Allegheny Center

Allegheny Center

The curious urban clutter of Allegheny Center, a grand plan to build a completely new urban center for the North Side that, like most such plans from the 1960s, had at best only partial success. It destroyed almost the entire core of the old city of Allegheny, replacing it with modernist blocks and apartment warehouses. The clock tower at middle left marks the old Allegheny branch of the Carnegie Library, which stands at the end of a row of buildings preserved amidst the destruction. In the foreground, some of the millionaires’ mansions of Allegheny West.

Torath Chaim Congregation, East Liberty

Some work has been going on at this abandoned synagogue, so perhaps it will find a new purpose. The abstract menorah (it once had electric light bulbs for candles) and irregular horizontal stone date it to the middle twentieth century. But although you wouldn’t know it from the front, this is really a luxurious early-1900s private house with a modernist façade grafted on.

United Steelworkers Building from the Boulevard of the Allies

Architects Curtis and Davis enlivened what would have been a simple square box with a distinctive diamond-grid facing that continues down into the pillars at ground level.

Minnetonka Building, Shadyside

Most pedestrians on Walnut Street pass this building without noticing it; at best they may glance at the rounded corners, but otherwise it strikes them as just another modernist building. It is in fact one of the very earliest outbreaks of modernism in Pittsburgh: it was designed by Frederick Scheibler and opened in 1908. It must have been startlingly modern indeed surrounded by Edwardian Shadyside.

St. John the Baptist Byzantine Catholic Church, South Side

It is impossible to get a picture of the front of this church without ugly and intrusive utility cables, and old Pa Pitt is not quite obsessive enough to edit out the cables.

This is a Ruthenian church. Back in 1900, the congregation split from the other St. John the Baptist Byzantine congregation a few blocks away at 7th and Carson Streets so as not to have to put up with those Ukrainians. You will search a map of Europe in vain for the nation of Ruthenia, but the Ruthenians or Rusyns in America have an ethnic pride perhaps all the stronger for never having had a nation of their own. The present building was dedicated in 1958, and the modernist-influenced Byzantine style bears a strong family resemblance to the style of St. George Antiochian Orthodox Cathedral in Oakland.

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