West End Methodist Episcopal Church

West End M. E. Church

In 1888 the Allegheny County Courthouse was finished, and by then its influence in Pittsburgh had already been profound. H. H. Richardson predicted, correctly, that it would be his most famous work; he died in 1886 without seeing it completed, when the mania for “Richardsonian Romanesque” in Pittsburgh was only beginning. Fortunately several competent Romanesque architects were available to supply the buildings Richardson could no longer provide.

Frank E. Alden was the Alden of Longfellow, Alden, and Harlow. Longfellow himself had trained with Richardson, and his firm was regarded as the successor to Richardson’s. Here Alden fills a very unpromising lot with a romantically Romanesque pile, built in 1888 while the last stones were still falling into place in the courthouse.

West End Methodist Episcopal Church

The church is vacant at the moment; it would make a fine studio for some prosperous artist.

West End M. E. Church

Entrance

Connoisseurs of Victorian lettering will be delighted by the inscriptions.

Inscription

Deutsche Vereinigte Evangelische Kirche, West End

Deutsche Vereinigte Evangelische Kirche Now the Jerusalem Baptist Church, this church was built in 1864, according to the inscription on the front. The Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation identifies the architects as Dahner and Dear.

Inscription

It is not possible to get a straightforward picture of this inscription without intrusive utility cables. Old Pa Pitt resorted to taking three different pictures from slightly different angles and welding them together, which was probably more work than it was worth. But here is a complete picture of the German inscription, and if drivers on Steuben Street were confused by the sight of a gentleman in eighteenth-century garb lying on the sidewalk pointing a long lens across the street, at least they had something to tell their families when they got home. “Deutsche Vereinigte Evangelische Kirche” is German for “German United Evangelical Church.”

Jerusalem Baptist Church

As with many Pittsburgh buildings, the question “How tall is it?” cannot be answered without a paragraph of disquisition on topography. The precipitous Belgian-block street along this side of the church is Sanctus Street.

How should we describe the style of this church? The rounded arches might say Romanesque or classical, although a presentable Gothic building could be made simply by swapping them for pointed arches. We’ll call it classically Victorian.

Demmler Bros. Building

Demmler Bros. Building

Demmler Bros. (now Demmler Machinery) built its headquarters in the Romanesque style that was very popular for warehouses and industrial buildings; for other examples, see the Standard Sanitary Manufacturing Company Warehouse and the B. M. Kramer & Company Building. The company has moved to the suburbs, but ghost signs still betray the origin of the building.

Adath Jeshurun Congregation, East Liberty

Adath Jeshurun Congregation

Probably the most popular style of synagogue architecture in Pittsburgh a century ago was what we might call Jewish Romanesque, with the round arches typical of Romanesque architecture along with some elements taken from traditional European Jewish architecture to make it clear that this is not a Christian church. Here is a good but endangered example of that style.

Inscription over the enstrance

It was built in 1923 or 1924 on Margaretta Street, now East Liberty Boulevard, and its members knew it familiarly as the Margaretta Street Shul. The congregation sold the building in 1996 and moved to Monroeville, where it withered away a few years later. For a while after that this was a Baptist church; but it seems to be vacant now. That is the danger. Even in the most prosperous neighborhood, it can be hard to find a use for an old church or synagogue. This part of East Liberty is far from the worst neighborhood, but it has not reached the prosperity of Highland Park to the north or the newly lively core of East Liberty to the south. If the neighborhood stays as it is, this building will probably simply decay and eventually have to be demolished. If the neighborhood prospers, it will probably be demolished to make way for something else.

Structurally, the building seems quite sound. But the details are suffering, notably the crumbling parapet, which is one of the distinctive and remarkable features of the façade.

Crumbling parapet

Some interesting history of the congregation is in this article in the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle.

Inscription
Inscription
Adath Jeshurun Congregation

Standard Sanitary Manufacturing Company Warehouse

Standard Sanitary Manufacturing Company Warehouse

A particularly elegant Romanesque warehouse built for the company that made bathroom plumbing fashion-conscious. Standard later merged with American Radiator to form American-Standard, still a leader in toilet technology today. The building is now luxurious offices under the name “Fort Pitt Commons.” According to the boundary-increase application for the Firstside Historic district, it was built 1900–1905; the architect is unknown, which is a pity, because it was obviously someone with a real sense of rhythm in architecture. (If you backed old Pa Pitt into a corner and asked him to guess the architect, he might say Charles Bickel, whose Reymer Brothers candy factory Uptown is very similar in many details, including the treatment of the arches.) Above, the side that faces Fort Pitt Boulevard and the Mon; below, the First Avenue side.