Tag: North Avenue

  • Clarence and Mary Pettit House, Manchester

    Pettit House

    This house has a more detailed history at the Manchester Historic Society’s site, so old Pa Pitt will only mention the highlights. It was built for Clarence and Mary Dravo Pettit in 1891 from a design by Thomas Scott, whose public buildings would mostly be done in a Beaux Arts classical style; here, however, he has jumped on the Richardsonian Romanesque bandwagon, since the style became practically a mania in Pittsburgh after the county courthouse was built in the 1880s.


    It is likely that the decorative stonecarving was done by Achille Giammartini, whose own house was a short stroll from this one.


    If your turret has a decorative foliage frieze, you might as well gild it. And don’t forget the finial at the peak.

    Perspective view of the house
  • Row of Houses on North Avenue

    Row of houses on North Avenue

    These are what old Pa Pitt calls Baltimore-style rowhouses: that is, rowhouses where the whole row is built as one subdivided building right against the sidewalk (as opposed to the typical Pittsburgh terrace, where the houses are set back with tiny front yards). Since North Avenue is the neighborhood boundary on city planning maps, these fall into the “Central Northside” for planning purposes; but socially they formed part of the wealthy section of Allegheny that includes Allegheny West across the street.

    Rowhouses on North Avenue
  • The House That Death Built

    940 West North Avenue

    William D. Hamilton was in the coffin business, which he inherited from his father and built up into the National Casket Company, a titan in the death industry. North Avenue is the neighborhood line on city planning maps, so this house is in the Central Northside neighborhood by those standards; but socially it belongs to Allegheny West, and the Allegheny West site has a detailed history of 940 West North Avenue.

    Father Pitt does not know the architect. The style is best described as “eclectic,” but the Gothic windows upstairs give the house a slightly somber and funereal aspect. Since those two trees have been flourishing in front, it is impossible to get a view of the whole façade except in the winter.

    Front door
    William D. Hamilton house
  • Milliken Row, Manchester

    Milliken row, Manchester

    The tall houses here probably date from the Civil War era, and they were probably built to be rental properties; they appear on our 1872 map as belonging to A. Milliken. Originally there were three pairs of houses and one single on the corner, all matching; one of the pairs has disappeared and been replaced by smaller modern rowhouses. The newer houses do a good job of matching the style of the neighborhood, but they would have done better if they had been built at the same setback from the street. As for the height, it is probably useless to quibble about that. It is old Pa Pitt’s impression that builders of any given era are very dogmatic about the proper height for a ceiling. Look at the third floor of the house on the corner, and compare it to the third floor of the house next to it: you will see at once that modern ceilings are much lower than ceilings from the 1860s, and that is simply the way it is and nothing can be done about it.

    This street is now North Avenue, but when these houses were built it was Fayette Avenue; it did not connect to North Avenue until the later twentieth century.

  • Russell H. Boggs House, 1999

    Russell H. Boggs House

    This was the home of one of the founders of the famous Boggs & Buhl department store, which lasted until 1958. A few years after Father Pitt took this picture, this grand house was grandly restored and opened as “The Inn on the Mexican War Streets.” Before the restoration, it had been the parsonage of Trinity Lutheran Church next door, creating a curious spectacle of a parsonage considerably grander than its squat little modern church. But the house needed more maintenance than the church could afford: in fact the new owners spent more than a million dollars fixing the place up.

    If you look at this picture, you may have a vague impression that something is missing from this house; but unless you are in the architecture business it might take you ages to guess what it is. There are no gutters and no downspouts. It seems that Mr. Boggs had a thing about gutters. Instead, there is a remarkable internal drainage system that, when it works, carries runoff through the walls, and, when it is broken, pours runoff in a burbling cascade down the grand staircase. That is one of the reasons it took a million dollars to restore this house.

    Addendum: The architects were Longfellow, Alden & Harlow; the house was built in 1888.

  • Allegheny Unitarian Universalist Church, Mexican War Streets

    A small but very tasteful church (finished in 1909) that faces the beautiful expanse of West Park across North Avenue. The architect, according to this brochure, was Robert Maurice Trimble, a native of Allegheny.

  • Katsafanas Coffee Sign

    The Katsafanas Coffee Co. has been gone for many years, but this sign still looks fresh on its old building on North Avenue.

  • Allegheny City Stables

    The Allegheny City Stables were built in 1896. If you enlarge the photo (click on it), you can just make out the old sign over the main door:

    D.P.W. 8th DIV.

    It’s right across North Avenue from Allegheny West, then the richest neighborhood in Allegheny. Perhaps this was one of the encroachments that induced Allegheny West society to move in a body to Sewickley Heights, where their descendants still live today.

    Now, 123 years later, Allegheny West is once again the finest neighborhood on the North Side, and its desirability is spilling across North Avenue. The stable is being renovated and turned into loft apartments, like every other old industrial building.

    (And if you notice a familiar picture at the Wikipedia article, it’s because Father Pitt added it himself to show the current state of the building.)

  • Hipwell Mfg Co. (the Flashlight Factory)

    This building is remarkably well preserved mostly because it belonged to a company that stayed in the same business until 2005 without ever outgrowing its limited premises. The Hipwell Maufacturing Company’s most famous products were metal HIPCO flashlights, the kind that used to be ubiquitous before plastics took over. But the company (according to this page) was an important innovator in the electrical business, inventing the single-cell batteries that power our flashlights and digital cameras and toys and a thousand other things we never think of until we have to buy batteries again. It was also involved in the early stages of telephones and electric toy trains.

    Today the building is lovingly preserved as—what else?—loft apartments, as well as a banquet hall called HIP at the Flashlight Factory.

  • Emmanuel Episcopal Church, Allegheny West

    This remarkable little church is actually the only National Historic Landmark on the North Side, and it well deserves the honor. H. H. Richardson put a lot of imagination into making a small church something unique. Note especially the decorative brickwork.

    The immense roof proved heavier than even the great Richardson had calculated. The walls of the church bowed outward under the weight very early. Engineers called in to inspect the damage found that the walls had reached a stable position: they would stay that way forever if the congregation didn’t mind. And so they have stayed for more than a century.