Tag: Romanesque Architecture

  • Wm. O. Johnston & Co. Building

    Corner of Penn Avenue and Ninth Street
    Fujifilm FinePix HS10.

    The corner of Penn Avenue and Ninth Street. The building on the corner is the Wm. O. Johnston & Co. building, built for a printer who was one of the successors to the venerable Zadok Cramer of the Franklin Head Bookstore. We also have a composite picture of the front of the building.

  • Decorations on the Maginn Building

    Arch on the Maginn Building

    Father Pitt is fairly certain that the ornamental stonecarving on the Maginn Building was done by Achille Giammartini, Pittsburgh’s master of Romanesque whimsies. The style is Giammartini’s, and the building was designed by Charles Bickel, who is known to have brought in Giammartini for the German National Bank (now the Granite Building) around the corner, as we see in this advertisement:

    Advertisement for Achille Giammartini

    But, you say, speculation is not enough for you. You want the artist’s signature. Well, to old Pa Pitt, this looks like a signature:

    Face with mustache in the corner of the arch

    In fact, Father Pitt has formed the hypothesis that Giammartini littered the city with self-caricatures in Romanesque grotesque. Several other buildings bear carved faces similar to these two in the corners of the arch on the seventh floor of the Maginn Building.

    Grotesque face

    The rest of the ornaments are also in Giammartini’s trademark style: lush Romanesque foliage with slightly cartoonish faces peering out from the leaves.

    Capital with face
    Fujifilm FinePix HS10.
  • Old Main, Duquesne University

    Old Main, Duquesne University
    Fujifilm FinePix HS10.

    Built in 1885 from a design by William Kauffman, this was an astonishingly lofty building when it went up—our first skyscraper college. Its position up on the bluff gave it spectacular views, at least when the smoke from the city below was not too dense, from the cupola that used to stand at the peak of the roof.

    We also have a picture of the building as it was built, along with a modern picture from the same angle.

  • St. Mary’s Church, Dutchtown

    St. Mary’s German Catholic Church

    Father John Stibiel specified this church, which was built in 1854 for his German parish, and he is usually credited as the designer of it. Some architectural historians, however, think that the architect may have been Charles F. Bartberger, the elder of the two Charles Bartbergers, who made similarly Romanesque designs for St. Paul of the Cross Monastery Church and St. Michael’s, both on the South Side Slopes.

    The vestibule in front was designed by Sidney F. Heckert and built in 1906.


    The church narrowly escaped demolition for the Parkway North. Along with the adjacent priory, it was bought by a Pittsburgh businessman who successfully turned the priory into a hotel and the church into “Pittsburgh’s Grand Hall,” a place for weddings and other events.

    Front of the church

    This composite view suffers from the inevitable distortion of the towers, but it otherwise gives us a good notion of the whole front of the church.

  • Third Avenue Front of the Times Building

    Third Avenue front of the Times Building

    The Times Building, designed by Frederick Osterling in his Richardsonian Romanesque period, is a block deep, so it has fronts on both Fourth Avenue and Third Avenue. The Fourth Avenue front is narrower; the Third Avenue front has one more bay, and a single grand arch in the middle. The decorative carving is probably by Achille Giammartini, who is known to have worked with Osterling on the Marine Bank and the Bell Telephone Building, and all his trademark whimsy is on display here.

    Face in profile
    Corner of the arch
    Fujifilm FinePix HS10.
  • Decorations on the County Office Building

    Eagle and county arms

    The County Office Building, which opened in 1931, was designed by Stanley L. Roush, who was the king of public works in Allegheny County for a while. Its combination of styles is unique in Pittsburgh, as far as old Pa Pitt knows. In form it is of the school Father Pitt likes to call American Fascist, the weighty classical style filtered through streamlined Art Deco that was popular for American public buildings between the World Wars, and of which the grandest example in Pittsburgh is the federal courthouse. But the details are Romanesque rather than classical—an acknowledgment of the lingering influence of the great Richardson’s greatest masterpiece, the Allegheny County Courthouse. The carved ornaments are Art Deco adaptations of medieval themes, except for the eagle above, which is not at all medieval, and which clasps the arms of Allegheny County in its talons.

    County Office Building

    The Fourth Avenue side. The County Office Building is roughly square, so the four sides are similar, except that this side lacks an entrance. But this was the side that was lit by the sun when Father Pitt was taking pictures. It took a lot of fiddling and adaptation to get the whole side of the building across a tiny narrow street, so you will see stitching errors and other anomalies if you enlarge the picture.


    An Art Deco gargoyle.

    Decorative relief
    Fujifilm FinePix HS10.
  • Tower of the Courthouse

  • Robinson House, Dutchtown

    408 Cedar Avenue

    This magnificent home was built for the Robinson family, probably in the 1890s, on a prominent corner facing the East Commons. It replaced an earlier brick house that had stood on the same spot. Locals tell us it is magnificent on the inside as well. One claims to have a mantel from this house in his own house: the Robinson house spent decades as a funeral home, and when the owners tore out interior walls, they offered some of the remains to the neighbors.

    Robinson house
    Porch columns
    408 Cedar Avenue
  • First Presbyterian Church, Oakmont

    Tower of the church

    This church, built in 1895, is a fine example of what old Pa Pitt would call Pittsburgh Rundbogenstil, because he likes to say “Rundbogenstil.” Otherwise we would just have to call it “Romanesque,” and where’s the fun in that? It now belongs to Riverside Community Church.

    First Presbyterian Church
    Inscription: “First Presbyterian Church”
    Cornerstone with date: AD 1895
    Riverside Community Church
    Fujifilm FinePix HS10.

    An old postcard shows us that little has changed about the building in more than a century.

    Postcard of Presby. Church, Oakmont, Pa.
    From the postcard collection of the Presbyterian Historical Society.
  • A Stroll on Avery Street in Dutchtown

    617 Avery Street

    The part of Dutchtown south of East Ohio Street is a tiny but densely packed treasury of Victorian styles. Old Pa Pitt took a walk on Avery Street the other evening, when the sun had moved far enough around in the sky to paint the houses on the southeast side of the street.

    611 Avery Street
    Gable ornament on 611
    609 Avery Street
    607 Avery Street
    539 and 537 Avery Street
    527 and 525 Avery Street
    521 and 519 Avery Street
    517–511 Avery Street
    515 and 513 Avery Street

    Is this the most beautiful breezeway in Pittsburgh? It’s certainly in the running.

    507 and 505 Avery Street
    613 Avery Street
    621 Avery Street

    Cameras: Sony Alpha 3000; Canon PowerShot SX150 IS.