Tag: Terra Cotta

  • Keystone Athletic Club

    Keystone Athletic Club

    The Keystone Athletic Club was designed by Benno Janssen, Pittsburgh’s favorite architect for high-class clubs of all sorts. Most of them were classical in style, but for this skyscraper clubhouse Janssen chose a simple and streamlined Gothic style instead. It is now Lawrence Hall, the main building of Point Park University, so that two universities in Pittsburgh have trademark Gothic skyscrapers.

    Keystone Athletic Club emblem
    Side of the Keystone Athletic Club
    Terra-cotta tile

    Early in his career, Benno Janssen was a fiend for terra cotta; he was much more restrained later on, but he usually included some characteristically appropriate terra-cotta ornaments.

    Fujifilm FinePix HS10.
  • A Splendid Commercial Building in Manchester

    1401 Columbus Avenue

    Columbus Avenue is at the ragged back end of Manchester, where there are still many crumbling and abandoned buildings. This one, however, has been beautifully restored; it is the home of a marketing company that obviously sees the value in having a landmark building for its headquarters.

    1887 on the date stone
    Terra cotta
    Floral ornament
    1401 Columbus Avenue
    Kodak EasyShare Z981.
  • First National Bank, Verona

    First National Bank of Verona

    A rich-looking little bank dripping with terra-cotta ornaments on the façade. It later became the headquarters of the Pan-Icarian Brotherhood, a fraternal society whose membership “is open to anyone over 18 years of age (or their spouse) whose ancestry can be traced to the eastern Aegean Greek islands of Icaria or Fournoi.” These two islands made up an independent country, the Free State of Icaria, for a few months in 1912—which, by an odd coincidence, is the year this bank was built. The Pan-Icarian Brotherhood was founded in Verona; it now has a number of other chapters around the country.

    1893—The First National Bank—1912
    Pan-Icarian Brotherhood

    Map showing the location of the building.

    Cameras: Canon PowerShot SX150 IS; Kodak EasyShare Z1285.

  • Terra-Cotta Pilasters on the Donahoe Building

    Terra-cotta front of the Donahoe’s building

    Donahoe’s was a prosperous market and restaurant that commissioned William E. Snaman to design this elegant commercial palace on Forbes Avenue. Its striking terra-cotta front is still magnificent from the second floor up.

    Evening sun paints the pilasters gold

    The ground floor has been completely redesigned, though “designed” is a generous term, as we see in this picture from 2022.

    Donahoe’s Building
  • Some Decorations on the William Penn Hotel

    “William Penn Hotel” on the marquee

    The architect Benno Janssen, one of the titans of Pittsburgh architecture, was very fond of terra cotta, as he showed early in his career in the exuberant Wedgwood patterns of the Buhl Building. The William Penn is more restrained, but it is still a feast for lovers of ornament.

    Terra-cotta head
    A similar head from the front
    Window with false balcony
    William Penn between griffins
    Egg and dart with foliage
    William Penn between griffins
    Stylized head

    The head of William Penn in ceremonial Quaker headdress.

  • Harry Darlington House, Allegheny West

    Harry Darlington house

    This grand mansion was built in about 1890 for railroad magnate Harry Darlington. It occupies a tiny lot, so it is one room wide—but four storeys tall and half a block deep.

    Perspective view

    The building is decorated with numerous terra-cotta tiles with fine scrolly foliage.

    Terra cotta
    More terra cotta
    Terra cotta and arches
    Harry Darlington house from the rear

    A carriage house in the back has matching stony foundations.

  • Art Deco Telephone Exchange in Carnegie

    Telephone exchange in Carnegie

    Press C. Dowler was almost certainly the architect of this classic Art Deco telephone exchange, since he designed most of the buildings for Bell Telephone in our area during the Art Deco era.

    The blankness of the first floor is probably original. As much of the switching equipment as possible was on the ground floor, because copper was expensive, and anything that shortened the distance that had to be cabled saved a lot of money.


    The polychrome frieze is an unexpected flash of color on what is otherwise a monochrome building that makes its decorative statements with cleverly patterned brick, a few stone accents, and small terra-cotta ornaments.

    Entrance decoration
    Terra cotta
    Street names

    It used to be usual for corner buildings to carry the names of the streets in lieu of street signs. It was already old-fashioned when this building went up, but who could resist those elegant Art Deco letters?

  • W. J. Gilmore Drug Company Building

    W. J. Gilmore Drug Company Building

    This feast of deco-Gothic terra cotta on the Boulevard of the Allies was designed by Joseph F. Kuntz, who worked for the Wm. G. Wilkins Company. It opened in 1925. Several of Kuntz’s buildings are notable for their terra-cotta fronts: see, for example, the Maul Building and the Hunt Armory.

    View along the front
    Probably cast iron
    Perspective view
  • Under the Rotunda at Penn Station

    Skylight in the Rotunda

    The rotunda of Penn Station is such a remarkable structure that it has its own separate listing with the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation. The skylight is a fine example of abstract geometry in metalwork.

    Arch in the rotunda

    The current owners of the Pennsylvanian hate photographers and tourists who come up to see the rotunda, and post signs on the walk up to the rotunda warning that this is private property and no access beyond this point and, with dogged specificity, NO PROM PHOTOS. But old Pa Pitt walked up through the parking lot, taking pictures all the way, and therefore saw the signs only on the way back. Sorry about that, all ye fanatical upholders of the rights of private property, but these pictures have already been donated to Wikimedia Commons, so good luck getting them taken off line.

    Face above Philadelphia

    The four corners of the earth, or at least the four corners of the Pennsylvania Railroad, are represented on the four pillars of the rotunda.


    “Pittsburg” was the official spelling, according to the United States Post Office, when the rotunda was built in 1900.

    New York
    New York
  • Terra Cotta on Penn Station

    Union Station, Pittsburgh

    The front of Union Station, which was the official name of what we usually call Penn Station in Pittsburgh, was completely illuminated by winter sun the other day, so old Pa Pitt took the opportunity to pick out some of the multitude of terra-cotta decorations with a long lens.

    Terra cotta
    Terra cotta
    Above an arch
    Face in relief
    Another face
    Corner ornament
    Broken pediment
    Clock and shield
    Face above the shield