Tag: Spanish Mission Architecture

  • Tudor or Spanish Mission? In Squirrel Hill, You Can Have Both

    Row of apartment buildings

    Who knew? It turns out that Tudor can be Spanish Mission and vice-versa, as long as you add the right decorative touches, and of course the right names. This row of five apartment buildings on Hobart Street, Squirrel Hill, alternates Tudor and Spanish Mission, as you could guess even without seeing them just by the names of the buildings: Cambridge, Granada, Windsor, Armada, and Wemberley. Yet they are all more or less the same building. Only the decorative details change. Tudor buildings have peaked rooflines; Spanish Mission buildings have curvy rooflines and little tiled awnings. Knowing how to make the same building Tudor or Spanish Mission is a great time-saver for an architect.

    Here are the buildings, left to right:

  • Trinity A. M. E. Church, Hill

    Trinity A. M. E. Church

    A modest church from 1925 in an unusual Spanish Mission style. That style was very popular for houses and apartments in the 1920s, but in Pittsburgh it is seldom found in churches.

    The well-preserved, though somewhat bedraggled, Italianate house next door is also worth noting.

    Trinity AME Church and Italianate house
  • Ruth Apartments, Dormont

    Apartment building in Dormont

    A small apartment building along the Red Line in Dormont, with some of the Spanish Mission details that were very popular in Dormont a century ago. It was also popular to give small apartment buildings women’s names; across the street are two very similar buildings named Thea and Esther.

  • Old Garage, Oakland

    Front of the old garage

    A garage from the early days of the automobile; on a 1923 map it is simply marked “Garage.” The fundamental simplicity of the Spanish Mission style made it popular for garages, and this front on Melwood Avenue looks almost like a cartoon drawing of a Spanish mission. We have already seen the ghost sign on the south side of it revealed by the demolition of the old Chevrolet dealer next door:

    Ghost sign

    On the other side of the building is another ghost sign, probably later, advertising the Overman Cushion Tire Co.—a name that is still, or again, in use today by an Ohio restorer of antique tires.

    Ghost sign for Overman Cushion Tire Co.
  • Hampshire Safety Island, Beechview

    The angle is not exaggerated in this photograph: Pittsburgh streetcars really do have to climb absurd grades like this. This is one of the small number of remaining streetcar safety islands in the city. Behind it is a tiny Central American restaurant with a reputation for excellent food; it inhabits a little building in the Spanish Mission style, which seems appropriate.

  • Spanish Mission Style in Dormont

    A modest commercial building on Potomac Avenue, this is a good example of the Spanish Mission style in commercial buildings and apartment houses. The style—a kind of Eastern fantasy of the Southwest—is certainly not unknown elsewhere in the Pittsburgh area, but for some reason it was especially popular in Dormont, where numerous Mission-style buildings still stand. Doubtless the original roof overhang above the name was tile, and very probably green tile. Below, the building at Potomac and Glenmore Avenues retains its original green roof tiles.

  • Apartments and Storefronts, Dormont

    This interesting residential-commercial structure on Potomac Avenue seems to combine two styles. The apartment building is a kind of very late Italianate, but the way the projecting storefronts form a sort of courtyard seems very much in the Mission style, as do the sloped roofs, which old Pa Pitt suspects were originally tile rather than asphalt shingles.

  • Hollywood Theater, Dormont

    Almost every neighborhood in Pittsburgh and the urban inner suburbs had a neighborhood movie house—or several of them—in the silent-movie era, and many of those buildings are still standing (here are all of old Pa Pitt’s articles on movie theaters). What is nearly unique about the Hollywood, built in 1925, is that it is still showing movies. In fact it shows first-run movies these days, with occasional classic revivals, and a theater-organ performance every once in a while. The Theatre Historical Society of America bought the place in 2018, and we can hope that they will be able to keep it going for many years.

    We can see from this picture that the building has gone through some renovations over the decades, not all of them sympathetic. But the basic outline has not changed. For some reason Mission style was very popular in Dormont in the 1920s, and the Hollywood’s movie-lot interpretation of Spanish-colonial architecture is very appropriate for its setting and use.

    A detailed history of the theater is at Cinema Treasures. The theater is just a few steps away from the Potomac station on the Red Line.