Two Kinds of Spanish Mission

Historical Society of Mount Lebanon

Two houses in the Spanish Mission style sit side by side on Washington Road at the southern end of the Uptown Mount Lebanon business district, and they implement the style in two interestingly different ways. This one, which is now the home of the Historical Society of Mount Lebanon, takes the style fairly seriously. A real Spanish house, in the New World or the Old, turns inward. It shuts the public out, presenting almost blank walls to the outside world. Of course Southwestern houses are also notable for their flat rooflines. In this house we have large expanses of stucco wall facing the street (although the architect has conceded some generously large front windows to Eastern sensibilities) and the flat roof characteristic of Spanish colonial architecture in the Southwest.

The other house is much more an Eastern house with decorative borrowings from the Spanish Mission style:

Spanish Mission house on Washington Road

You could take the basic shape of this house and turn it into an English cottage or an Italian Renaissance palace by changing the details. The stucco, the arcaded porch, and the tile roof are the main things that carry the “Spanish Mission” message.

Southminster Presbyterian Church, Mount Lebanon

Southminster Presbyterian Church

This tasteful Gothic church, finished in 1928, anchors the south end of the Uptown Mount Lebanon business district. The architect was Thomas Pringle, who also gave us the Salvation Army Building downtown.

West entrance

Mount Lebanon Evangelical Presbyterian Church

Mount Lebanon Evangelical Presbyterian Church

Patterned after York Minster, this English Gothic church sits on the peak of the ridge, so that its outsized towers are visible for miles.

Looking North on Washington Road, Mount Lebanon

Mount Lebanon is what old Pa Pitt calls an urban suburb. It is outside the limits of the city of Pittsburgh, but otherwise the core of it is a city neighborhood, with an urban business district. (An urban business district, in Father Pitt’s definition, is one in which the businesses line up abutting the sidewalk, with no parking lots in front of them.) “Uptown” Mount Lebanon is a pleasant place for a stroll, with many restaurants and specialty shops to lure you off the sidewalk. And as we can see in this picture, it is actually one of the broadest urban business districts in the entire metropolitan area. In Washington, D.C., this would be merely average, but Pittsburgh has very few spaces that can accommodate a commercial street this wide.

Art Deco Buildings on Washington Road, Mount Lebanon

Uptown Mount Lebanon has one of the best collections of Art Deco architecture in the area. These two buildings sit side by side on Washington Road at the corner of Alfred Street. With some confidence, old Pa Pitt identifies the Gothic fantasy on the right as an old movie theater, although he would be happy to be corrected.