John T. Comes (sometimes spelled Comès) designed a splendid Romanesque church for this congregation. It was built, however, on an improbably narrow street in the most crowded section of Lower Lawrenceville, so it is impossible to see the front as Comes designed it—unless we appeal to technology, merging fifteen separate photographs to produce one overall picture. In spite of the distortion caused by taking the pictures from a low position and altering the perspective, this imperfect picture comes very close to presenting the front of the church as the architect drew it.
Doughboy Square (named, of course, for the splendid statue of a World War I soldier) has always had the potential to be an impressive space, the gateway to Lawrenceville. But it suffered decades of neglect; in fact, it never really recovered from the Great Depression. Now, at last, the triangle (no, of course it isn’t really a square; this is Pittsburgh) is seeing a revival, with old buildings refurbished and new and architecturally sympathetic buildings put up, joining the newly trendy Lower Lawrenceville district. A good bit of the credit for the revival goes to the Desmone architectural firm, which saw the potential in the long-abandoned Pennsylvania National Bank building and restored it while the rest of Doughboy Square was mostly vacant.
Lawrenceville has two First World War memorials. The most famous is the Doughboy in Doughboy Square (which of course is a triangle) at the intersection of Penn Avenue and Butler Street. But this more modest memorial at the corner of Butler and 46th Street is a charming statue of Victory that would be the pride of any neighborhood that did not already possess a greater masterpiece.
The Butler Street gatehouse was part of the original design of the cemetery in the 1840s, and it serves its function perfectly. From a busy city street we enter a romantic fantasy landscape that might have come straight from Sir Walter Scott. The contrast is almost as great as the contrast between life and afterlife.
Lawrenceville is one of Pittsburgh’s most interesting neighborhoods. In its long history—it was the birthplace of Stephen Foster—it has never really decayed, but it has seldom been a really fashionable neighborhood. The result is a collection of houses going back to the Federalist style, many of them in good condition, and relatively few bulldozed for new developments. Now, at last, the neighborhood is becoming fashionable, but among artists who cherish the history and architecture of the place.
This house probably dates to the 1880s, but the basic shape of Lawrenceville rowhouses has remained the same for most of the neighborhood’s history. The green trim and dark red paint were the typical look of a Pittsburgh house for many decades; by contrast, the identical house to the left has been restored and pseudo-Victorianized.