Tag: Renovations

  • Katsafanas Coffee Co., North Side

    Katsafanas Coffee Co. inscription

    In about 1925 the Katsafanas Coffee Company bought this building on North Avenue on the North Side and had the front completely redone in an ultramodern style. Father Pitt does not yet know the architect who supervised the remodeling, but it was obviously someone of rare taste. A renovation of the remodeling, carefully preserving what was preservable, was supervised by Pfaffman & Associates, a firm that has worked on some of our most outstanding restorations and on the sui generis Gateway subway station.

    Front of the Katsafanas Coffee Co. building
    Katsafanas Coffee Co., tea importers & coffee roasters; packers of high grade coffees teas and spices

    This sign was painted by the A. E Jones Sign Co., which is still in business at 507 Tripoli Street in Dutchtown, and still doing hand-painted signs.

    Cameras: Sony Alpha 3000, Fujifilm FinePix HS10.

  • Muddling a Building in Chinatown

    513 Court Place
    Fujifilm FinePix HS10.

    The front of this building from the 1920s has been subjected to a series of ill-conceived renovations, and it is about to get another one. This one will make a drastic change in its appearance by imposing a modern front that will make it look like an entirely different building—one in a 2020s style that will be embarrassingly passé in a few years. The good news is that the new front appears to be more or less disposable: it is simply covering the existing building (except for the parts on the ground floor that had already been rubbished by previous renovations), and a future owner will be able to peel it away and reveal the original building behind.

  • A Bit of Good News on the South Side

    Woodcarvong over the door

    The big blue “CONDEMNATION” sticker appeared on a fine Italianate rowhouse in the 1100 block of Sarah Street a while ago, and old Pa Pitt decided to document the house before it vanished. You can imagine how delighted he was to find that the blue sticker is gone and the house is under renovation, with new windows installed already.

    House at 1107 Sarah

    Nothing can stop a contractor from installing Georgian-style fake “multipane” windows, which contractors think of as the mark of quality, even when they are completely inappropriate for the style of the house, and even when the “panes” are false divisions made by laying a cartoon grid over a single sheet of glass. But at least these windows are the right size for the holes, and therefore no lasting damage has been done. Father Pitt would guess that a house like this originally had two-over-two windows: see, for comparison, this house of similar age Uptown.


    The woodwork is a bit tattered, but we hope it can be preserved.


    This transom is crying out for an address in stained glass. Emerald Art Glass is only a dozen blocks away.


    Of course Father Pitt could not leave without documenting this fine breezeway.

    Front door

    Like the windows, the front door is a standard model that fits properly and could be replaced with a more appropriate style later by a more ambitious owner.

  • Mary L. Bayer House, South Side Slopes

    Just about every ugly thing that can happen to an old house has happened to this once-grand Second Empire mansion on the back end of Warrington Avenue. It has been sheathed in artificial siding. All the windows have been replaced with windows and doors in the wrong shapes. Almost all the trim has been removed (if you enlarge the picture, you can find a tiny remnant in the pediment over the front entrance). The porch has been replaced with treated lumber, which manufacturers assure us never has to be painted and therefore is always allowed to decay into even uglier colors than it was originally. The front entrance has been replaced with cheap doors from a home center.

    Yet, with all that, there is still a pleasing symmetry to the house that gives it a kind of senescent dignity. At present, it stands in a nice working-class neighborhood where houses are worthless, or at least not worth enough to make any substantial work on this one profitable. But it has a magnificent view of the city, and if someone with a little money were to adopt it, it could be remade into an attractive single-family mansion again, or a more attractive apartment house.

    Old Pa Pitt does not know the history of this house. On the Pittsburgh Historic Maps site, it first appears on the 1890 layer, suggesting that it was built in the 1880s. From then until 1923, it is marked as belonging to Mary L. Bayer or M. L. Bayer.

  • Church Converted to Alley Houses, South Side

    From the blocked-up Gothic windows and general shape, we can infer that this was a small church. But at some point not very recently it was converted to four tiny alley houses, made only slightly less tiny by the addition of what are probably kitchens on the back.

  • Strangely Altered Carson Street Victorian

    This building has had some adventures. Originally a typical Pittsburgh Romanesque commercial building, it had a radical renovation of the ground floor at some point in the Art Deco era (early enough that the entrances are still recessed from the sidewalk). Possibly at the same time, but probably later, the second and third floors were very inexpertly done over in an aggressively modernist style: the ornaments removed, the original tall windows replaced with much smaller windows, and the remaining space bricked up. Only the top remains more or less unaltered, though its ironwork date could use a bit of restoration, and the ironwork initials have left only their shadows.