Tag: Comès (John T.)

  • St. Josaphat’s Church, South Side Slopes

    Tower of St. Josaphat’s through autumn leaves
    St. Josaphat’s Church

    St. Josaphat’s is one of the most unusual of John T. Comès’ works. It has some of his trademarks, notably the stripes—he loved stripes. But it also takes more inspiration from Art Nouveau than most of his churches, which are usually more firmly rooted in historical models. It is now having some renovation work done to fit it for its post-church life.

    St. Josaphat’s Church
  • 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
  • St. Martin’s Rectory, West End

    St. Martin’s Rectory

    Our great ecclesiastical architect John T. Comès designed a fine church for St. Martin’s parish in the West End, but the church was demolished long ago. The rectory, however, remains, and it is a remarkable piece of work itself. We might call it Romanesque, or Art Nouveau, or Arts-and-Crafts, or perhaps even Rundbogenstil. Father Pitt is tempted, however, to call it Pre-Raphaelite. It reminds him of Pre-Raphaelite paintings; we can imagine it as a backdrop for figures by Burne-Jones.

    Date stones with A. D. 1911
    Ornamental tiles

    The rich colors and deliberately handmade look of these ornamental tiles add considerably to the effect of the façade.

    Oblique view
    Side view
    Front view
  • Assumption School, Bellevue

    Assumption School, Bellevue

    Although we don’t find it listed among his works, Father Pitt suspects that this school may have been designed by John T. Comès. The polychrome brickwork and crenellations remind us of some of his more famous churches, and the fact that the parish hired his disciple Leo McMullen to design the main church after Comès was dead may be suggestive. If anyone at the parish knows who designed this building, Father Pitt would greatly appreciate a comment.

    Obviously the parish was getting ready for a festival when old Pa Pitt stopped by a few weeks ago.

    Front of Assumption School
  • We Identify a Forgotten Work by John T. Comès

    Looking for something else entirely, old Pa Pitt accidentally solved a mystery that had struck him back in May, when he photographed the First Church of the Brethren in Garfield. At that time, he had thought that the attached parsonage was “in an extraordinarily rich and accurate Tudor style for such a small house.”

    First Church of the Brethren and parsonage

    It turns out that the little house was by a big architect: John T. Comès, probably our most prolific architect of Catholic churches, and one—not surprisingly—known for his love of accurate historical detail. He was working for Beezer Brothers at the time, and he exhibited this drawing at the Pittsburgh Architectural Club’s 1900 exhibition:

    Pastor’s Residence for First Brethren Church, by John T. Comès

    Here is how one critic described the drawing:

    Mr. John T. Comes renders an admirable Pastor’s Residence for “First Brethren Church,” by Beezer Brothers, which leans hard to an old church and breaks away from the sidewalk in a most happy manner, winding up the stone stairs to a reserved and “strong door.” The drawing itself is a happy one. The pots on the chimney are swelling beyond redemption.

    The front has been replaced by a later porch, but otherwise Comès’ happy little house survives much as he drew it. And Father Pitt is delighted to add one more to the known works of a remarkable artist.

    Pastors residence, First Brethren Church
  • All Saints’ Church, Etna

    All Saints’ Church, Etna, Pennsylvania

    John T. Comès was probably Pittsburgh’s most prolific architect of Catholic churches—a record made all the more remarkable by the fact that he died at the age of 49. His favorite style was Romanesque, and in the out-of-the-way back streets of Etna we find this masterpiece, built in 1914, that shows him at the peak of his creative power. It has all of Comès’ quirks. Unlike many other American architects who worked in the Romanesque style, he enthusiastically embraced the almost gaudy polychrome stripes and patterns typical of medieval Romanesque masterpieces. The bells in their cutout arches also seem like a thoroughly Comès detail.

    Front of the church

    With the light from the wrong angle, this composite picture of the front was about the best old Pa Pitt could do.

    Here is a map showing the location of the church.

  • First Church of the Brethren, Garfield

    First Brethren Church

    This modest Tudor Gothic church, probably built in the 1890s, is another one to add to our collection of churches with the sanctuary upstairs. It is now the Bethesda Temple.


    The parsonage is in an extraordinarily rich and accurate Tudor style for such a small house. Compare the details to this medieval house in Canterbury.

    Addendum: It appears from the Inland Architect and News Record for July, 1900, that the architect of the house was the extraordinary John T. Comès, working for Beezer Brothers. The design was featured in the Pittsburgh Architectural Club’s exhibition that year:

    Mr. John T. Comes renders an admirable Pastor’s Residence for “First Brethren Church,” by Beezer Brothers, which leans hard to an old church and breaks away from the sidewalk in a most happy manner, winding up the stone stairs to a reserved and “strong door.” The drawing itself is a happy one. The pots on the chimney are swelling beyond redemption.

    In the magazine Architecture we find the sketch our critic was describing:

    Pastor’s Residence for First Brethren Church

    The chimney pots (were they really beyond redemption?) are gone, and the porch is a later replacement. But Comès’ design is still striking.

    From the east
    Bethesda Temple
  • Dome of St. Josaphat Church, South Side Slopes

    Dome of St. Josaphat Church

    The distinctive dome of St. Josaphat Church, designed by John T. Comès, as seen from the Flats below.

  • Resurrection Church, Brookline

    Resurrection Church

    If old Pa Pitt were more ambitious, he would remove those utility cables from the photograph, or from the street if he were more ambitious than that.

    Resurrection Church was built in 1939 in an interesting modernist Gothic style, anticipating the streamlined modernist Gothic that would have a brief vogue after the Second World War. This design managed to give the congregation a sumptuous Gothic interior while keeping the exterior outlines starkly simple. The main entrance, for example, is recessed far into the building, so that only by standing right in front of it can we see the elaborate Gothic tracery and inscription.

    An update: The 1939 church was designed by William P. Hutchins, who gave us many distinguished late-Gothic churches and schools, including St. Mary of Mercy downtown.

    Side entrance

    One of the side entrances.

    The Light of the World

    “Light of the World” relief over the side entrance.

    Resurrection School

    Before 1939, Resurrection Parish worshiped in the school next door, which was built in 1909. As usual, the Brookline Connection site has a thorough history of Resurrection Parish. From it we learn that the school was built in stages: the first two floors of the front were built first, with the rear and top floor added later. (Addendum: We have found that the architect of the second-floor addition was John T. Comès.1 This strongly suggests that Comès was the architect of the original building.) We are also told that the sanctuary was on the “ground floor,” but as we see from this picture, “ground floor” can be a slippery concept in Pittsburgh.

    Oblique view

    The school closed some time ago, and it is now a retirement home. Resurrection Church is now a worship site of St. Teresa of Kolkata parish, which also includes St. Pius X church in Brookline and St. Catherine of Siena in Beechview.

    1. Source: The Construction Record, January 13, 1912: “Architect John T. Comes, 1005 Fifth avenue, will be ready for estimates about January 15th on erecting a one-story brick fireproof parochial addition at Brookline, for the R. C. Church of the Resurrection, Brookline. Cost $15,000.” The original building cost $22,000. ↩︎