Now part of the Conroy Early Childhood Center, this old school hovers between classical and Romanesque styles, which means that perhaps the best term for it is Rundbogenstil, the word old Pa Pitt most likes to pronounce in public.
Since it has been made an annex of a larger building, it no longer requires its main entrance, which leads to this architectural dissonance:
This fine Renaissance palace, built in 1897, was designed by Samuel T. McClaren. It sits on 40th Street at Liberty Avenue, where it is technically—according to city planning maps—in Bloomfield. Most Pittsburghers, however, would probably call this section of Bloomfield “Lawrenceville,” since it sticks like a thumb into lower Lawrenceville, and the Lawrenceville line runs along two edges of the school’s lot.
For some reason the style of this building is listed as “Romanesque revival” wherever we find it mentioned on line. Old Pa Pitt will leave it up to his readers: is this building, with its egg-and-dart decorations, false balconies, and Trajanesque inscriptions, anything other than a Victorian interpretation of a Renaissance interpretation of classical architecture? Now, if you had said “Rundbogenstil,” Father Pitt might have accepted it, because he likes to say the word “Rundbogenstil.”
Almost certainly nothing can be done to save this grand old Romanesque church on Herron Avenue in what used to be called Minersville. It has been abandoned too long and decayed too far to be revived except by some miraculously heroic effort, and miracles like that seldom happen on the Hill, where even the New Granada Theater has been languishing abandoned for decades. But enough remains of this church that we can at least admire the architecture of it before it comes down. It was built in 1894 as the Seventh Presbyterian Church (some online sources say First Presbyterian of Minersville, but it appears that the smaller frame building that formerly occupied this site was already called Seventh Presbyterian by 1890). By 1923 it was known as the Herron Avenue Presbyterian Church. It would later be bought by the John Wesley African Methodist Episcopal Church, which was founded in 1836, but by the 2000s that congregation apparently could no longer maintain the building. Water from mine runoff was a constant problem, according to the church’s long-out-of-date Wikipedia article.
There are pictures of the vandalized interior various places on line if you look for them. Father Pitt follows his usual policy of not trespassing, so he brings you only a few pictures of the exterior, which is an interesting kind of Romanesque verging on Rundbogenstil—a word old Pa Pitt uses at every opportunity, because he likes to say it.
An iron ornament at the pinnacle of the main tower.
This building is an epitome of the history of the South Side. The first wave of immigrants after the original English and Scotch-Irish settlers was the Germans. There was a Turnhalle, a German athletic club, on this site by 1872, and probably well before; it was across the street from a German Evangelical church. That original Birmingham Turnverein was a frame building, but this splendid brick structure was put up some time a little before 1910. (If you enlarge the picture, you can see a pair of “BTV” monograms on the façade near the entrance.) Then came the influx of East Europeans, and many of the Germans moved out. This became a Lithuanian Hall; the German church across the street was demolished and replaced with a Ruthenian Catholic church. In the twenty-first century, we have all become antisocial, and clubs and churches have died; the building has been turned into apartments, as many similar buildings have been.
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.
St. Michael’s is one of our earliest grand Romanesque churches, finished in 1861. It was designed for a German congregation by the German-born Charles F. Bartberger, who gave us a number of other distinguished ecclesiastical buildings. (He is often confused with Charles M. Bartberger, his son, who gave us a number of distinguished schools.) It was one of the first churches around here to be made into condominium apartments, so it is now preserved as the Angel’s Arms.
It was a rainy day today, and if you enlarge the picture you can pick out the falling raindrops.
Note the date over this side door.
The rectory, which is attached to the eastern end of the church, was built in 1890 and designed by another distinguished German Pittsburgh architect: Frederick Sauer, who gave us many fine churches and the whimsical Sauer Buildings in Aspinwall. Here he has created a very German Romanesque building that harmonizes well with the older church.
A very German corner dome.
Exceptionally fine carved foliage at the entrance to the rectory.
The double arch inside a single arch, with a circle to fill in the gap, is characteristic of the style of classically influenced Romanesque the Germans called Rundbogenstil, the round-arch style. It may not be exclusive to the Rundbogenstil, but Father Pitt likes to say the word “Rundbogenstil.” The B. M. Kramer and Co. building on the South Side, built as a beer warehouse, is one of the masterpieces of industrial architecture in Pittsburgh.
Except for the inevitable distortion of the towers, this is a very accurate rendition of the front of St. Adalbert’s on the South Side. (The distortion is the result of using many photographs to construct what amounts to an impossibly wide-angled rectilinear lens to get the whole front across a very narrow street.) Built in 1889, this church served generations of Polish Catholics, and still serves the congregation of Mary, Queen of Peace parish. The architect does not seem to be known, but old Pa Pitt would be delighted to be informed if anyone does know who it was.
Psalm 83:5 in the Vulgate numbering (Psalm 84:4 in Protestant and more recent Catholic versions): “Blessed are they that dwell in thy house, O Lord: they shall praise thee for ever and ever.”
Father Pitt does not know much Polish, but this inscription honors the efforts of Fr. Wladislaw Miskiewicz, parish priest.
The church dominates the back end of 15th Street, one of those absurdly narrow streets in old Birmingham. This is the view from the steps up to the 15th Street pedestrian overpass that leads across the railroad tracks to the Slopes. This end of 15th Street was a whole village of Polish Catholic institutions.
St. Adalbert’s convent.
The Polish school.
We also saw the mid-twentieth-century auditorium, now being turned into condominiums.
German influence was strong in the German neighborhoods of Pittsburgh, and the particular German variant of Romanesque called the Rundbogenstil—round-arch style—can be discerned in many of our buildings. Few offer it in as ostentatiously German a form as this one, which was the convent for St. George’s parish school in Allentown. It seems to old Pa Pitt that the rhythm of the front is just about perfect, and the three elaborate double arches place the proper emphasis on the upstairs chapel.
The side was not really meant to be seen, so it is almost completely undecorated.