St. Mary’s Church, McKees Rocks

Now the home of St. John of God Parish, this is a splendid Gothic church that many another Catholic diocese would be proud to have for its cathedral. The fact that there are literally dozens of churches equally splendid in Pittsburgh and its surroundings is something Pittsburghers simply accept, but it absolutely astonishes outsiders. This one took four years to build; it opened in 1905. The architect was Akron-based William P. Ginther.

Camera: Olympus E-20n.

Here we see the main entrance and the top end of the improvised wooden wheelchair ramp, which looks like a Kennywood ride—perfectly safe but rather exciting.

Camera: Konica-Minolta DiMAGE Z3.

This was originally the German parish in this part of McKees Rocks. Above we see it from the parish cemetery, which is on a hilltop overlooking McKees Rocks in Kennedy Township.

William P. Ginther also designed the adjoining rectory, which is certainly a fine place to keep one’s priests.

Camera: Canon PowerShot A590 (hacked).

Camera: Olympus E-20n.

Father Pitt does not know the original purpose of the building that is now the Xavier Personal Care Home. It looks like a work from the 1920s or 1930s, executed in the storybook fantasy Gothic that was popular then. Was it a convent for the sisters who taught at the parish school? Perhaps a parishioner will enlighten us.

Concordia Club

The Concordia Club was one of a number of fine clubs in Oakland; it lasted until 2009, when its building was sold to the University of Pittsburgh, which made it into the O’Hara Student Center. It was founded “to promote social and literary entertainment among its members,” and it seems always to have been a largely Jewish organization. Father Pitt does not know the details of the sale, but it took at least the club’s Web site by surprise. The site is frozen in 2009, with a calendar of events whose last entry is April 30, 2009: Annual Meeting and Dinner.

The building itself was designed by the prolific Charles Bickel, who could always be relied on to make the client proud.

Three PNC Plaza

An architectural rendering of the first of the new wave of “green” skyscrapers in Pittsburgh. In spite of its modest dimensions, it was the largest building put up downtown in many years, and kicked off what will probably be remembered as the third downtown Renaissance.

Two PNC Plaza

Seen from the Smithfield Street side of the plaza. The “plaza” itself could have been a distinctive and beautiful urban space, but poor and seemingly random planning—of which the intrusive parking-garage entrance here is a good example—has marred it.

Earlier we published a view of Two PNC Plaza from the Liberty Avenue side.

May Building

Built in 1909, this is a typical small Beaux-Arts skyscraper. Its base has been unsympathetically modernized, and perhaps at the same time it grew an ugly parasitic infestation in the rear; but the basic shape of the building is still intact.

One Gateway Center

One Gateway Center seen from across the Allegheny. The three Gateway Center towers were one of the most-watched developments in postwar America; it seemed as though the modernist ideal of towers-in-a-park would finally obliterate congestion and unpleasantness in our cities, and the original plan was to cover the whole Point with identical towers. Fortunately money ran out long before that happened. Money concerns also spared us at the last minute from the pedestrian brick cladding that was planned for these towers; it proved cheaper to encase them in shimmering metal. The result is an International Style cruciform tower with a bit of the elegance of Art Deco.

Eggers & Higgins, the architects, were the successors to John Russell Pope, and thus responsible for completing the Jefferson Memorial in Washington. Clearly they were stylistically versatile.

Camera: Canon PowerShot S45.

Fulton Building

Camera: Konica Minolta DiMAGE Z3.

Designed by Grosvenor Atterbury, this is now the Renaissance Hotel. The entrance to the Byham Theater is on the Sixth Street side of the building; the theater is actually a different building next door, the entrance being a long passage all the way through the Fulton Building.

The grand arch in the light well seems to echo the arch of the Roberto Clemente Bridge—a coincidence, since the bridge was put up about twenty years later. It is a pleasure to see an architect making the light well a feature rather than hiding it in the rear as if he were ashamed of it.

Camera: Olympus E-20n.