An eclectic commercial block on the steep slope of the last block of Wabash Street, this building was probably put up in the 1890s.
St. Josaphat’s is one of the most unusual of John T. Comès’ works. It has some of his trademarks, notably the stripes—he loved stripes. But it also takes more inspiration from Art Nouveau than most of his churches, which are usually more firmly rooted in historical models. It is now having some renovation work done to fit it for its post-church life.
The Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad had its shops just down the hill from this building, so here is a railroad men’s YMCA, now turned into an office building.
YOUNG MENS CHRISTIAN
The inscription was probably spelled out in bronze letters; when they were removed, they left legible ghosts behind.
The cornerstone tells us that the building was put up in 1905.
This Romanesque—or shall we say Rundbogenstil? Because we like to say “Rundbogenstil”—firehouse was built for the city of Allegheny, probably in the 1890s to judge by our old maps. The alterations since then can be explained by the fact that a firehouse is basically a men’s club, and men’s clubs in Pittsburgh gradually fill in their windows and block as much natural light as they can. It does make one wonder what they expect to do with that tower now, but perhaps firemen have secret initiation rituals for which a dark tower is the ideal setting.
This little country church is now surrounded by suburbs, though there are still farms nearby. The date stone on the front of the building tells us it was built in 1868.
Originally the First United Presbyterian Church, this congregation merged with the Bellefield Presbyterian Church down the street, which sold its building (of which only the tower remains) and moved here, with the compensation that this church was renamed Bellefield Presbyterian. The building, designed by William Boyd and built in 1896, is festooned with a riot of carved Romanesque ornaments.
Each one of these cherubs has a different face and different ornamental carving surrounding it.
Our great ecclesiastical architect John T. Comès designed a fine church for St. Martin’s parish in the West End, but the church was demolished long ago. The rectory, however, remains, and it is a remarkable piece of work itself. We might call it Romanesque, or Art Nouveau, or Arts-and-Crafts, or perhaps even Rundbogenstil. Father Pitt is tempted, however, to call it Pre-Raphaelite. It reminds him of Pre-Raphaelite paintings; we can imagine it as a backdrop for figures by Burne-Jones.
The rich colors and deliberately handmade look of these ornamental tiles add considerably to the effect of the façade.
For most of the history of the South Side, this corner at 24th and Carson was the gateway to the long Carson Street retail district. Further out there were a few shops and (especially) bars, but the looming mass of the steel mill dominated the streetscape. Now, of course, the SouthSide Works (spelled with internal capital, which is not old Pa Pitt’s fault) development that replaced the mill has extended the retail district by several more blocks, but this building still marks an obvious break between the new and the old.
The rounded corner is distinctive and emphasizes the building’s function as a gateway. The proper inset entrance not only makes the storefront look characteristically Victorian, but also still fulfills its purpose of not hitting pedestrians in the face with a swinging door—a purpose we have unaccountably forgotten in our modern storefronts. One would think a few lawsuits by pedestrians with broken noses would establish a design precedent, but apparently that has not happened.