Tag: Towers

  • First United Presbyterian Church, Coraopolis

    First United Presbyterian Church

    This is a fine building in a good neighborhood, and you could buy it right now and move in. You might have to spend another million or so fixing it up, but the structure is sound and the interior of the sanctuary, from what we can see on that real-estate site, is intact in the most important details. It does need work, but the best parts of the interior are still there. If you are a congregation looking for a sanctuary, you can put your teenage members to work. That’s why you have youth groups, after all.

    The church was built in 1915; the architect was Thomas Hannah, a big deal in Pittsburgh architecture. Comparing the church today to an old postcard, we can see that nothing has changed on the outside.

    Old postcard of First United Presbyterian in Coraopolis

    Well, one thing has changed. The church accumulated decades of industrial grime, turning it into one of our splendid black-stone churches, and the blackness, though fading, has not been cleaned off. Father Pitt hopes the church will pass into the hands of someone who appreciates it in its current sooty grandeur.

    The other thing that is different is the long-gone building behind the church in the postcard. It was almost certainly the older sanctuary, probably kept standing as a social hall. It has been gone for years now.

    Front of the church

    The style of the church is what we might call Picksburgh Perpendicular, the common adaptation of Perpendicular Gothic to the more squarish auditorium-like form of Protestant churches that emphasized preaching over liturgy. Old Pa Pitt will admit that he does not like the stubby secondary tower on the left. It is probably very useful in providing space for a stairwell, but the two towers are too widely separated, as if they are not on speaking terms. The emphatic corner tower is the star of the show, and the other tower seems to be making an ineffectual attempt to upstage it. In spite of that quibble, though, this is a beautiful building that deserves appreciative owners.

    Side of the building
    Side from a different angle
  • Tower of the Courthouse

  • Fire Tower in Brookline

  • St. Mark’s School, McKees Rocks Bottoms

    St. Mark’s School

    This is a Catholic school with more than the usual touch of whimsy. Old Pa Pitt does not yet know the architect, but whoever it was decided to make a school that would strike its pupils as something out of a fairy tale. [Update: We have found that the architects were the well-known Link, Weber & Bowers, “Link” being A. F. Link and “Weber” being Edward Weber.1] It is sadly vacant and decaying right now, although at least the grounds are kept. The cornerstone tells us that the building was begun in 1928:

    Cornerstone

    Since old Pa Pitt considers this school endangered, he has many pictures to show you, so the rest will be behind a “read more” link to avoid cluttering the front page for a week.

    (more…)
  • Dormont Presbyterian Church

    Dormont Presbyterian Church with Ginkgo biloba leaves

    We have seen this especially fine church before, but since old Pa Pitt was out walking on Potomac Avenue in early-evening light, he decided that we could see it again. It is now the Dormont campus of the nondenominational North Way Christian Community, which fortunately has the money to keep up the exterior.

    Dormont Presbyterian Church, Espy Avenue side
    Tower of Dormont Presbyterian Church
    Side porch
    Espy Avenue entrance
    Parsonage

    The parsonage is just the sort of elegant and respectable dwelling you need for your Presbyterian minister. With a broad English Gothic arch at the entrance to link it to the church, it makes a good transition between the monumental church and the prosperous merchant-class houses on Espy Avenue.

    Addendum: Father Pitt tentatively attributes the church to Chauncey W. Hodgdon. Mr. Hodgdon was hired to supervise alterations in 1914, and it was considered unethical for another architect to alter or add to a building within a few years of its construction unless the original one refused, or was unavailable, or was rejected by the client.

  • The Looming Tower of East Liberty Presbyterian Church

    Tower of East Liberty Presbyterian Church

    The tower of East Liberty Presbyterian dominates the neighborhood in a way few buildings do in any urban setting.

  • St. Mary’s Church, Sharpsburg

    St. Mary’s in Sharpsburg

    Detroit architect Peter Dederichs gave us this gorgeous Renaissance basilica, which is crammed into an absurdly tiny space at the foot of the bluff in Sharpsburg. The exterior hasn’t changed in any significant way since the building went up in 1916, as we can see in a cover story in Stone magazine from February of 1919. In that story we learn that the stone was Dark Hollow Gray Bedford limestone from Indiana, and it has stood up perfectly to more than a century of Pittsburgh atmosphere.

    Front of St. Mary’s Church, Sharpsburg
    Date stone

    The foundation of the congregation.

    Date stone

    The building of the church.

    Capitals

    Capitals of the Corinthian order.

    Capital
    Capitals
    Tower
    Entrance
    Arch
    Rear of the church

    The apse, and an especially lush growth of utility cables.

    View of St. Mary’s from Penn Street

    Looking toward the church on Penn Street.

    St. Mary’s Church, Sharpsburg
  • Homestead Methodist Episcopal Church

    Built in 1911, this church served the Methodists until 1995. It is now home to the Lamb of God Church. This is a dated design for 1911; it would be interesting to know who the architect was, or whether the design was picked out of a book of stock patterns published ten or fifteen years before.

    Here, by the way, is an example of how one develops an instinct for church architecture. Father Pitt did not know what congregation originally built this church, and how would one easily find out without some research? (One might have done the research, but it is always better to spare oneself trouble if one can.) The answer is by guess. “It looks Methodist,” Father Pitt thought to himself; and, with that clue, finding the information was easy.

  • California Avenue Methodist Episcopal Church, Brighton Heights

    California Avenue Methodist Episcopal Church

    We’ll have to wait for winter to get a good view of the whole front of this interesting church, which is obscured by a lush growth of mimosa trees. But we can appreciate some of the details now.

    The architect was James N. Campbell. Old Pa Pitt knows of only two churches by Campbell still standing in Pittsburgh: this one and the old Seventh Presbyterian Church on Herron Avenue, Hill District. (There are probably others as yet unidentified.1) Both churches have similar styles, and both have similar histories. They both became African Methodist Episcopal churches: this one was Avery Memorial A. M. E. Zion Church for quite a while. They both were abandoned. This one may still have some hope: it looks as though someone has been trying to refurbish it, perhaps as a private home. But it also looks as though the renovations have stalled.

    Since Father Pitt considers this an endangered building, he has collected some pictures of the more interesting details to preserve them for posterity in case the worst should come to pass.

    Tower
    Entrance
    Bay
    Windows
    Stone ornament
    Tower again
    1. Update: Father Pitt has since identified two other churches by Campbell still standing and in good shape: Carnegie United Methodist Church and the First Presbyterian Church of Ingram, now the Ingram Masonic Hall. They both show strong similarities in style to this one. ↩︎
  • First Reformed Church, McKeesport

    First Reformed Church

    It is cheering to report that this impressive little Gothic church, once an abandoned hulk, has now been stabilized and put to use, apparently as a private home. Some of the stained glass was smashed while it was abandoned, but the remainder has been kept in place and covered with clear glass to seal up the holes. Since it sits in a prominent spot diagonally across from the Carnegie Free Library of McKeesport, it improves the neighborhood quite a bit to have this building occupied.

    Cornerstone

    The cornerstone bears a date of 1903.

    The outsized tower and shadowy inset corner porch are distinctive features.

    Porch
    Corner view