Two Second Empire rowhouses whose upper floors are fairly well preserved. The one on the right has had some adventures on the ground floor, possibly including a storefront at some point. Note the wooden shingles on the house on the left.
Second Empire Houses on Sarah Street, South Side
Victorian Row on Sarah Street, South Side
A fine block of rowhouses on the north side of Sarah Street.
Hotel Lieb, South Side
Here are some utility cables with an old hotel behind them. The Hotel Lieb was a neighborhood hotel in the common Pittsburgh sense of being a bar with a few rooms above, because liquor licenses were fiendishly hard to get for bars but easy for hotels. It was built in the early 1900s at the intersection of Sarah Street with the oddly angled 29th Street, and the unusual angle is mitigated by cutting off the corner and putting the entrance there.
A Walk on the South Side with a Black-and-White Camera
It was not really a black-and-white camera; it was old Pa Pitt’s nineteen-year-old Samsung Digimax V4, a strange beast that was made for photography enthusiasts who wanted something that would fit in the pocket but still had most of the options of a sophisticated enthusiast’s camera. Father Pitt has set the user options to black-and-white. There is no good reason for doing so: obviously the camera collects color data and throws the colors away, and the colors could just as well be thrown away in software after returning from the expedition. But knowing that the picture must be black and white forces one to think in terms of forms rather than colors. So here are half a dozen pictures from a walk through the South Side Flats.
Rowhouses on Sarah Street, South Side
Sarah Street was the prime residential street of East Birmingham (the part of the South Side between 17th and 26th Streets), and it retains some of Pittsburgh’s most distinguished rowhouses. The one above is a splendidly eclectic mix—a bit of Italianate, a bit of Gothic, a bit of Second Empire. Note how much effort has gone into making interesting patterns in the bricks.
Here is another house in a similarly eclectic style. The parlor window is treated almost identically, but the upper floors vary the theme considerably.
This is not strictly a rowhouse, since it is detached from its neighbors by a narrow alley on each side; but since it is connected to those neighbors by a pair of gates, it is as near a rowhouse as makes no difference. This is a fine example of the Italianate style in a city house, and the owners have had some fun picking out the ornamental details with an unusual but effective paint scheme.
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
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
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.
Front Door on Sarah Street