Sacred Row

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This is a fascinating structure I discovered on the South Side Flats. A friend and I were going around the neighborhood looking at adaptively reused church buildings. While going from one building we knew of to another location, we stumbled upon this building. From what I’ve pulled together so far, this building was built sometime between 1876 and 1884 as four rowhouses. In 1926, the Second Greek Catholic St John the Baptist Church of the South Side purchased the property. The deed described the structure as four 4-room houses. When the Second Greek Catholic St John the Baptist Church sold the property in 1959, the deed described the property as four 2-story brick party wall houses.

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However, when you look at the side of the building facing 23rd St, it appears that at one time, this property was used as a church. The middle of the three boarded up openings on this side looks like it used to be a door for an entrance into a church that has been partially bricked up. From this I assume that while the Second Greek Catholic St John the Baptist Church owned the property, they renovated to use as their place of worship with a main front door and two windows.

I look forward to learning more about this structure and its history. I suspect there is an interesting story that connects this building to the 1st St John the Baptist Greek Church which is still in operation at the corner of E Carson St and 7th and the 2nd St John the Baptist Greek Church that set up just down the block at 615 E Carson St before moving to Jane St. From the pieces I’ve found so far there was a severe split in the South Side congregation that involved boycotts and arrests of arguing members and former members.  I’m not sure yet how this rowhouse/church may have fit into that struggle.

 

 

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Heth’s Run Bridge: Redux

Heth’s Run Bridge, the first bridge I posted about in my Pittsburgh bridges project, is scheduled to be replaced by the end of next year.  The notice to proceed was expected to be issued last week with construction beginning on Sept. 24 with the installation of a temporary road around the bridge, through the zoo’s parking lot.  According to the schedule that was passed out at a community meeting at the end of August, the bridge is expected to close with all car traffic being diverted to the temporary road on Nov. 1st.  Due to the turning radius constraints with the temporary road, trucks will not be permitted and will instead be by way of the Highland Park Bridge, Route 28 and the 62nd Street Bridge.  If all goes according to schedule the bridge should reopen to all traffic on October 1, 2014.  Additional road work will continue through October.  After final inspections, the project is expected to be officially completed by December 8, 2014.

Heth's Run Bridge's hazardous sidewalk

This is a PennDOT project expected to cost over $18.5 million and is definitely needed.  As I discuss in my Heth’s Run Bridge Part II and Highland Park Bridge posts, the sidewalks here are in desperate need of repair and the proportion of sidewalk to road across the bridge is at least 50 years out of date.  All this is going to be addressed in the reconstruction.  The new bridge is going to have two lanes in each direction to match the roadway on either end.  Additional features of the new bridge will be decorative railing, period lighting, entrance pylons, and “architectural features on the abutments with form liners” (which I believe refers to new urns).  At the community meeting, it was mentioned that the current urns will be saved and kept in a warehouse until a new home is found for them.

In addition to the bridge, about 870 feet of Butler Street are going to be reconstructed including sidewalks.  My understanding is that this is the part of Butler from the Heth’s Run Bridge to the ramps of the Highland Park Bridge, which should take care of my complaints about the condition of the sidewalk for those of us trying to cross the Highland Park Bridge without a car.  This should also clear up the confusion for the outbound traffic of whether this part of the road is one lane or two as the plans include removing the “kink” from the existing alignment.

New signals and ADA ramps will be installed at the intersections of Butler with One Wild Place and with Baker Streets.

Another major part of the project is the excavation under the bridge to an elevation of 762.  According to GoogleEarth, the bridge is at an elevation of 800 ft. I’m not sure if this will restore the bridge to its exact historic height, but it will be close (see the photo of the previous bridge from 1912).  This will also pave the way for connecting this area to the proposed Allegheny Riverfront Green Boulevard project.

This project will no doubt cause some inconveniences during the construction process, but the construction of the temporary road will significantly cut down on this even though it adds over a month to the process.  Imagine instead, everyone having to go on the truck detour or all the Zoo traffic coming down Morningside Ave and Baker Street instead of One Wild Place and Butler Street.  That would be a true nightmare.  Thank you, PennDOT and the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium for the temporary road.  Thank you, PennDOT and any other funders, Sen. Jim Ferlo, Rep. Dom Costa, and anyone else who had a hand in helping bring about this long overdue project.

I can’t wait to walk over the new bridge when it’s finished!

More information about the project including the design of the temporary road can be found here: http://morningside-pa.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/hethsrunbridge.pdf

The World’s Tallest Church Building

Chicago Temple

Everything in Chicago is stretched–even churches.  My eye was caught by this building as I looked to cross a street in Chicago and saw the steeple on top of this skyscraper a couple blocks down.  I was very confused at first, trying to figure out why an office building had a steeple on top of it.  Then I saw the name of the church, First United Methodist Church, carved into the side of the building.  The only other indication on the exterior visible from a distance that suggested the religious use of the interior was the doorway.

Chicago Temple Doorway

This building is also known as the Chicago Temple.  The congregation was founded in 1831 and has been worshiping at this site since 1838.  The current building was built in 1924 and has 23 floors.

One of my souvenirs from Chicago was the book “City of the Century” by Donald L. Miller, which describes the history of Chicago up to the 1893 World’s Fair.  So it doesn’t talk about the building of this church building, but it does describe the building of the Auditorium–Chicago’s multipurpose Opera House.  The book notes “there was no government support of the arts in the United States, so the Auditorium would have to pay for itself” (361).  As a result the theater was enclosed in a office/hotel complex.

It seemed like there might have been similar thinking in the design of this church building–as real estate was expensive downtown, covering the church with office space could help it afford its location.  However, if that is why the building is mixed-use, it was not inspired by the Auditorium, which was built in the late 1880s.  According the history page of the church’s website, there has been a multipurpose church building on this site since 1858.  The first one was a 4-story structure with stores and businesses on the first two floors and the church above.

First Methodist Church

The new building has a two-story sanctuary on the first floor.  Accounts differ as to how many this can hold (500, 1000, 1200 people).  The second floor has another smaller sanctuary.  Floors three and four hold the accessory rooms–classrooms, meeting rooms, etc.  The parson’s house is also located in the building.  The remaining floors are office space.  The crowning jewel, is a small chapel underneath the steeple.

I regret that I did not take the time to stop and investigate whether I could explore the inside of the building.  As I was focused on a specific task when I came upon the building, I did not even think about trying to see inside.  If you are interested, I found a YouTube video that shows what I take to be the first floor sanctuary and the small chapel under the steeple.

A Picture for Posterity

Meter Row

As I was walking down Penn Avenue this week, I stopped to take this picture before it was gone forever.  Pittsburgh is joining the ranks of cities that use multispace meter systems.  The city’s individual parking meters are slowly disappearing as they are replaced by the multispace system.  Yet even before the transition began, Pittsburgh’s parking meters were suffering.  A complete row of intact meters marching off into the distance, such as those pictured, has been a rare sight in the city for years.  Usually there are at least a few with their heads chopped off or their stalks bent.  On close inspection, this row did have graffiti on many of the heads and at least one meter was out of order.  However, in the spring sunshine, these meters looked almost pristine with their gold heads gleaming.

Hot Metal Bridge

After walking the Hot Metal Bridge, I realized that it is really three separate bridges.  One of the bridges is the bike/pedestrian bridge pictured above that crosses over Second Avenue.  The other two are in the background of the image above–one carries all vehicular traffic while the other carries all pedestrians and bicycles.  The bridge pictured above is not structurally connected with either of the other bridges.  The two bridges that span the Monongahela River were built at different times.  While at this end (north) the bridges are at the same level, they are at two different elevations on the other side of the river.

The Hot Metal Bridge is one of the more locally famous and popular bridges in the city.  In my experience of participating in and overhearing people’s conversations locally about Pittsburgh bridges, the Hot Metal and Smithfield Street bridges are the two that come up the most as fun to use and interesting.  In the case of the Hot Metal Bridge, this is perhaps because it used to be a set of railroad bridges which have now been converted.  They were built and used by the Jones & Laughlin Company to connect its sites on opposites of the river.  The name of the bridge (Hot Metal) came from the fact that the trains were carrying molten metal from one factory to another.  There are, or at least there were, placards along Water Street along the South Side Works that describe the history of the J&L steel company on this site and on the bridge.  I don’t know if they are still up as there is currently construction going on in this area.

According to the description attached to the oldest image of the bridge on Historic Pittsburgh, the bridge was built in 1887.  This image, as well as PGHbridges.com’s page for the bridge, identifies the names of the two structures as the Monongahela Connecting Railroad Bridge (now the vehicular bridge) and the Hot Metal Bridge (now the pedestrian bridge).  The G.M. Hopkins maps tell a slightly different story.  As early as 1882, the maps show a bridge at this location.  That map and the 1889 map identify the bridge as the East End Bridge.  All the maps from 1890 through 1923 of this site call it the Jones & Laughlins Bridge.  Up until 1904, the bridge is depicted as carrying a single track, which I assume would be the bridge that is now the pedestrian bridge.  Starting in 1910, the bridge is depicted with three railroad tracks, meaning the current vehicular bridge was added in that time.

It is amazing to me that as late as 1998 this part of the city was still dominated by steel mill buildings as illustrated by this photo.  I suppose this means that I did not come to this part of the city then.  As the South Side Works mall did not exist yet, I guess there was no reason for me to come over here.  According to PGHbridges.com, the conversion of the bridges began in 1998, but the larger of the two bridges didn’t open until 2000 while the pedestrian bridge opened in 2007.

My final comment on this bridge is that there is a nice view of downtown from here, although the buildings don’t form any interesting patterns and clusters like they did in the views from the Allegheny River bridges (see 16th Street Bridge post for an example of this).

Millennium Bridge

The Millennium Bridge is the first of two pedestrian bridges that cross the Thames.  The second, the Jubilee Bridge (click to see post), opened 3 years later in 2003.  While the Millennium Bridge is sadly only one color, I think it was probably the most photogenic bridge I walked in London.  Although I like the picture above less for the bridge and more for the buildings behind it, which show the city’s transition from a time when church steeples were the tallest thing around to today when that honor belongs to the skyscrapers.

The location of the bridge was very good.  It leads directly to St. Paul’s Cathedral.  In some ways I am surprised that it wasn’t until 2000 that a bridge was built at this location.  (I picked up some souvenir maps while in London depicting the city in 1520, 1666, 1843 and 1902 and none have a bridge or even ferry boat at this location.)  On the other hand, the other side of the bridge connects to the Tate Modern, which didn’t open as the international modern and contemporary art museum until 2000.  Before then the site was a power plant from 1947 until 1981 when it became redundant and closed, remaining vacant until the Tate took it.

The views from the Millennium Bridge show two things of interest related to the other city bridges.  First, upriver is a view of the first rail station to span the Thames and the longest solar bridge in the world (see July 31 post).  Downriver, the Tower Bridge, which I believe is the most iconic London bridge, comes into view for the first time.

 

I started this post by claiming that the Millennium Bridge was the most photogenic of the London bridges.  The views of it above are pretty interesting, but the best shot was the one I took from the top of St. Paul’s Cathedral looking down.

16th Street Bridge-Developments

      

The southern end of the 16th Street Bridge soars over an area that is currently provoking controversy in the city.  It is a site where there are what feels like be miles of barren (although used) parking lots right up against the river on either side of the bridge.  It is a very un-pedestrian-friendly area and a very unattractive place.  Alongside these parking lots on one side of the bridge is the historically significant produce terminal building.  While a developer has put forward a plan to redevelop the area, connecting the existing Strip District to the Allegheny River and adding new mixed development in place of the parking lots, part of the plan requires a partial demolition of the produce terminal.  (A description of this intended development can be read in the article linked here.)

In the beginning of June, City Councilman Dowd began holding up funding for the project, saying he wanted more information about how the funding was to be used (see article).  Then about a week ago, two more councilmen voiced their wish for more information about the use of the funding as well as other aspects of the project such as how the community has been engaged (see article).  Another newspaper article from a few days ago, describes a lawsuit being filed about the property and the development.  This article explains, “The lawsuit alleges that the city is not following its own stormwater management program nor that of the federal Environmental Protection Agency in allowing the project.”

Based on what I’m learning in my internship this summer, this seems like the opposition against, or at least concerns, about the project are piling high enough to prevent the development from happening.  As I am not a fan of harsh, stark parking lots currently in place, it would be a shame for the project to fall through.  However, if the claims of the opposition are true, then it seems we need to find someone else to develop the site.  As awful as the parking lots are, their removal is not worth the price of poorly spent funds, no community engagement, and poor storm water management.  The last concern is the most significant given the fact that the city’s storm water management already causes problems.  (For more related to this issue seen my Heth’s Run Bridge post.)