Parlor windows and transoms over the front door are often decorated with stained glass. Old Pa Pitt has been out wandering the South Side in the evening to bring back a few pictures of stained glass the way it was meant to be seen.
A stained-glass window in an early-twentieth-century house in Beechview. Stained glass like this was especially popular between about 1890 and 1920, just when the streetcar suburbs that later became city neighborhoods were mushrooming. These windows are often stolen if the house is vacant for a while, but even so thousands still decorate houses all around the city.
Some stained glass illuminated from the inside. Above: over the entrance to the Brayton apartments.
In a parlor window.
The entrance to a Tudor apartment building on Negley Avenue at Walnut Street.
The large window at the rear of the cathedral. At the apex is the Shield of Faith, the emblem of the Trinity. In the center is Christ ascending, with the legend “He is the King of Glory.” Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John watch and record, each with his traditional symbol (man, lion, ox, eagle).
But let my due feet never fail
To walk the studious cloister’s pale,
And love the high embowed roof,
With antique pillars massy proof,
And storied windows richly dight,
Casting a dim religious light.
There let the pealing organ blow,
To the full-voic’d quire below,
In service high, and anthems clear,
As may with sweetness, through mine ear,
Dissolve me into ecstasies,
And bring all Heav’n before mine eyes.
It is difficult to convey in a photograph the impression we get from entering a glorious Gothic church like Heinz Chapel. In general photographs are too light, either because the photographers laudably attempted to capture the many artistic details of the Gothic interior, or because they used automatic exposure and let their cameras do the thinking. Old Pa Pitt has tried very hard in these pictures to give some impression of the relative lighting as we enter the chapel from the bright light outside. Most of the light is dim, but a pool of light shines in the distance, drawing us toward the altar.
No matter how bright it may be outside, turning to leave the church is walking away from the light.
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.
The Art Nouveau style never made much headway in Pittsburgh, but there are a few examples of ornamentation in a style that deserves that name—especially stained glass, which lends itself to the kind of abstraction we associate with Art Nouveau. This window is in a storefront near the Birmingham Bridge.
This window by the celebrated stained-glass master John La Farge looks out over the lobby of the Frick Building. The metaphor of Fortune’s wheel is an odd one for a self-made gazillionaire to choose: Henry Frick was not known for his modesty, and yet the message seems to be that he was just lucky rather than clever.
The Allegheny Cemetery Mausoleum, or “Temple of Memories” (as the cemetery calls it now), was built in 1960. It is filled with stained glass by the Willet studio of Philadelphia and the Hunt studio of Pittsburgh. The two distinct styles are very different, but Father Pitt does not know which is which.
This Stephen Foster window is the centerpiece of the whole first floor of the mausoleum, which is appropriate. Thousands of rich and important people—politicians, robber barons, and even a few honest philanthropists—are buried in Allegheny Cemetery. But the only resident anyone really cares about is Stephen Foster, who made us dance and sing and weep, and died in poverty. (There is also a small cult of Lillian Russell, and Father Pitt would be delighted to see a Lillian Russell window in some future expansion of the mausoleum.)
This window includes something that delighted old Pa Pitt beyond all reason: the only stained-glass representation he has ever seen of a parlor organ.