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.”
In the early twentieth century, the Hill was Pittsburgh’s most diverse neighborhood, and in particular it was the main center of Jewish culture. A number of buildings survive from the Jewish community there, though they have all been turned to other uses. This one, for example, is now a “community engagement center” run by the University of Pittsburgh. But it was the original home of the Hebrew Institute, which moved to Squirrel Hill in 1944. It was a school that taught Hebrew language, literature, and culture to Jewish children. The style of the building is typical Pittsburgh School Classical, but the broken pediment above the entrance frames a Torah scroll.
The firm of James T. Steen & Sons gave us many prominent buildings. The elder James died in 1923, but the firm flourished under his son Marion M. Steen, whose particular specialty was schools. Here is one of his finest works, built in 1931 with additions in 1937. The school closed in 2006, but it was converted to loft apartments without losing any of the glorious Art Deco decorations and reliefs.
Old Pa Pitt seldom does this, but because there are eighteen pictures in this article, he will avoid weighing down the front page of the site by placing the rest of them below the metaphorical fold.
Now the New Zion Baptist Church in what may be Pittsburgh’s only clot of three different Baptist churches in the same spot, this former Italian parish church is a good example of the modernist interpretation of Gothic that was popular briefly after the Second World War. The fine reliefs are in a style that filters medieval religious art through a slightly Art Deco lens.
There seems to have been an inscription over the skull and crossbones (representing conquered Death), but it is no longer legible.
Sinite parvulos, et nolite eos prohibere ad me venire: talium est enim regnum caelorum. (Matt. 19:14.)
Now St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church of St. Raphael Parish, because the history of parish consolidation in Carnegie is complicated even by Catholic Pittsburgh standards. Built in 1881, this church was out of commission for a while after the Hurricane Ivan floods in Carnegie, but it is now restored and expanded, and in fact is the only remaining Western Catholic church in Carnegie. (There’s a Byzantine-rite Ukrainian church, too.)
The parish school behind the church closed some years ago, but the building still belongs to the church and has been adapted to other uses, including Sunday school and offices.
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.
A small school by a distinguished architect: Charles M. Bartberger, who gave us several fine schools. (He is often confused with his father, Charles F. Bartberger, who designed some prominent churches.) The Lee School is now a retirement home under the name Gualtieri Manor.
The entrance is surrounded by tasteful terra-cotta ornamentation.
This pattern is called a Vitruvian wave, named for Vitruvius, the ancient Roman author whose manual on architecture became the arbiter of everything that was proper in design during the Renaissance.
The arms of the city of Pittsburgh over the entrance.