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.
Imagine the uproar that would ensue if your city government today decided to hire a Beaux-Arts master like Thomas Scott to design a monumental palace for such a utilitarian purpose as a water-pumping station. Imagine the inquiries that would probe the vital questions of how much each of those carved faces cost and why stone trim was used when the same object could be accomplished with aluminum. The world has made a lot of progress since Scott, architect of the Benedum-Trees Building downtown (where he kept his architectural office, naturally), gave us this $100,000 pumping station on an out-of-the-way street on the South Side Slopes.1
There were doubtless security reasons for bricking in the towering windows that used to flood the place with light. But Father Pitt cannot help suspecting that the real reason is that the workers here constituted a sort of men’s club, and men’s clubs in Pittsburgh abhor natural light.
Even in November, much of the building is obscured by trees.
- Our source is the Construction Record, March 4, 1911: “The City of Pittsburg, Bureau of Water, will receive estimates until March 13th, on constructing a one-story brick, terra cotta and steel pumping station on Mission street, South Side, to cost $100,000. Plans were drawn by Architect T. H. Scott, Machesney building, and contract for foundation work was awarded to M. O’Herron & Co., First and McKean streets, South Side.” The Machesney Building was the original name of the Benedum-Trees Building. ↩︎