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Places Around Pittsburgh: Gothic Terminations

A view down Ellsworth Avenue, when the trees are bare, gives quite a Gothic impression. Closest is the more or less Tudor tower of the Episcopal Church of the Ascension, 1898, by the brilliant and short-lived Halsey Wood. Gothic was not really inspiring to Wood; he liked to fantasize in Romanesque. Here though, he did a burly variation on the 1500-period tower of a church in Wrexham, Wales.

Further away is a more correct Gothic termination, the twin spires of St. Paul’s Cathedral, completed in 1906 to designs of Egan & Prindeville (Chicago). The cathedral is a transitional building, faced in limestone, a new material to Pittsburgh, rather than customary materials of red brick and sandstone that were resigned to the local soot. Yet this is a Victorian building in basic ways. The detailing seems attached to rather than integrated with the basic masses, and the voulting inside is false.

The Cathedral of Learning was concluded in 1937 with rising masses not intended at first but that are just right for its tall, tapering form, letting it stop of its own accord.

With any shortcomings, the three buildings, and the tracery of winter trees, are a lovely sight.

—Walter C. Kidney

Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation

100 West Station Square Drive, Suite 450

Pittsburgh, PA 15219

Phone: 412-471-5808  |  Fax: 412-471-1633