Tag: Monochrome

  • St. Peter’s Rectory, McKeesport

    Front of St. Peter’s Rectory

    What this remarkable and slightly fantastical rectory needs is a nice church to go with it, but St. Peter’s was demolished several years ago. The rectory, however, has been restored and sensitively updated.

    The architectural style is a Gothic fantasy that even includes some Moorish-looking decorations. The emphatic vertical in the front creates the impression of a tower without exactly being a tower.

    Oblique view of St. Peter’s Rectory
    Side of the rectory

    These are all high-dynamic-range pictures, each made from three different photographs at different exposures.

    Since the clouds were picturesquely textured that day, old Pa Pitt thought he might try the effect of black-and-white pictures with a (simulated) red filter to bring out the clouds. The results are worth seeing, if you care to continue.

  • A Kinder, Gentler Brutalism

    Hillman Library

    Brutalism is the school of modernist architecture that uses raw building materials, especially concrete, as its main aesthetic statement. Father Pitt is not a great lover of the style, but some Brutalist buildings work better than others. The Hillman Library at the University of Pittsburgh has a cool elegance lacking in many other Brutalist buildings. The vertical window bays give us shading that keeps the wall from becoming monotonous, and they also flood the interior with natural light.

    It is very hard to explain who designed this building. Wikipedia says, “Design of Hillman Library was led by Celli-Flynn and Associates who served as coordinating architects. Kuhn, Newcomer & Valentour served as associated architects with Harrison & Abramovitz acting as consulting architects to the university. Dolores Miller and Associates consulted on the interior design, and Keyes Metcalf served as a library consultant.”

    An architect might be able to sort out the nuances of coordinating, associated, and consulting. Harrison & Abramovitz gave us numerous skyscrapers downtown, but Wikipedia adds that “In 1996, architect Celli-Flynn and Associates and Kuhn, Newcomer & Valentour won the Timeless Award for Enduring Design from the Pittsburgh chapter of the American Institute of Architects for its design of Hillman Library.” This suggests that Harrison & Abramovitz really were consultants rather than responsible for the design; perhaps their role was to say, “No, you can’t do that, or it will fall down.”

    Kuhn, Newcomer & Valentour still exists as “DRAW Collective,” based in Mt. Lebanon. Celli-Flynn and Associates was absorbed into Buchart Horn Architects, based in York, but maintaining the staff and office of the Pittsburgh company. It is an interesting commentary on architectural trends that both firms’ recent projects, as displayed on their Web sites, lean toward a timid neoneoclassicism. It does not have the courage to break completely with modernist dogmas and go back to Vitruvius, but neither does it have the daring to invent its own forms and make something new. We get the impression that the clients will be satisfied—but satisfied as in “Yeah, it’s okay,” not satisfied as in “They gave me a masterpiece.”

  • Daily News Building, McKeesport

    Corner of the Daily News Building, McKeesport

    This is Father Pitt’s favorite newspaper building anywhere, without exception. It looks more like a newspaper building than any other newspaper building on earth.

    Daily News building, McKeesport

    In fact, with its stark horizontals in black and white, it looks like the front page of the Daily News. In its heyday, the Daily News had a distinctive style: well into the 1990s it looked like a very modern paper for 1936, and it usually had one big headline striped across the front page in thick black gothic caps.

    In these photographs we have used a red filter (simulated in the GIMP), which has the interesting side effect of making the red light in the intersection almost pure white.

    The Daily News was owned and edited by the powerful Mansfield family for many years, and it might be hard to say whether it exposed or enabled more political corruption in the Mon Valley. It was, in the words of its masthead, “More than a Newspaper—a Community Institution.” In 2007, it was swallowed by Richard Mellon Scaife, the Charles Foster Kane of southwestern Pennsylvania, joining every other paper in the Pittsburgh area that was not the Post-Gazette. When Scaife died and his news empire was revealed to have been built on a rickety financial foundation (he had burned up $450,000,000 from a trust fund to keep the empire going), the Daily News was one of the casualties. It closed in 2015.

    The exterior of this building is still in good shape. Trib Total Media donated it to the city after the Daily News closed, and it has been kept from falling into a pile of bricks, unlike some other buildings we could mention.

  • Peoples Building, McKeesport

    Built by the Peoples Union Bank & Trust Company in 1906–1907, this is a perfect miniature Beaux-Arts skyscraper, with base, shaft, cap, and even the bosses’ floor (the third floor) outlined to mark its social importance. The building was abandoned for some time, but its latest buyer seems at least to have stabilized it. We’ll see pictures in natural color later, but for now, old Pa Pitt decided to render it in black and white with a red filter (simulated in the GIMP, which saves ever so much money on optical equipment), giving us a view that almost makes McKeesport look like a thriving and important metropolis again.

    The history of this building is obscure, like many McKeesport things. Father Pitt was not able to find the architect, though it must have been some well-known figure; and although he has not read of any expansion, it seems clear that the original building had four bays along Fifth Avenue, with the two bays to the right added later. Subtract those two bays, and the Fifth Avenue face would be perfectly symmetrical, with the roof ornament right in the center.

    Most of the people who mention the Peoples Bank on the Internet add the obvious apostrophe to the name, but it appears that the company itself, in line with many similarly named companies, always left out the apostrophe, as we see in this 1894 picture of its earlier building:

    The picture comes from The First One Hundred Years of McKeesport, where it is captioned “The People’s Bank,” with the apostrophe, because sensible people can’t help themselves and feel compelled to correct the name.

  • The First Crocus of Spring

    The grey background is meant to give an impression of what it feels like to see the first crocus of spring.

  • Outline of the Trimont

    The Trimont apartments on Mount Washington, outlined against winter clouds.

  • Ice Cascade in Banksville


    Every year this cliff face in Banksville grows a beautiful cascade of icicles, and old Pa Pitt has taken pictures of it more than once. Here it is again, and no excuse is necessary.

    Ice cascade
  • The View from Federal Street

    View of Pittsburgh from Federal Street

    Low clouds and rays of sunshine make an atmospheric picture, as seen from Lafayette Hilltop.

  • Backstreet Bar on the South Side

  • Moody View from the West End Overlook

    View from West End Overlook

    A pair of moody views taken on moody black-and-white film in 1999, probably with an Argus C3.

    Wider view