One of the many Italian Renaissance palaces in the monumental district of Oakland, this one—unlike many of the others—still serves its original purpose. It was designed by Ingham & Boyd and opened in 1938. Because of the street layout, the building is a large trapezoid with a courtyard garden. It is worth the time to pause and examine the details.
This building was put up in 1886, and in 1892 a sixth floor was added. It appears that the pediment was from the original construction, moved up one level in 1892; the ornamental scrolls on the fifth floor would have accented the pediment very nicely.
As we often see in Victorian commercial buildings, what might appear to eyes trained on modernism as a cacophonous racket of detail turns out to be carefully organized, more a fugue than a racket. There are some interesting little outbreaks of randomness, however. Here are some of the delightful details you can pick out if you stand across the street from the building.
The firm of James T. Steen & Sons gave us many prominent buildings. The elder James died in 1923, but the firm flourished under his son Marion M. Steen, whose particular specialty was schools. Here is one of his finest works, built in 1931 with additions in 1937. The school closed in 2006, but it was converted to loft apartments without losing any of the glorious Art Deco decorations and reliefs.
Old Pa Pitt seldom does this, but because there are eighteen pictures in this article, he will avoid weighing down the front page of the site by placing the rest of them below the metaphorical fold.(more…)
Now the New Zion Baptist Church in what may be Pittsburgh’s only clot of three different Baptist churches in the same spot, this former Italian parish church is a good example of the modernist interpretation of Gothic that was popular briefly after the Second World War. The fine reliefs are in a style that filters medieval religious art through a slightly Art Deco lens.
There seems to have been an inscription over the skull and crossbones (representing conquered Death), but it is no longer legible.
Sinite parvulos, et nolite eos prohibere ad me venire: talium est enim regnum caelorum. (Matt. 19:14.)
A particularly fine Art Deco design. Neighborhood telephone exchanges were put up all over the city, and the telephone company, which had all the money in the world, always made them ornaments to their neighborhoods. This one still belongs to the successor of the Bell Telephone Company.
St. Michael’s is one of our earliest grand Romanesque churches, finished in 1861. It was designed for a German congregation by the German-born Charles F. Bartberger, who gave us a number of other distinguished ecclesiastical buildings. (He is often confused with Charles M. Bartberger, his son, who gave us a number of distinguished schools.) It was one of the first churches around here to be made into condominium apartments, so it is now preserved as the Angel’s Arms.
It was a rainy day today, and if you enlarge the picture you can pick out the falling raindrops.
Note the date over this side door.
The rectory, which is attached to the eastern end of the church, was built in 1890 and designed by another distinguished German Pittsburgh architect: Frederick Sauer, who gave us many fine churches and the whimsical Sauer Buildings in Aspinwall. Here he has created a very German Romanesque building that harmonizes well with the older church.
A very German corner dome.
Exceptionally fine carved foliage at the entrance to the rectory.
Someone left one of those temporary storage modules in front of the building, which mars our otherwise architecturally perfect picture of the Fifth Avenue façade. There is only so much old Pa Pitt can do.
This Flemish Gothic palace, built in 1894, was designed by Edward Stotz, who would later give us Schenley High School. His son Charles Morse Stotz was more or less the founder of the preservation movement in Pittsburgh: he wrote the huge folio The Early Architecture of Western Pennsylvania, still an invaluable reference as well as a gorgeous book. It is fitting, therefore, that the father’s great landmarks have been among our preservation success stories.
The school was closed in 1976, and after that it sat vacant for more than three decades. A generation knew it only as that looming hulk Uptown. It is a tribute to the architect that it survived in fairly good shape. In 2009 it was finally brought back to life with a years-long restoration project that turned it into loft apartments, which sold well and suggested that there might be some potential in the Uptown neighborhood. (It certainly helped that the new arena—currently named for PPG Paints—opened at about the same time.)
The Buhl Building, an earlier work of Benno Janssen, is covered with Wedgwood-style terra-cotta decorations. Below, the Market Street end of the building.
George W. Guthrie was mayor of Pittsburgh when the Keenan Building was put up in 1907, and here is his face among the terra-cotta decorations on the building, where he keeps company with other prominent men of Pittsburgh. Pittsburghers remember Guthrie as the mayor who finally engineered the successful conquest of Allegheny, so North Siders sometimes think of him the way Ukrainians think of Vladimir Putin. Perhaps his most important accomplishment, though, was clean city water that, for the first time, brought typhoid under control in Pittsburgh, where it had been a scourge for the first century and a half of the city’s existence.
John Massey Rhind was Andrew Carnegie’s favorite sculptor; he gave us the Noble Quartet in front of the Carnegie Institute and the statue of Robert Burns outside Phipps Conservatory. Here he gives us some allegorical figures to adorn the entrances to the People’s Savings Bank’s splendid tower at Fourth Avenue and Wood Street. Not altogether coincidentally, the building itself was designed by Alden & Harlow, Carnegie’s favorite architects, whose firm (with their earlier partner Longfellow) was also responsible for the Carnegie Institute. Above, the Wood Street side; below, the Fourth Avenue side.