Tag: Victorian Architecture

  • Arsenal Bank Building

    We saw the 1884 Arsenal Bank earlier from across Butler Street. Here is the 43rd Street side of the building, which we can see clearly thanks to the disappearance years ago of the neighboring buildings.

  • Steifel Building, Lawrenceville

    The intersection of Butler and 44th Streets forms an acute angle. The architect of this attractive commercial building (it probably dates from the 1870s) blunted what would otherwise have been an unattractively sharp corner by placing the entrance there, spreading the turn across two angles.

  • 905 Liberty Avenue

    This exceptionally attractive industrial building is now—we really don’t have to say this, but we will anyway—loft apartments.

  • A Queen Anne Survivor on Craig Street

    House on Craig Street

    Among the institutional buildings and skyscraper apartments on Craig Street are a few domestic survivors of old Bellefield, the pleasant suburban village that occupied the eastern part of Oakland. Here is one of them, a fine Queen Anne house that has lost very little of its original splendor. It now houses the Tamarind Indian restaurant.

    Front gable

    The richly decorated front gable is especially worth noting.


    A bit of carving picked out by a very long lens.

    Side gable

    The sub-gable over the side bay was richly decorated as well. Note the many textures that come together here: roof shingles (they would have been slate originally), wooden shingles, carved wood, wavy board siding, terra-cotta frieze, decoratively textured brick.

  • Welsh Congregational Church, South Side

    Welsh Congregational Church, South Side

    We are going to use our imaginations here to bring the East Birmingham of a century and a half ago back to life.

    Take a good look at this VFW hall. Now erase the belligerently patriotic mural. Then strip away the improvised vestibule at the end. Then take away the side entrance. Then unblock the windows along the side (old Pa Pitt does not know what demonic secret rituals the veterans practice that would be spoiled by natural light, but they seem to have an aversion to it).

    What you will have left is a little old church building, probably from just after the Civil War. It appears on an 1872 map as “Welsh Cong. Ch.,” and so for many years after; but by 1923 it had been transferred to another congregation, and appears as a “Polish M. E. Ch.” (M. E. for Methodist Episcopal). At least half a dozen churches on the South Side were bought by East Europeans around the turn of the twentieth century. We might call it Nordic flight: people of northwestern European ancestry fled the South Side as undesirable East Europeans poured in.

    Methodists were never a large segment of the Polish population, and at some point the church changed hands again, going out of the religion business entirely. But not much has really changed about the exterior. The outlines of a typical small middle-1800s church are clearly visible. It would be fairly easy and inexpensive to restore it to something like its original appearance, and—unlike large churches—small churches like this have many uses. If the Veterans of Foreign Wars are ever interested in selling, they should ask Father Pitt first.

  • The Best-Preserved Victorian Streetscape in America

    1324 East Carson Street

    Some architectural historians say that about Carson Street on the South Side, and it certainly has a lot of distinguished Victorian commercial architecture. Here’s an album from a stroll down Carson Street on a rainy evening.

    1320 East Carson Street
    1302 East Carson Street
    1514 East Carson Street
    1712 East Carson Street
    1716 East Carson Street
  • 820 Liberty Avenue

    820 Liberty Avenue

    A splendid Victorian commercial building from 1881. The huge windows suggest showrooms or possibly workshops; the northwestern exposure would have given those rooms bright even lighting all day. Next door is the Baum Building, built as the Liberty Theater.

  • One Block on the South Side


    What is there to see in one block of rowhouses on one back street on the South Side? Old Pa Pitt asked that question, and then got out a camera to answer it. Here are a few little details from the 2200 block of Sarah Street.

    Lintel and bracket

    And, of course, because this is Pittsburgh…

    Aluminum awnings

    Kool-Vent awnings.

  • Arsenal Bank Building, Lawrenceville

    Arsenal Bank Building

    Built in 1884 in a Victorian Gothic style—Father Pitt calls it Commercial Gothic—this was a bank until 1943, according to the Lawrenceville expert Jim Wudarczyk. After that it was offices for quite a while, and then was refurbished as a restaurant and apartments above. This is not a great work of architecture, but the details are interesting and worth a close look. The builder reveled in his corner location and made that corner the focus of the whole building. Old Pa Pitt can’t help thinking that the treatment of the windows could have been improved by making it either more interesting or less interesting; the stone accents are either too much or too little.

  • Dollar Bank

    Dollar Bank

    The adjective “tasteful” does not naturally attach itself to this structure. It has the look of a building specified by a banker who hired an expensive architect and was determined to wring every cent of his money’s worth out of the details. It is magnificent in a slightly horrifying way: this is the kind of monstrosity that was in the minds of the modernists when they condemned all things Victorian. Old Pa Pitt would not change a single swirl or swag or grotesque half-vegetable naked lady.

    The architect in question was the firm of Isaac H. Hobbs & Sons from Philadelphia. Isaac H. Hobbs was a kind of celebrity architect. He was familiar to the thousands of ladies across our fair land who read Godey’s Lady’s Book, the premier fashion magazine of the middle 1800s: every month, Hobbs contributed a design for an elaborately Victorian residence for the lady readers to drool over. It was something like having a regular segment on a popular daytime talk show today. According to the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation’s Fourth Avenue walking tour (PDF), Hobbs designed a number of houses around Pittsburgh, but Father Pitt does not know any of them; he wonders whether they were original designs, or whether they were adaptations of the many designs published in Godey’s.

    It appears that the crust of 150-year-old ornamentation requires some stabilization: netting is stretched over the top half of the building at the moment.