Litchfield Towers, Oakland

“Distinctive” is a good neutral term for these skyscraper dormitories that loom over the Oakland business district. The architect was Dahlen Ritchey, who designed three cylinders of unequal heights that he designated A, B, and C. Students quickly named them Ajax, Bab-O, and Comet.

A Toadstool


Normally Father Pitt calls them “mushrooms,” but this one, fresh out of the ground, looked so much like a storybook toadstool that one expected to see a slightly grumpy fairy sitting under it. This is almost certainly the same species as the Russula mushrooms we featured earlier, since it grew in the same patch of shady lawn.

Camera: Konica-Minolta DiMAGE Z3.

Old Church Turned into Alley Houses, South Side

Father Pitt knows nothing of the history of this building at 23rd Street and Larkins Way other than what is written in the bricks. It appears to be an old church, probably dating from the earliest development of East Birmingham, that was later converted into four tiny houses facing Larkins Way. To judge by the style, the conversion is not recent. And that is about as much as Father Pitt can read in the bricks, so any more information or corrections would be much appreciated.

Camera: Canon PowerShot S45.

Uptown Mount Lebanon

The whole of Uptown, the central business district of Mount Lebanon, was included last year in a new Mount Lebanon Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places. The district was designated as an outstanding example of an early automobile suburb of the 1920s, but the automobile was only half the story. Until the middle 1980s, streetcars ran down the middle of Washington Road; now they run under part of Mount Lebanon in a subway tunnel, emerging behind the business district with stairway and elevator access to the middle of everything. The ideal automobile suburb is one in which an automobile is not a necessity.

Camera: Canon PowerShot S45. The streetscape above and the picture of the Rosalia building are composites.

Duquesne Brewing Co. Building, South Side

The Duquesne Brewing Company produced what used to be Pittsburgh’s favorite beer. This old building has had a hard life since the brewery closed; it was taken over by artist squatters for a while, who probably kept it from falling to pieces, but the city has no tolerance for poor squatters who claim buildings that could be redeveloped by rich people. The various attempts at redevelopment seem to get only so far, however. Right now it seems to be in the middle of one of those attempts, and for the building’s sake we may hope that this one succeeds.

Martin’s Cabin

Martin’s Cabin is a log house of the 1700s preserved in Schenley Park. There are not very many buildings of that era left within city limits: the Fort Pitt Blockhouse, the Neill Log House, this cabin, and possibly the Old Stone Tavern are the only ones Father Pitt knows of.  It is a curious fact that all the grand houses of stone and brick in old Pittsburgh have long since disappeared, but this humble poor man’s cabin remains.  (UPDATE: Note the kind comment below reminding us of the John Woods House in Hazelwood, which is in fact a stone house, though not one of the grandest of its time.)

Camera: Canon PowerShot S45.

Strand Theatre Building, Oakland

This once-splendid movie house on Forbes Avenue was designed by Harry S. Bair, a specialist in neighborhood movie palaces who also designed the Regent in East Liberty. According to comments on, it was built with the screen at the street end: you had to walk up a long hall to come in at the rear of the theater. Thus it took advantage of the hillside location to make a naturally sloped auditorium. The building ceased to be a theater about four decades ago; it is now retail stores and apartments.

The picture above is a composite of four photographs.