Instead of one obvious central business district, Mount Washington has several small business districts, of which the densest and perhaps most interesting is the one that takes up two blocks of Shiloh Street just off Grandview Avenue. Several of the buildings show a decided German influence, and this one (built in 1893) is a particularly good example of what we might call South Hills German style. (Before the First World War, the back slopes of Mount Washington were known as the “South Hills”; Beechview and the neighborhoods farther south were described as “beyond the South Hills.”)
Like most of the buildings on Shiloh Street, it is irregularly shaped, a long trapezoid with its street front on an oddly-angled short side of the building.
This is an enormous composite picture; be prepared for nearly 20 megabytes of data if you click on it.
Today this house is used as a clubhouse for residents of Chatham Village. It was built in 1844 or 1849 (Father Pitt has seen both dates) for Thomas James Bigham, a notorious abolitionist who was rumored to harbor fugitive slaves here. Fortunately for him, there was not much sympathy for slave laws in these parts: Pittsburgh was riddled with Underground Railroad stations.
These pictures were taken in late evening light (individual pictures taken with a Canon PowerShot S45, then stitched with Hugin to produce the wide angles you see here). There’s a fair amount of grain if you look closely. Low-light performance is one aspect of digital cameras that has definitely improved, and Father Pitt would do much better in low light with a more recent camera. He would also pay about a thousand dollars for a more or less equivalent camera, rather than the six dollars he paid for the old Canon.
The evening sun greets us as we come up out of the woods from one of the hillside trails in Grandview Park.
From Motion Picture World, 1912.
Father Pitt does not know the exact location of either of these establishments. The fact that the Casino was remarkable for having been in the same place for eight years shows how temporary these early theaters often were. Pittsburgh, of course, invented the movie theater, and by 1912 no neighborhood was complete without one. The larger ones, like the Casino below, also booked vaudeville acts.
From Motion Picture World, 1912.
This church sits on one of those impossibly narrow Pittsburgh streets, and it would have been very difficult to get a picture of the whole front this way without the marvels of Hugin stitching technology. A little wide-angle distortion makes the pinnacles turn inward, but overall this is a very good representation of the front of the building. It is no longer a church; now it is an apartment building, but either an appreciation of the architecture or a limited budget has kept the current owners from making any significant changes to the exterior.
Here is a huge picture of the front of St. Mary of the Mount on Grandview Avenue, Mount Washington. It’s made from eight individual pictures, all cleverly sewn together by Hugin. If you click on the picture, you can enlarge it to 4,692 × 6,569 pixels, or about 30 megapixels. (It could have been larger, but old Pa Pitt decided that 30 megapixels was probably large enough.) Many thanks to Wikimedia Commons for being willing to host huge pictures at such a level of detail.
The architect was Frederick Sauer, whose conventionally attractive churches do nothing to prepare us for the eccentric whimsy he could produce when he let his imagination run wild.
Another dip into the archives: some pictures of Chatham Village from 2005. Since the place hardly changes at all, they are current for practical purposes.
Chatham Village was a New-Deal-era utopian community, designed to be attractive cheap housing for the working classes. It was so attractive, in fact, that it is now more valuable than the neighborhood that surrounds it on Mount Washington.
The community owns the Bigham House, a fine 1844 farmhouse now used for community events and residents’ parties.
Old Pa Pitt was shocked to discover that Wikimedia Commons had very few pictures of Chatham Village. His own were taken at glorious 1-megapixel resolution, and they were huge compared to the other ones in the Commons collection. So he has donated all these pictures to Wikimedia Commons under the CC0 do-what-you-like license.