A. F. Link designed this Romanesque school in 1912, a little more than a decade before he designed the magnificent church beside it. This design already shows Link’s trademark habit of abstracting and modernizing historic forms: here he combines a hint of Romanesque with some very Jugendstil abstract patterns in the brickwork.
Fortunately the building has been sold to Yeshiva Schools, so it will not be abandoned to rot the way so many Catholic schools have been.
It is a general principle of research that you can find anything as long as you’re not looking for it. Old Pa Pitt was leafing through a magazine from 1915 called The Construction Record, which has already given him dozens of entries for the Great Big List of Buildings and Architects, when he came across this little item:
Architects Kiehnel & Elliott, Keenan building, have plans for a three-story brick and hollow tile apartment building, to be built on Van Braam and Tustin streets for a private party.
Kiehnel and Elliott were among our most interesting early modernists, but Father Pitt had never heard this building mentioned. Surely it must be long gone—the Bluff has had some tough times. But still, one might take a look, especially since modern technology makes it possible to look at that intersection without leaving one’s comfortable chair. And there it was. Father Pitt leaped out of his chair and ran to the Bluff to get pictures:
Not only is it there and well preserved (except for the cornice, of course), but it has just recently been cleaned up and made to look almost like new. The Kiehnel-and-Elliott style is unmistakable. Look at the pilaster capitals at the entrance:
How much more Kiehnel-and-Elliott can you get?
Kiehnel and Elliott would later move to Florida and become the Art Deco kings of Miami, but in their Pittsburgh years they were heavily influenced by the Jugendstil architecture of Germany, where Richard Kiehnel grew up and studied. Ornamentation and decorative brickwork like this can be found in all the German architectural magazines of the early twentieth century.
Now the Gardner Steel Conference Center, the Central Turnverein was German Pittsburgh’s most elegant athletic club. The building is an extraordinary early-modern design by Kiehnel and Elliott, and they trimmed it with geometric decorations inspired by the latest Jugendstil architecture overseas.
A Turnverein (German for “gymnastics association”) was a German athletic club, many of which were scattered through the city. This was doubtless the most luxurious of the lot. It is now the Gardner Steel Conference Center of the University of Pittsburgh.
Art Nouveau is rare in Pittsburgh, but here is a building that crosses Jugendstil with Prairie Style to produce a distinctive classical modernism. (The picture above is big: enlarge it to appreciate the delightful abstract decorative details.) It was finished in 1912, when Jugendstil was perhaps past its peak in Germany but was still adventurously modern here. The architects were Kiehnel and Elliott, who were more experimental in spirit than most Pittsburgh architects of the time. Richard Kiehnel was born in Germany and had absorbed Jugendstil at the source. The firm is actually more famous for its buildings in Florida; Kiehnel designed a Miami mansion for the president of Pittsburgh Steel, and it apparently made such an impression down there that Kiehnel and Elliott moved to Miami in 1922.