutheran Church, Sharpsburg

    First English Lutheran

    It is sad to report that the last Lutheran congregation in Sharpsburg has thrown in the towel. (There were once three Lutheran churches: this English one and two German ones.) The good news, however, is that Sharpsburg is becoming a trendier neighborhood, and it will be worth adapting this distinctive building to some other use. It is a sort of Jacobean Gothic with more than a whiff of Art Nouveau.

    First English Lutheran Church, Sharpsburg