Father Pitt

Greentree’s Little Egypt

Posted in Architecture, Greentree by Dr. Boli on September 13, 2014

This spectacularly odd building houses the headquarters of M. S. Jacobs & Associates, an engineering firm. But the Egyptian style, and the location right across the street from the Chartiers Cemetery, tell us that it was originally in the death business; in fact, according to the all-knowing Internet, it was built in 1920 for a monument dealer.

Tagged with:

Gulf Tower from Frank Curto Park

Posted in Architecture, Downtown by Dr. Boli on September 11, 2014

The Gulf Tower, with the Koppers Tower (left) and partly completed Tower at PNC Plaza (right). As time goes on, every skyscraper that used to be a “building” changes its name to “tower.”

Tagged with:

The Tower at PNC Plaza, August, 2014

Posted in Architecture, Downtown by Dr. Boli on August 29, 2014

The skeleton is in place and the sides are filling in.

This picture is made available under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication, so no permission is needed to use it for any purpose whatsoever.

The Classical Orders

Posted in Architecture by Dr. Boli on July 23, 2014

Since old Pa Pitt often talks about classical architecture as it is imitated and adapted in our buildings, he shamelessly borrows his own article on the classical orders from his own Pittsburgh Cemeteries site.

Every schoolchild learns that there are three orders of classical architecture—Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian—and that they can easily be distinguished by the capitals of their columns. And every schoolchild promptly forgets that information. So here it is again.

The Doric order is the simplest of the three, easily recognized by the square capitals.

The Ionic order has distinctive “volutes,” which most ordinary observers would call “curlicues.”

The Corinthian is the most complex of the three, with capitals carved in the shape of a basket of acanthus leaves. The easiest way for the ordinary observer to recognize it is by knowing that it is not Doric and not Ionic, and that the capitals look complex and fiddly.

Corinthian columns also have small volutes, as we see above. When the volutes become more prominent, so that the column looks half-Corinthian and half-Ionic, as we see below, the order is called Composite—a term that came into use during the Renaissance for columns that the Romans would have called Corinthian with big volutes.

The Romans added one more order, which they considered even simpler than the Doric: the Tuscan order, whose columns have simple round capitals rather than the square capitals of the Doric. The Tuscan order is seldom used in our cemeteries.

There’s more than the columns to each order of architecture: there are rules about proportions, and there are rules about mixing the orders in a building with more than one level. (Doric on the bottom, Ionic above Doric, and Corinthian above Ionic.) The architects of mausoleums may or may not follow all the rules. But the capitals are easy to distinguish, so when we say “a Doric mausoleum,” we usually mean one with Doric capitals, whether it follows all the other rules or not.

Grant Building

Posted in Architecture, Downtown by Dr. Boli on June 29, 2014


Henry Hornbostel’s only real skyscraper was briefly the tallest thing in Pittsburgh when it opened in 1929, before being surpassed two years later by the Gulf Building. It’s famous for the air beacon on top—red until recently, but now green to match the logo of the Huntington Bank—that flashes “Pittsburgh” all night in Morse Code. Behind and to the left, the building with three enormous arches is Hornbostel’s City-County Building.

Tagged with:

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 88 other followers