A dignified industrial building now converted to loft apartments. It was built in the 1890s as a machine shop for the Bair & Gazzam Manufacturing Company, and by 1910 it belonged to the Ruud Manufacturing Company, makers of those marvelous automatic water heaters. The style is very much in line with the industrial Romanesque that was popular in the late 1800s; but if we look carefully at the arches on the ground floor, we notice that they are very subtly pointed.
Father Pitt does not know the whole history of this building, but it looks as though the top two floors were a later addition.
This building has been much altered and diminished. There was originally more building behind it, and the façade has been drastically remodeled. The front entrance is now a pair of windows, and the original grand arches have been bricked in, with small and mismatched windows. The city’s Hilltop architectural inventory (PDF) classed this as a building with low architectural integrity. But it is very interesting for two reasons. First, the front gives us a good lesson in urban archaeology: enough is left so that we can try to imagine how the original building looked. Second, the fact that there was such a thing as a prominent school of rhetoric in Knoxville is itself an interesting window into times past. The briefest exposure to any of our politicians today will be enough to convince us that a school of rhetoric would be welcome in these parts.
The line between painted and unpainted on this long building is an artifact of its history. For most of its life this building was divided in two parts: the painted part was the convent, and the unpainted part the orphan asylum. More recently it has been a Franciscan retreat center known as the Burning Bush House of Prayer, whose somewhat archaic site tells us that the building was put up “in three stages, from 1887 to 1889.”
Here is an example of something you never see old Pa Pitt do. The usual jungle of utility cables infested this picture, and Father Pitt took them out. It’s not a perfect job, but it looks good from this distance. Having demonstrated that he is capable of doing it, Father Pitt may never do it again, but it does give us a good look at the front of an interesting old church.
Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church is the oldest open church in Lawrenceville: that is to say, it is the one that has been worshiping in the same building continuously for the longest time. This building was finished in 1874, and it has not changed much since then. In style it is a typical small Pittsburgh church of the time, with a shallow-pitched roof, the walls divided in sections by simple pilasters, and crenellations under the roofline. This is the Romanesque variant of that style. It could be made Gothic by swapping the rounded arches for pointed arches; it could be made classical by adding a few classical decorative elements.
The inscription reads “3.te Deutsche ev. Lutherische Zions Kirche” (“Third German Evangelical Lutheran Zion’s Church”). Someone has traced the date “1823” in white on the date stone in the gable. Father Pitt believes it is a mistake, although he would be happy to be corrected by anyone who knows better. The records indicate that the congregation was founded in 1868; the building opened in March of 1874, so the date 1873 would be plausible. Perhaps layers of paint made the date indistinct, and a painter misread the 7.
Here is the church with the utility cables. Father Pitt had the energy to remove them from one picture, but after that he had to lie down for a while. Since, however, these pictures are all licensed with a public-domain-equivalent CC0 license, nothing stops any motivated readers from adopting the photograph and spending the afternoon eliminating the cables—and that utility pole while they’re at it.
John T. Comès, one of our best ecclesiastical architects, accepted the challenge of an almost impossible site and came up with this distinctive design for a Polish parish. It was built between 1909 and 1916.
According to the South Side Slopes site, “The church closed permanently after a section of ceiling collapsed about the casket of the last caretaker during his funeral mass.” This is the sort of detail a novelist would invent and then throw out as too implausible for a sophisticated audience.
Charles Bickel was one of our most prolific architects of medium-sized commercial buildings. He was versatile and adaptable, as we see here in two buildings of very similar dimensions and very different styles, built within two years of each other. Above, the Maginn Building, from 1897, in a very Richardsonian Romanesque idiom; it is currently being converted into—who would have guessed?—luxury loft apartments. Below, from 1895, the United Presbyterian Board of Publications Building, in a pure Beaux-Arts classical style.
One of our endangered landmarks: it has been closed as a church for six years now, and no one seems to know what else to do with it. A community group wants to preserve it as a community resource, but it takes money to keep up a magnificent church. Allentown seems to be metamorphosing into a trendy neighborhood, but not very quickly into an expensive neighborhood—which is a good thing for the residents, but a bad thing for the prospect of making anything profitable out of this building.
Allentown was a German neighborhood, and this church was designed by a German architect (Herman J. Lang) for a German congregation. The church was finished in 1912. It has its own Wikipedia article, which identifies it as an example of “the German Romanesque architectural style, an American derivative of the Rundbogenstil style.” Father Pitt approves of that description, because he likes to say the word “Rundbogenstil.” We have pillaged most of the rest of our information from that article.