Tag: Titus de Bobula

  • First Hungarian Reformed Church, Hazelwood

    First Hungarian Reformed Church

    And then there’s Titus de Bobula.

    There are few real outliers among the architects who worked in Pittsburgh before the First World War; we had brilliant architects, but we can sort most of them into groups by the styles they worked in. Titus de Bobula’s work, however, is unique here. He brought us a breath of Budapest Art Nouveau, and for a few years he was the favorite architect for East European churches of all sorts.

    And then he was gone—back to Hungary, where his regular job seems to have been trying and failing to overthrow the government. Later he ended up back in the United States, but he never again had a great architectural career. Perhaps that was because he worked with Nikola Tesla, designing the structural parts of Tesla’s never-built (and possibly delusional) superweapons. It might have been a good job at the time, but no permanent structures ever came of it.

    So we should try as hard as we can to preserve what remains of de Bobula’s work. Fortunately this church, built in 1903, still belongs to its original congregation and is still active.

    The shape of the building is similar to the shape of your average Pittsburgh Gothic church, but the details are straight from fin-de-siècle Budapest—right down to Titus de Bobula’s trademark Art Nouveau lettering in the inscriptions.

    Inscription
    Entrance

    The wildly irregular stonework around the uniquely shaped windows may remind you a bit of Gaudi.

    Isten hozott

    “Welcome” in stained glass over the main entrance.

    Signature

    Titus de Bobula made a habit of signing his buildings. The rail of a later wheelchair ramp obstructs part of this inscription (the contractor was Bodine and Co.), but we can see enough to appreciate the Art Nouveau lettering.

    First Hungarian Reformed Church
  • 418 First Avenue

    Update: The massive survey of historic buildings adopted by the city in 1994 tentatively identifies this building as a work of Titus de Bobula. That would certainly explain its eccentric style: Pittsburgh never had another architect like him. It would also date the building between 1903 and 1910. If we read the map correctly, it first appears on the map layer dated 1903–1906 at the Pittsburgh Historic Maps site, so this might have been one of de Bobula’s early commissions here. Our original remarks appear below.


    It has not been possible to find any information about the age or architect of this curious building in the limited time old Pa Pitt was willing to devote to the task. The researchers who compiled information for the Firstside Historic District also threw up their hands. It is a mostly utilitarian small warehouse, but with angular decorations that suggest a prickly version of Art Deco. Right now you can buy it if you like, and then you might find more clues to its origin among the debris of the decades.

  • St. Peter & St. Paul Ukrainian Orthodix Church, Carnegie

    There are two Ukrainian churches in Carnegie. The Catholic one is an enlarged Quonset hut. This one is an Art Nouveau interpretation of traditional Ukrainian architecture by the Hungarian architect Titus de Bobula. Together with its next-door neighbor, the Russian Orthodox church, it makes this corner of Carnegie look exotically East European.

    The effect is even more curious when the distinctively Ukrainian domes are seen through a distinctively American maze of utility cables.

  • Old St. John the Baptist Byzantine Catholic Cathedral, Munhall

    The cathedral moved farther out into the suburbs (though still in Munhall borough), and this is now the National Carpatho-Rusyn Cultural and Educational Center—an institution that keeps no regular hours and obviously can barely afford to keep the building standing. But the church is loved, and we may hope that whatever love can accomplish will be done for it. The architect was Titus de Bobula, a Hungarian who designed several churches around here. He is a fascinating character: he went back to Hungary in the 1920s and was imprisoned for plotting to overthrow the government; then he came back here and designed more churches, while simultaneously working on the designs for the structural aspects of Nikola Tesla’s fantastic, and possibly delusional, electronic superweapons, which of course were never built. It is not often that we find such a direct line from a Carpatho-Rusyn cathedral to the world of science fiction.

    Connoisseurs of elegant lettering should not miss the plaque identifying the architect, contractor, and building date. Father Pitt suspects that de Bobula himself designed it: there is nothing else quite like it in Pittsburgh, and the style seems very much like the Art Nouveau of Budapest.