Today we are going to take a stroll up one block of Devonshire Street; and although it will be a short stroll, it will be a long article, because almost every single house on this block is an extraordinary mansion by some distinguished architect. Old Pa Pitt regrets that he does not know which architect for most of them, but he is feeling lazy today and has decided not to spend the rest of the day researching the histories of these houses. Instead, he will simply publish these pictures, which are worth seeing both for the houses themselves and for the poetic effect of the late-autumn landscapes, and will update the article later as more information dribbles in.(more…)
This house was built, probably in the 1890s, as one of a row of four similar or identical houses. Of the other three, one was converted to a duplex and two to three-unit apartment buildings: this is the only one that remains as built. The ornamental woodwork is worth observing.
This row of Queen Anne houses on Negley Avenue in Shadyside surely strikes every passer-by, if for nothing other than their turrets with witches’ caps. The other details are also worth noticing: the ornamental woodwork and the roof slates, for example. The houses are just detached enough that we can see that the sides are made of cheaper brick rather than the stone that faces the street.
The last one in the row lost its cap many years ago, but in compensation has been ultra-Victorianized with extra polychrome woodwork, as we see on the dormer below.
These three Queen Anne duplexes were once identical, or nearly so. Each one has had separate adventures, and each one has preserved some details and lost others.
This one probably preserves the original appearance best, though it has lost the stained glass in the parlor windows.
This one has suffered badly from separate ownership of the two sides. Some contractor charged quite a bit of money for mutilating the left-hand side. The right side has also been modernized, but with more taste, using windows that are the right size and shape for the wall.
This one has had similar alterations, but at least the parlor windows have not been filled in with toy blocks.
Old Pa Pitt is constantly surprised by the number of Pittsburgh homeowners who say, “I hate all that natural light and fresh air! Block in those big ugly windows and give me just enough glass to see what the weather is out there.”
The 2100 block of Sidney Street has some of the finest high-Victorian houses on the South Side, and several of them have unusual decorative details worth a closer examination. Old Pa Pitt took an evening stroll down Sidney Street the other day and, as always, came back with a few pictures. We’ll start with No. 2109. Note the multiple shapes of roof slates, the woodwork in the dormers, and the rusticated lintels in the picture above.
Since we have fifteen pictures, we’ll put the rest below the fold to avoid slowing down the main page for a week.(more…)
This Queen Anne house in McKeesport is probably doomed as soon as the city has the budget to demolish it. Something could be made of it, but it would take a complete reconstruction of the interior, and in a city where the median property value is about $20,000 that is not likely to happen. In Shadyside, it could be profitably restored, but not in McKeesport.
Google Street View shows this house in the same condition as far back as 2007, the first year of Street View. Until recently, another equally decrepit and equally splendid Queen Anne house sat right next to this one, but it was demolished some time after Google Street View pictured it in 2019, possibly because someone was fixing up the baroque mansion on the other side.
An album of fine Victorian houses from one block of Sarah Street on the South Side. These are not all the distinguished houses in this block: these are just the ones Father Pitt managed to get good pictures of in an after-sunset stroll.
Since we have fourteen pictures in this article, we’ll put the rest below the metaphorical fold to avoid weighing down the main page.(more…)
Obviously built together, these two houses on Sarah Street have had their separate adventures. The one on the right has had its third-floor false balcony filled in to give an upstairs bedroom a little more space; the one on the left has grown an aluminum awning (because it is the South Side, after all). But both retain most of their original details, which are fairly unusual, a sort of Queen Anne interpretation of French Second Empire.
Built in the 1880s, this fine Queen Anne house shows up in 1890 as belonging to Mrs. Geo. A. Macbeth. The variety of masses and textures is handled with remarkably good taste.
Update: This church was demolished in August of 2023.
Now known as Shady Avenue Christian Assembly, after having spent many years as Shady Avenue Presbyterian Church (without the “Cumberland”).
Just down the street from the huge and spectacular Calvary Episcopal and Sacred Heart Catholic churches, each the size of many a cathedral, this 1889 church is likely to pass unnoticed. Once you do notice it, though, you will not stop noticing it. It is a bravura performance in a sort of Queen Anne Romanesque style by a Victorian architect who was about 22 years old at the time, and who was not afraid to pull out all the stops and stomp on the pedals for all he was worth. An entire issue of the East Ender, the East End Historical Society’s newsletter, was devoted to the architect, T. C. McKee (PDF), and we take all our information from Justin P. Greenawalt with profound gratitude for his research.
Thomas Cox McKee (usually known as T. C. McKee) was apprenticed to architect James W. Drum. But in 1886, when young McKee was still only 20, his master was run over by a freight train. Instead of looking for another apprentice position, McKee went out on his own and seems to have been successful right away. He later built a comfortable practice designing homes for the wealthy and small to medium-sized commercial buildings, along with at least one prominent school (the Belmar School in Homewood, still standing). Then, in 1910, he threw it all away and went to Cleveland, where he took odd jobs until he settled down as a designer of soda fountains. No one seems to know what happened, although Mr. Greenawalt’s article hints that it might have had something to do with McKee’s constitutional extravagance.
That extravagance comes through in every detail of this building. In the age of modernism, this sort of thing was dismissed as a bunch of Victorian noise, but the masses are balanced to form interesting compositions from every angle.
The much more conventional 1911 addition (although even it is a little bit fantastical) was designed by Rodgers & Minnis. Below we see it across the pile of dirt that used to be Shady Hill Center until the property became too valuable to host a suburban-style strip mall.