Tag: Terra Cotta

  • Lee School, Beechview

    Lee School

    A small school by a distinguished architect: Charles M. Bartberger, who gave us several fine schools. (He is often confused with his father, Charles F. Bartberger, who designed some prominent churches.) The Lee School is now a retirement home under the name Gualtieri Manor.

    Entrance

    The entrance is surrounded by tasteful terra-cotta ornamentation.

    Inscription
    Vitruvian wave

    This pattern is called a Vitruvian wave, named for Vitruvius, the ancient Roman author whose manual on architecture became the arbiter of everything that was proper in design during the Renaissance.

    Oblique view
    Arms of the city of Pittsburgh

    The arms of the city of Pittsburgh over the entrance.

  • Samson Dealer, Oakland

    Sampson Motors dealer

    Continuing our visits to car dealers of the past, we come to the Samson dealer. At least it seems to be a Samson dealer, although it could also be a Sampson dealer. Our 1923 map shows it as “Samson [sic] Motor Co.,’ but these maps are prone to slight misspellings. On the other hand, Sampson was a very rare brand of car, and this seems like a fairly grand dealer to be built for a rare marque. On the third hand, Samson was a brand of tractors and trucks in the early 1920s, and this looks like a rather classy building for a dealer in farm implements. At any rate, it was a motor-vehicle dealer of some sort. More recently it was a gallery of some sort, and now it is decaying, although part of the building appears to be still in use.

    The front is a feast of terra-cotta details.

    Service entrance]

  • Renshaw Building

    Renshaw

    The Renshaw Building at Liberty Avenue and Ninth Street was built in 1910, with an extra floor added to the top at some time in the modernistic era. It’s a perfect miniature skyscraper, with base, shaft, cap, and the outlined bosses’ floor above the main floor. There are some good terra-cotta decorations, especially around the Ninth Street entrance.

    Renshaw Building
    Nonth Street entrance
    Frieze
  • Pair of Commercial Buildings on Penn Avenue

    Two buildings very similar in size and shape and remarkably dissimilar in decoration. The one on the left has attractive but very ordinary classical details. The one on the right is festooned with terra-cotta tiles in an almost shocking green.

  • Pierce-Arrow Dealer, Shadyside

    Painter-Dunn building

    We continue our visits to car dealers of the mythic past with one that catered to the very highest class of motorist. The Painter-Dunn Company sold Pierce-Arrow cars, a luxury brand that lasted until 1938. This dealership is the architectural equivalent of the Pierce-Arrow advertisements, which concentrated on elegant design without trying to tell us how good the car was. The design conveyed the message.

    Pierce-Arrow advertisement
    Decorative details

    Father Pitt does not know the whole history of this building. The elaborate cornice at the top of the second floor suggests that the third floor was a tastefully managed later addition.

    From Millvale Avenue

    Note how Millvale Avenue runs right into the garage entrance.

  • Craig Street Automotive Row Again

    Old Pa Pitt was not satisfied with the pictures he published of the Craig Street automotive row two weeks ago. The light was wrong: the sun was behind the buildings. We did our best with those pictures, but really the only way to get better ones would be to return at a different time of day. Father Pitt is so thoroughly dedicated to his readers that he did exactly that, so now here is a duplicate of that article, but with better pictures.


    If this is not unique in North America, it has to be at least very rare: a complete contiguous row of buildings from the early days of the automotive industry, intact and largely unaltered. They are lined up one after another, without any gaps, along Craig Street from Baum Boulevard northward. It is one of Pittsburgh’s unrecognized treasures. Fortunately only one of the buildings seems to be endangered at the moment: the others have found new uses, and the owners have not made substantial alterations to the façades, several of which have fine terra-cotta details.


    Update: Father Pitt has made a composite photograph of the whole row at once, so you can see how the buildings fit together.


    In 1905, a splendid amusement park opened on this site: Luna Park, the first of a chain of Luna Parks that spanned the globe.

    Luna Park

    This one did not last long, however: it closed in 1909—partly as a result of competition from the well-established Kennywood Park, where you can now see a smaller model of the Luna Park entrance.

    The closing of the park opened up a broad expanse of cleared land, and the newly rich automobile industry moved in here. By 1923, all these buildings had been constructed in a long row.

    Oakland Motor Car Co.

    We begin at the corner of Baum Boulevard, where the grandest of the lot actually sold low-priced cars. This was a dealer in—coincidentally—Oakland motor cars, which were named for Oakland County, Michigan, where they were made. Oakland was General Motors’ cheap division before GM bought Chevrolet.

    Franklin

    Next in the row up Craig Street is a Franklin dealer.

    Tire dealers

    Next come two tire dealers in identical buildings. The one on the left sold Kelly-Springfield; the one on the right sold B. F. Goodrich. These buildings are now the Luna Lofts, which probably sounds better than Kelly-Springfield and B. F. Goodrich Tire Lofts.

    Jordan

    Here is the one building Father Pitt considers endangered, because vacant and ill-kept buildings catch fire mysteriously. It belonged to the Van Kleeck Motor Co., which sold Jordan automobiles. The façade is mostly original, though it has had some curious alterations, especially the door to nowhere with its tiny iron balcony. The terra-cotta decorations are well preserved, and Father Pitt was able to pick some of them out with a long lens:

    Terra cotta
    Terra cotta
    Terra cotta

    Oldsmobile

    Next comes an Oldsmobile dealer.

    Nash

    And finally the Nash dealer, now home to a branch of North Way Christian Community, which has made the front look gorgeous.

    This is the whole contiguous row along Craig Street, and it is incredible enough that the entire block of buildings has survived intact. There were also other car dealers in the same immediate area, and even more remarkably they have survived, too. We’ll be seeing more of them soon.

  • Craig Street Automotive Row, Oakland

    Update: Father Pitt has improved on these pictures and published more or less the same article over again, but with much better lighting.

    Oakland Motor Car Co.

    If this is not unique in North America, it has to be at least very rare: a complete contiguous row of buildings from the early days of the automotive industry, intact and largely unaltered. They are lined up one after another, without any gaps, along Craig Street from Baum Boulevard northward. It is one of Pittsburgh’s unrecognized treasures. Fortunately only one of the buildings seems to be endangered at the moment: the others have found new uses, and the owners have not made substantial alterations to the façades, several of which have fine terra-cotta details.

    In 1905, a splendid amusement park opened on this site: Luna Park, the first of a chain of Luna Parks that spanned the globe.

    Luna Park

    This one did not last long, however: it closed in 1909—partly as a result of competition from the well-established Kennywood Park, where you can now see a smaller model of the Luna Park entrance.

    The closing of the park opened up a broad expanse of cleared land, and the newly rich automobile industry moved in here. By 1923, all these buildings had been constructed in a long row.

    We begin at the corner of Baum Boulevard (the picture at the top of the article), where the grandest of the lot actually sold low-priced cars. This was a dealer in—coincidentally—Oakland motor cars, which were named for Oakland County, Michigan, where they were made. Oakland was General Motors’ cheap division before GM bought Chevrolet.

    Capital

    The ornate capitals of the corner columns are worth a closer look.

    Franklin

    Next in the row up Craig Street is a Franklin dealer.

    Tire dealers

    Next come two tire dealers in identical buildings. The one on the left sold Kelly-Springfield; the one on the right sold B. F. Goodrich. These buildings are now the Luna Lofts, which probably sounds better than Kelly-Springfield and B. F. Goodrich Tire Lofts.

    Jordan

    Here is the one building Father Pitt considers endangered, beacuse vacant and ill-kept buildings catch fire mysteriously. It belonged to the Van Kleeck Motor Co., which sold Jordan automobiles. The façade is mostly original, though it has had some curious alterations, especially the door to nowhere with its tiny iron balcony.

    Oldsmobile

    Next (and please forgive the glare from the sun in the wrong part of the sky) comes an Oldsmobile dealer.

    Nash

    And finally the Nash dealer, now home to a branch of North Way Christian Community, which has made the front look gorgeous.

    This is the whole contiguous row along Craig Street, and it is incredible enough that the entire block of buildings has survived intact. There were also other car dealers in the same immediate area, and even more remarkably they have survived, too. In the future, Father Pitt hopes to bring you pictures of the Chevrolet dealer, the Packard dealer, the Studebaker dealer, the Ford dealer, and the Sampson dealer.

  • Maul Building, South Side

    Maul Building

    The Maul Building, built in 1910, was designed by the William G. Wilkins Company, the same architects who did the Frick & Lindsay building (now the Andy Warhol Museum). Both buildings are faced with terra cotta, and both lost their cornices—the one on the Andy Warhol Museum has been carefully reconstructed from pictures, but the one here is just missing. The rest of the decorations, though, are still splendid.

    Indian head
    Swag
    Torch
    Pilaster
  • Terra-Cotta Decorations on the Buhl Building

    Terra cotta

    The Buhl Building, an earlier work of Benno Janssen, is covered with Wedgwood-style terra-cotta decorations. Below, the Market Street end of the building.

    Buhl Building
    Terra cotta
  • Mayor Guthrie

    Relief of Mayor Guthrie

    George W. Guthrie was mayor of Pittsburgh when the Keenan Building was put up in 1907, and here is his face among the terra-cotta decorations on the building, where he keeps company with other prominent men of Pittsburgh. Pittsburghers remember Guthrie as the mayor who finally engineered the successful conquest of Allegheny, so North Siders sometimes think of him the way Ukrainians think of Vladimir Putin. Perhaps his most important accomplishment, though, was clean city water that, for the first time, brought typhoid under control in Pittsburgh, where it had been a scourge for the first century and a half of the city’s existence.