Tag: Jacobean Architecture

  • 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
  • Dilworth, Porter & Co. Office

    Dilworth, Porter & Co. office

    This fine Jacobean office in the forgotten industrial back streets of the near South Side is certainly the work of a distinguished architect or architects, but old Pa Pitt has not been able to find a name with the limited research he was able to do. He is therefore going to go far out on a limb and attribute it to MacClure & Spahr, because it is just their sort of thing.

    Dilworth, Porter & Co. made railroad spikes and other things you would need if you were putting a railroad together. The company later became part of Republic Steel, and the plant was closed in 1950. It is now the M. Berger Industrial Park, with the old industrial sheds behind this office painted in garish colors. (Update: A reader very reasonably questions the use of the word “garish”—see the comment below—and perhaps “cheerful” would have been better. The point is that the colors are extraordinarily bright and seldom seen on old industrial buildings like these.)



  • Rea House, Chatham University

    Rea house

    Another of the millionaires’ mansions that have become part of Chatham University. Built in 1911 or 1912 for steel executive James C. Rea, the Julia and James Rea House is now a student dormitory. Students tell us the rooms are “quirky” in a good way, with high ceilings and odd protrusions, because the house was divided with minimal disruption to the original architecture.

    Rea House

    A very short video on the Chatham Undergraduate Housing page shows us some of the interior.

    With a tree in front
    Up a long hill
  • Mellon Hall, Chatham University

    Front entrance

    Andrew Mellon’s summer home is now one of several millionaires’ mansions that belong to Chatham University. It is open for students who want a quiet place to study. Mr. Mellon, in addition to being absurdly rich himself, was also Secretary of the Treasury in the 1920s, and widely considered the most powerful man in Washington: they used to say that three presidents served under him (Harding, Coolidge, Hoover). He was one of the few competent and relatively honest members of Warren G. Harding’s administration, and for most of the 1920s he was often called the greatest Secretary of the Treasury since Alexander Hamilton. Then came the Great Depression, and he was not as popular as he had been.

    The house was built in 1897 for the Laughlins of Jones and Laughlin; Mellon bought it in 1917 and set about remaking it to his tastes, adding, among other things, an indoor swimming pool, supposedly the first private one in Pittsburgh.

    Great hall
    Grand staircase
    Books and windows
    A different angle
    Looking through to the great hall
    Mantel decoration

    A mantel decoration.

    Sun room

    The sun room.

    The back of the house.

    The back of the house.

    Board Room entrance

    The swimming pool was adapted in 2008 for use as the Board Room, with a new handicap-accessible entrance that combined new construction with as much of the existing architecture as could be reused. The architects of the project were Rothschild Doyno Collaborative.

  • Christ English Lutheran Church, Knoxville

    Now St. Paul A. M. E. Zion Church. This congregation had money in the 1960s, it would seem; a new sanctuary in 1960s modernist Gothic was grafted on the older Sunday-school and office wing, which is in a stony Jacobean style.

  • Knable House, Shadyside

    Knable house

    A tasteful Jacobean house built in 1911, as we know from the date stone over the front door. It seems to have been built for an S. E. Knable.


    Architectural historians sometimes use the term “Jacobethan” for a style that is indeterminately Tudor and Jacobean mashed together.

    Knable house, oblique view
  • Macedonia Baptist Church, Hill

    Macedonia Baptist Church

    The imposing Tudor or Jacobean Gothic front of this church is its most impressive feature, with twin towers that make the church seem bigger than it is. The large stained-glass window in the center seems a little undersized for the building, leaving an awkward blank space above it; but that is a minor quibble, and this is a fine building kept in good shape by its congregation.

    Oblique view
  • Elder-Ado Building, Knoxville

    Elder-Ado Building

    Jacobean Gothic is filtered through an Art Deco lens in this building from 1927, which has been sympathetically modernized with current materials that fit with and emphasize its distinctive character. The original terra-cotta ornaments have been lovingly preserved. This is a good example of how a commercial building can be brought up to date with good taste on a limited budget. Old Pa Pitt has not been able to determine what the building’s original name was; it now belongs to an organization for senior citizens.

    Date stone

    Father Pitt knows how his readers appreciate a good utility cable, so here is a fine closeup of one, unfortunately marred by a date stone in the background.

    Acanthus-leaf ornament
  • Meyer Jonasson & Co. Building

    File:Meyer Jonasson & Co. building

    Now called just 606 Liberty Avenue, this was once a high-class department store. The odd-shaped building was designed by MacClure & Spahr, who gave us many distinguished buildings downtown. The odd shape was forced on this one by the oblique angle of the intersection of Liberty and Oliver Avenues. That last block of Oliver Avenue was later filled in to make PNC Plaza, but this building memorializes the intersection that used to be.


    The front on both streets is covered—perhaps the appropriate word is festooned—with terra-cotta decorations. The style is a kind of fantasy Jacobean Renaissance, with wide arches coming to a very shallow not-quite point. Old James I only wished he could have buildings like this in his realm.

    Terra-cotta olive and oak and acanthus
    More terra cotta
    Terra cotta
    Lion head
    Light fixture
    Reflections of the arches

    The arches reflected in Two PNC Plaza next door.

    From the sidewalk on the same side of the street