Tag: Schools

  • St. Vincent de Paul School, Esplen

    St. Vincent de Paul School, Esplen

    The church and other buildings of the parish are long gone, but this little parochial school is still standing in Esplen, a neighborhood few Pittsburghers ever think of. For a while the building belonged to a nondenominational church, but that does not seem to be active anymore. We hope the building can be preserved, since it is one of the few substantial structures in what is otherwise a neighborhood of frame houses and, increasingly, vacant lots.

    Inscription over the door
    Cross on the roof

    This cross looks like an afterthought, as though someone worried that the building looked too much like a conventional public school—which it does—and decided that something had to be done to distinguish it as Catholic.

    Oblique view showing later addition

    A later addition included a porte cochère, which must have been a blessing to pupils arriving by car in the rain. It bears unconscious testimony to the facts of religious life in the later twentieth century: increasingly, ethnic parishes were no longer serving parishioners in their own neighborhoods (all of Esplen is within walking distance of this school), but rather people who had moved to the suburbs and had to drive in to church or school. The next obvious step is that they stop driving in to church or school, and find themselves a parish in the suburbs.

  • St. Mark’s School, McKees Rocks Bottoms

    St. Mark’s School

    This is a Catholic school with more than the usual touch of whimsy. Old Pa Pitt does not yet know the architect, but whoever it was decided to make a school that would strike its pupils as something out of a fairy tale. [Update: We have found that the architects were the well-known Link, Weber & Bowers, “Link” being A. F. Link and “Weber” being Edward Weber.1] It is sadly vacant and decaying right now, although at least the grounds are kept. The cornerstone tells us that the building was begun in 1928:


    Since old Pa Pitt considers this school endangered, he has many pictures to show you, so the rest will be behind a “read more” link to avoid cluttering the front page for a week.

  • First Ward Manual Training School, Allegheny

    The school is long gone, and the site covered by expressways: it was about where the ramps from the Fort Duquesne Bridge join state route 65 on the way to Ohio River Boulevard, very near the North Side subway station. But here is a rendering of Charles M. Bartberger’s design, which is an early school in a somewhat unusual Flemish style by an architect who came to design many of Pittsburgh’s more distinguished school buildings. It was published in the American Architect and Building News for October 13, 1900.

    Old Pa Pitt finds it interesting how many of these architectural renderings include elegantly dressed ladies and gentlemen standing in the street waiting to be run over by an omnibus.

  • St. Paul’s Cathedral School, Oakland

    St. Paul’s Cathedral School

    Built in 1907, this Jacobean palace was the work of John T. Comès. We happen to know that it was roofed with McClure’s Genuine Charcoal Iron Re-Dipped Roofing Tin, because in a 1910 advertisement that company proudly reproduced the architect’s perspective rendering of the building:

    Architect’s perspective rendering of St. Paul’s Cathedral School

    Notice in the rendering that Comès has drawn sections of tapestry brick, which is typical of his work—if he was going to use brick, he was going to use it to its full decorative potential. Either he was overruled by the client or he changed his mind, because the building as it stands is just ordinary red brick in Flemish stretcher bond, with stone trim for decoration.


    The building is now the St. Joan of Arc Building of Oakland Catholic High School, and the Trib has a story from 2013 about the renovations to the St. Joan of Arc Building to bring it into the early twenty-first century.

    Detail of a niche
    Perspective view with clouds
  • John Morrow Public School, Brighton Heights

    John Morrow Public School, Brighton Heights

    The original school was designed by Samuel T. McClaren (or McClarren; we see it spelled both ways) in 1895. Over the decades it was encrusted with annexes and additions, until much of the original building was hidden behind later growths.

    Original building

    This is a small section of the original building peeking out between later additions. Note the tapestry brick on the second floor.


    The care that went into designing and assembling this chimney ought to make us denizens of the twenty-first century ashamed of ourselves.

    Annex No. 1

    Annex No. 1 was built after 1903 but before 1910, obscuring the whole eastern side of the original building. This addition was probably also designed by McClaren, and matches the original very closely.

    What is that little rectangular block of wood below the small central windows on the first floor?

    Ten-dollar reward

    It’s a sign, probably almost as old as the building to judge by the style of the lettering, and with some effort we can read almost all of it:

    $10.00 REWARD.

    Old Pa Pitt has not succeeded in deciphering the very last line, which probably tells us where to apply for our ten bucks.

    Annex No. 2

    In 1922, Annex No. 2 was built, obscuring the west side of the original building. Insofar as Pittsburgh topography allows, it is identical to Annex No. 1, but this time it is dated:

    Date stones: 1922

    The difference in brickwork indicates that there were probably windows here originally.

    Oblique view

    What this town needs is more utility cables.

    1958 addition

    In 1958, the school got its last major addition, which covered most of the Davis Avenue front of the original building. By that time it was simply impossible to match the architecture of the original, but the architect made some attempt to echo it with similar Roman brick and three Rundbogenstil arched windows on the front. The brickwork here looks the same as the brick infilling of the windows in the annex above, which probably dates that work.

    The school is still in use as Morrow Elementary School.

  • Holy Innocents School, Sheraden

    Holy Innocents School

    John T. Comès designed the older Holy Innocents Church, which was replaced by the cathedral-sized church that stands today, and it is likely that he designed this school as well. The style is a kind of Art Nouveau Jacobean. It is vacant right now, which puts it in danger, since large vacant buildings are attractive nuisances both for arson and for blue “Condemnation” stickers.

    Inscription over the entrance: Holy Innocents School

    Painting the stone accents grey may have been someone’s solution to the soot problem. It was not a good idea.

    Date stone: A. D. 1907
    Side of the school
  • Langley High School, Sheraden

    Langley High School

    This school began in 1923 as Sheraden High School, then was renamed Langley. It is now an elementary and junior high school. The architects were MacClure & Spahr, whose instinct for late English Gothic made it a memorable Tudor palace.

    Long wall
    Another entrance
  • Henry Clay Frick Training School for Teachers

    Henry Clay Frick Training School for Teachers

    Ingham & Boyd designed a large number of school buildings in the city and suburbs, and they always gave the clients exactly the respectable school buildings they wanted. They were never embarrassingly out of date, nor were they embarrassingly modernistic. They were ornamented to exactly the right degree to say, “This is a building we spent money on.” The Ingham & Boyd brand of rectangular classicism is on full display in this building in Oakland, which is now the Pittsburgh Science & Technology Academy.

    Relief above the entrance: The Teacher and the Child
    Oblique view
  • Liberty School Auditorium, Shadyside

    Auditorium of the Liberty School

    This splendid little auditorium combines the Jacobean style of the main school with a hint of Art Deco. Father Pitt does not yet know who designed the addition. The original school was a design by MacClure & Spahr, and we know that Benno Janssen designed additions to more than one MacClure & Spahr building; this would certainly be in the range of Janssen’s style.

  • St. Rosalia School, Greenfield

    St. Rosalia School

    A. F. Link designed this Romanesque school in 1912, a little more than a decade before he designed the magnificent church beside it. This design already shows Link’s trademark habit of abstracting and modernizing historic forms: here he combines a hint of Romanesque with some very Jugendstil abstract patterns in the brickwork.

    Fortunately the building has been sold to Yeshiva Schools, so it will not be abandoned to rot the way so many Catholic schools have been.

    Front of the school