Tag: Storefronts

  • Carson Street Side of the SouthSide Works

    Carson and 27th, SouthSide Works

    By most standards the SouthSide Works, by far the largest “new urban” development in Pittsburgh, has been a great success. The retail part of it, however, has had its ups and downs. It was planned with a focus on a “town square” a block away from Carson Street, with 27th Street as a line of shops linking Carson Street to the center of the new neighborhood, and then rows of smaller shops here along Carson Street, the back side of the development. What happened might have been predicted by a good urban planner: the part of the development that continued the well-established Carson Street business district flourished and remained mostly occupied, spilling its prosperity across the street to previously empty storefronts and triggering new construction; meanwhile, the “town square,” after an initial burst of success, languished, with many large storefronts empty. Now the square has filled up again, and we shall see where the cycle takes us from here.

    Architecturally, the Carson Street side of the development is again a success. It may not be inspired architecture, but it does its job of fitting with the established architectural traditions of the South Side and visually connecting itself with the rest of the Carson Street business district. Father Pitt might point out, however, that some of the materials—metal facings of buildings, for example—are beginning to look a bit bedraggled already. The parts faced in brick, however, are not. This may serve as a lesson to young architects: brick lasts.

  • Art Deco Commercial Building in the West End

    Front of Art Deco building at Main and Wabash

    This Art Deco building probably dates from the 1930s. The sharply rectangular forms are softened and enriched by textures in terra cotta, making a composition that should please both classicists and modernists.

    Corner view of building at Main and Wabash, West End
  • A Riot of Victorian Detail

    Commercial building at 1805 East Carson Street

    We’ve seen this exuberantly Victorian building on Carson Street before. It is one of the few relatively unmutilated survivors of the style that was common for commercial buildings in the 1870s and 1880s, so old Pa Pitt got out a long lens to appreciate some of the details.

    Top of the building
    A different finial
    Carved ornament
    Two carved ornaments
    Angular ornamebt
  • Commercial Building by Frederick Sauer, South Side

    1831 East Carson Street

    What do St. Stanislaus Kostka, St. Mary of the Mount, St. Stephen’s in Hazelwood, a chicken coop turned into an apartment building in Aspinwall, and an empty restaurant on the South Side have in common? The buildings were all designed by Frederick Sauer, who was a genius at ecclesiastical architecture but had to make most of his living designing houses and small commercial buildings for the middle classes. This building was put up in about 1911,1 and we can’t say that it’s a work of towering genius. But Sauer does manage to filter the expected Pittsburghish details through an angular modernism that gives the building a distinctive style. This is how a good architect makes a good living: by taking small jobs as well as big ones, and doing good work for all his clients.

    Building by Frederick C. Sauer
    1. From the Construction Record, September 24, 1910: “Architect F. C. Sauer, 804 Penn avenue is taking bids on constructing a three-story brick store and office building on Nineteenth and Carson streets Southside, for Henry F. Hager, 144 Twenty-fourth street, Southside.” Hager is shown as the owner on a 1923 map. ↩︎
  • Pure Art Deco in the West End

    450 South Main Street, West End, Pittsburgh

    This is about as perfect as an Art Deco storefront can get. What is especially cheering is that the ground floor is a new construction, using modern stock materials to create a storefront that matches the spirit of the rest of the building. Until a little more than twelve years ago, the ground floor had been bricked up in an unsympathetic fashion, as you can see in a 2008 image from Google Maps.

    Father Pitt does not know what the initial K stands for at the top of the façade, and would be delighted to be informed.

    Ornaments at the top of the façade
  • The Corner of Carson and 24th, South Side

    Building at Carson and 24th, South Side

    For most of the history of the South Side, this corner at 24th and Carson was the gateway to the long Carson Street retail district. Further out there were a few shops and (especially) bars, but the looming mass of the steel mill dominated the streetscape. Now, of course, the SouthSide Works (spelled with internal capital, which is not old Pa Pitt’s fault) development that replaced the mill has extended the retail district by several more blocks, but this building still marks an obvious break between the new and the old.

    The rounded corner is distinctive and emphasizes the building’s function as a gateway. The proper inset entrance not only makes the storefront look characteristically Victorian, but also still fulfills its purpose of not hitting pedestrians in the face with a swinging door—a purpose we have unaccountably forgotten in our modern storefronts. One would think a few lawsuits by pedestrians with broken noses would establish a design precedent, but apparently that has not happened.

    Storefronts on Carson Street
  • Row of Commercial Buildings, Carson Street at 23rd, South Side

    Seen from the Birmingham Bridge, this row of Italianate storefronts retains most of its Victorian magnificence, although the newer windows blight the one on the end.

  • Backstreet Store in Sharpsburg

    Storefront in Sharpsburg

    A Romanesque—perhaps even Rundbogenstil—commercial building in the back streets of Sharpsburg. It has lost its cornice, and the second floor has received incorrect “multipane” windows, but the storefront with inset entrance is almost perfectly preserved.

    Oblique view
  • Building on Smithfield Street, Boston

    5729 Smithfield Street, Boston, Penna.

    This tidy little building has the look of an old meeting house or school, or even a little theater. Do any Elizabeth Township readers know its story? It’s on Smithfield Street in the little hamlet of Boston, just across the Boston Bridge from Versailles.


    There was a date stone or plaque in the gable once, and perhaps fairly recently: it was painted around when the current coat of paint was applied.

  • Kraynick’s Bike Shop, Garfield

    Kraynick’s Bike Shop

    Kraynick’s Bike Shop is a Pittsburgh legend, and it lives in a slightly bedraggled building that is so typically Pittsburgh it should never be improved. Now that Garfield is coming up in the trendy world, someone is likely to restore this Second Empire storefront sooner or later, but it retains so many layers of history, while still preserving so many original details (look at the roof slates, the brick cornice, the dentils on the third-floor dormers, the lintels above the second-floor windows), that it will be a shame when it is remade into a picture-book Victorian building.