As we mentioned before, we are attempting to photograph every house in the residential part of Schenley Farms. Here is a big album of houses on Bigelow Boulevard, which becomes a residential street as it winds through the neighborhood. Above, Ledge House, the strikingly different home of A. A. Hamerschlag, the first director of Carnegie Tech (now Carnegie Mellon University). It was designed by Henry Hornbostel, who designed the Carnegie Tech campus and taught at Carnegie Tech. It has recently been cleaned of a century’s worth of industrial soot and restored to its original appearance.
Above and below, the D. Herbert Hostetter, Jr., house, architects Janssen and Abbott. Benno Janssen and his partner abstracted the salient details of the Tudor or “English half-timber” style and reduced it to the essentials, creating a richly Tudory design with no wasted lines.
Because we have so many pictures, we’ll put the rest below the metaphorical fold to avoid weighing down the front page here.
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.
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.)
We’ve mentioned before that the Jones & Laughlin Headquarters Building was expanded upward by five floors almost a decade after it was built. It seems that the expansion was planned and provided for from the beginning, which explains how the architects, MacClure & Spahr, managed it so neatly. The Engineering News for January 18, 1917, gives us the technical details of how it was done, and includes a picture of the back of the building with the construction in progress.
Adding Five Stories to an Eight-Story Office Building in Pittsburgh
An extension of five stories—planned at the time the structure was erected to its original height of eight stories—has just been added to the Jones & Laughlin Steel Co. office building in Pittsburgh. In the original construction the floorbeams of the ninth floor had been put in place and used to support a temporary roof, and the columns had been provided with splices to take the future extensions. When the addition was begun, holes were cut through the roof to enter the columns, and then these holes were housed around to keep out the rain. A stiffleg derrick hoisted the steel and then erected it.
To give access to the portion of the floor lying between the stifflegs, the loads were temporarily landed at the extreme swing of the boom. The boom was then passed back of a disconnected stiffleg and proceeded with the erection after the stiffleg had been replaced.
The old roof was wrecked as soon as the tenth-floor slabs and the new side walls of the ninth floor were in place. The floor was maintained in a fairly water-tight condition. It had originally been intended to require that the new roof be placed before the old was removed.
All materials other than steelwork, including concrete and débris from the old roof and cornice, were handled in the construction elevator at the rear of the building. Floors were built on the Witherow system, with removable steel centers on which were cast a beam-and-slab floor framing into the steel floorbeams.
McClure & Spahr were the architects, and James L. Stuart was the contractor.
So MacClure & Spahr had to design a building that would look finished at two different heights, which they managed with elegance and finesse. It is now the John P. Robin Civic Building, and the exterior is almost perfectly preserved.
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.
The lower floors of this remarkable 1903 bank tower by MacClure and Spahr have been mutilated by modern additions, but from a block away on Forbes Avenue all we can see is the unmutilated top of the building, with its distinctive arched light well.
Known as the South Side Baths when it was built, this was donated by steel baron and real-estate magnate Henry W. Oliver, who in 1903 gave the city land and money for a neighborhood bathhouse to be free to the people forever. In those days, many poor families—including the ones who worked for Oliver—lived in tenements where they had no access to bathing. (Even the Bedford School across the street from this bathhouse had outside privies until 1912.) Oliver might not raise his workmen’s salaries, but he was willing to make the men smell better.
To design the bathhouse, Oliver chose the most prestigious architect in the country: Daniel Burnham. Then, in 1904, Oliver died, and his gift spent almost a decade in limbo. The project was finally revived in 1913, by which time Burnham had died as well. The plans were taken over by MacClure & Spahr, an excellent Pittsburgh firm responsible for the Diamond Building and the Union National Building. No one seems to know how much they relied on Burnham’s drawings, but the Tudor Gothic style of the building (it was finished in 1915) is certainly in line with other MacClure & Spahr projects, like the chapel for the Homewood Cemetery. Even MacClure & Spahr’s early sketches show a quite different building, so it is probably safest to assume that little of Burnham remains here.
There was a fad for building public baths in Pittsburgh in the early twentieth century, and on Saturday nights workers and their families would line up around the block to get into the bathhouses and wash off the grime of the week. Gradually, indoor plumbing became a feature of even the most notorious slum tenements, and all but one of the bathhouses closed. The Oliver Bathhouse, given to the people in perpetuity, remains. It has been saved by its indoor swimming pool, the only city pool open during the winter.
This small skyscraper was not originally built as a skyscraper. The first part of it was put up in 1907; in 1917 five more storeys were added (very skillfully, we might add), bringing the building just about high enough to qualify as a small skyscraper in old Pa Pitt’s admittedly fluid definition of the term. The architects both times were MacClure & Spahr, who also gave us the Union National Bank Building and the Diamond Building, among others. Since 1952, this building has belonged to the city, which calls it the John P. Robin Civic Building.