To Father Pitt’s eyes, the remarkable thing about the interior of this church is how Presbyterian it looks. Later Presbyterian churches in Pittsburgh are Gothic cathedrals, or miniature versions for smaller congregations, since the Presbyterians were overwhelmingly the moneyed class in the late 1800s; but this church was built in 1869, and retains the flat-ceilinged simplicity of traditional Presbyterianism. As in several of our churches in crowded city neighborhoods, the sanctuary is on the second floor, reached by either of a pair of flights of stairs in the front (one with an elevator chair for those who need it); the ground floor is the social hall and other rooms. The front was part of an expansion in 1893, built to a grander and wealthier taste.
This Victorian storefront was given a strange Art Deco makeover at some point in the twentieth century. The makeover extended only halfway up, so the original Victorian style is perfectly preserved on the top two floors. East Carson Street on the South Side is one of the best-preserved Victorian commercial streetscapes in North America, but until very recently it was never preserved in any deliberate fashion—only by extraordinary luck.
Charles Bickel, a good and competent Pittsburgh architect most famous for Kaufmann’s department store, designed this building, but Father Pitt is not quite sure about the rest of its history. A market house was built here in 1893 and burned in 1914; it was rebuilt in 1915, but the exterior walls may have remained from the older building. Old Pa Pitt would love to hear from someone who knows definitely one way or the other. At any rate, it is one of only two original city markets left in Pittsburgh (the other is the East Liberty Market, now Motor Square Garden), neither of which is still used as a market. It sits in the middle of a tight urban square whose southern half is very much like some of the squares of London; the northern half spoils the illusion.