Two Parlor Windows from the South Side

In a Victorian rowhouse, the parlor window—the ground-floor window facing the street—was an opportunity for the homeowners to display their taste and, even more important, their ability to pay skilled craftsmen to decorate their houses with woodwork and stained or leaded glass. Above, even the masonry is incised with decorative patterns.

Civil-War-Era Rowhouse, South Side

There are many houses of this age in East Birmingham, the section of the South Side between 17th and 27th Streets that was laid out in the middle 1800s. Most of them are anonymous and unremarked. This one, however, has a specific date and pedigree, according to a sign placed on it when it was renovated thirty years ago:

We notice the choice of the word “renovated” rather than “restored,” which is appropriate. The details are a little off for the age of the house, particularly the windows and doorway. Old Pa Pitt suspects that the house had already been altered that way, and the new owners worked with what they had to make the exterior look attractive if not historically correct. At any rate, hundreds of houses on the South Side are in similar shape, but few of them have a known date and history.

Sarah Street, Between 19th and 20th

Sarah Street

Streetscape of Sarah Street, with typical South Side rowhouses, a small synagogue, and the South Side Presbyterian Church at the end of the block.

St. Casimir’s, South Side

St. Casimir’s Church, South Side, Pittsburgh

In a crowded neighborhood with narrow streets, getting a picture of a large church like this is almost impossible without resorting to computer trickery. Fortunately old Pa Pitt has never been above computer trickery, and this is actually a composite of two photographs. The seams are nearly invisible, but if you look closely, you may notice the same pedestrian appearing twice at different points on the sidewalk.

Like many Catholic churches in the city, this one is no longer a worship site. Protestant churches can straggle on for decades with a dozen people showing up on Sunday, but the top-down organization of the Catholic Church makes it almost inevitable that decisions will be made on the basis of efficiency. St. Casimir’s, like the school formerly attached to it, is now condominium apartments.

Below, the distinctive towers, one of which is missing a column.

Tower of St. Casimir’s, South Side