The tower of East Liberty Presbyterian dominates the neighborhood in a way few buildings do in any urban setting.
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.
The foundation of the congregation.
The building of the church.
Capitals of the Corinthian order.
The apse, and an especially lush growth of utility cables.
Looking toward the church on Penn Street.
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.
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.) 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.
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.
The cornerstone bears a date of 1903.
A fine example of Tudor Gothic applied to a small church. This is one of the decreasing number of churches in Homestead still inhabited by their original congregations. It is also one of the few churches dedicated to St. Mark the Evangelist that give us his full name.
Note the tidy little Tudor parsonage in the rear.
This curious structure is at the back end of a commercial building on Fifth Avenue, where it faces the alley called Watson Street. It’s hard to tell from the old maps, but this may be the back end of the building that used to be the Uptown postal station, Pittsburgh 19. The tower is curious for multiple reasons: first, that there is a tower here at all along the alley rather than at the front of the building where it could be seen; second, because it looks as though it was put together from two slightly mismatched halves; third, because of the extraordinarily narrow Romanesque windows that look as though someone was expecting an attack by enemy archers. The upper floor, which is what makes this look like a tower, may be a later addition.
If you enlarge the picture, you will notice a ghost sign on the building next door: Progressive People Want Perfect Liquors. The position of this sign—where it is all but invisible unless you are looking down on it from a distance with a long lens—suggests that it may be even older than the tower that obscures it.
On the end of Juniata Street, where it meets Chateau Street, is a cluster of three Baptist churches all huddled together. Two of them originally belonged to other denominations, but this one has been Baptist all its life. Originally the Beth-Eden Baptist Church, it is now called Pilgrim Baptist Church. The building was put up in 1903, when weighty Romanesque was still a popular style in Allegheny and Pittsburgh. The massive tower and the rounded end make a strong impression.
A little slice of skyline seen from the South Side Slopes.
Now a residential duplex, this is a tiny Romanesque church made to seem much more substantial by its weighty tower and its steeply pitched roof.