1900 - 1910

The first decade of the 20th century was the time of Highland Park’s most intensive development. The present physical character of the district was established at that time, when about half of all the houses standing west of Highland Avenue were built. Construction was concentrated on the relatively flat streets in the central and western sections of the district, but there was some building in the hilly eastern part as well, particularly on Sheridan Avenue and Heberton Street (south of Bryant Street), the 1300 block of Sheridan, and along De Victor Place. Many of the houses of the 1900-1910 decade were detached single-family houses built by developers on a speculative basis for sale or rental to the families of middle-class office workers of the industrial boom and lesser merchants and store owners. They filled the empty lots between the older houses in the southern half of the neighborhood, and – spurred on by the opening of a new streetcar line on N. Euclid Avenue in 1904 – they were constructed in entire blocks in the flat areas west of N. Highland Avenue. The blocks bounded by Bryant, Portland, Wellesley, and N. Euclid are lined with houses that were built to just a few standard designs, both simple (as in the 5700 block of Wellesley, photograph #36) and more elaborately ornamented (as in the 1100 block of Portland, photograph #23). Baywood Street (photograph #76) and Chislett Street (photograph #77), south of Stanton Avenue and west of Negley Avenue, were also built up at the same time by the same process. One of the most prolific builders was Charles Miller and Co., which built thirty-four houses in the Hampton / Wellesley area, fourteen along Mellon and Portland, and another eight on Baywood Street. Other speculative developers included Daniel Pershing, who was responsible for the 1100 block of Portland, Edward West, and William Wright (a carpenter-turned-contractor who built the houses on Callery Street). These “spec” houses give much of Highland Park, especially the central and western sections, its present-day character. They are usually two-and-one-half stories in height, often four-square in massing, and constructed in a more modest version of the Colonial Revival style than their larger, custom-designed neighbors. They are closely spaced, in order to maximize the return on the developers’ investments, but they are nonetheless set back from the street, providing room for front yards and gardens that give their blocks a spacious and pleasant character. Built before the advent of widespread automobile ownership, they were constructed within an easy walk to the streetcar lines that connected the neighborhood and its residents with East Liberty and downtown Pittsburgh. The hilly eastern section of the district, east of N. Highland Avenue, was less accessible to streetcar and pedestrian traffic, and so experienced less development at this time. At the same time, Highland Park became the home of many of those who became rich in the industrial boom of the period: bankers, industrialists, merchants, developers, and politicians. They built or purchased large houses on the remaining lots along Stanton and Highland Avenues, on Negley Avenue south of Elgin Street, and in the 900 block of Sheridan Avenue. The most impressive of these houses include three at 935-943 N. Negley (1903, photograph #37 and 38), four at 1135-1157 N. Negley (photograph #39 and 40), 5635 Stanton (built in 1900 for steel executive James Scott, photograph #41), 820 N. Highland (from 1908, photograph #9), and 944 Sheridan (1901, photograph #10), all of which are Classical or Colonial Revival in design. The four houses at 1135 through 1157 N. Negley are representative of this group: they were built between 1905 and 1908, and their original owners were the president of an incline company, a tobacco merchant, and two real estate developers. As another sign of the district’s attraction for the wealthy, there was even, briefly (from 1893 to 1903), a golf club in Highland Park. The Highland Golf Club’s nine-hole course was located in the general vicinity of Heberton and Grafton Streets, with the club house located in the Farmhouse in the Park itself. The president of the club was Henry Clay Fownes, president of Midland Steel, who later was the founding president of the Oakmont Country Club. The Highland Park district developed as an almost entirely residential neighborhood, with a predominance of detached single-family houses. The few commercial buildings were concentrated along the streetcar line on Bryant Street (photograph #42), where storefront buildings with apartments above began to crowd out the earlier houses. A particularly fine example of a storefront building, designed with Classical Revival details, is located at 5719 Bryant Street (1911, photograph #17). There were only three churches in the district: the Highland Presbyterian Church, at N. Highland and Wellesley Avenues, built in 1899 and now demolished; the 1901 Second United Presbyterian Church, at Stanton and N. Negley Avenues (photograph #20), now a community center; and St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, at Hampton Street and N. Euclid Avenue (photograph #19), constructed between 1906 and 1909 to the design of the architects Carpenter & Crocker and currently still in use for religious purposes. The fact that they were all Presbyterian or Episcopal in denomination is another indication of the high socio-economic status of Highland Park residents at the time. These church buildings were all designed in the Gothic Revival style, which was considered at the time the most appropriate style of architecture for religious properties. Despite the district’s low density at the turn of the century, a handful of three- and four-story apartment buildings – the precursors of an increasing density of development – were constructed during this period. The most visible are the Norfolk, Delaware, and Howard Apartment Buildings built at N. Highland Avenue and Bryant Street in 1901 (photograph #43), and the St. Clair Apartments located at N. St. Clair and Callowhill Streets (1902, photograph #44). Another is the first design in the district by Pittsburgh architect Frederick Scheibler, a three-story flat building in an abstract modern form at 936 Mellon Street (1907, photograph #45). The building boom continued into the beginning of the 20th century as architectural fashions were changing from the picturesque and irregular Queen Anne and Romanesque styles to more formal Classical revival styles. The Colonial Revival was based on American colonial models that were themselves ultimately derived, through England, from Greek and Roman architecture. At the same time, the Tudor Revival style became popular as a counterpoint to the Classical styles. It was loosely based on late medieval English prototypes, informal and picturesque in nature. Most of the buildings built in Highland Park between 1900 and 1910 follow one or the other of these traditions. The Colonial Revival style was the product of a reawakening of interest in early American architecture after the Centennial Exposition of 1876, and was strengthened by the general interest in classical architecture sparked by the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893. The details were usually classical in origin, as modified by the Georgian and Adam architecture of the colonies, including elaborate doorways and porches with classical pilasters and columns; wide overhangs with dentils and modillions; triangular and broken pediments; Palladian windows and window lintels with keystones. Typical examples of large Colonial Revival houses included the Edward Reineman house at 1145 N. Negley (photograph #39, right side) and the house at 1160 Portland (photograph #46), both constructed in 1906. The Elizabeth Mueller house at 944 Sheridan (1901, photograph #10) is a very elaborate design with exaggerated details. Other designs were high-style adaptations by noted architects, such as the house designed in 1906 by Alden & Harlow for A.E. Niemann of the German National Bank at 1212 N. Negley Avenue (photograph #11). The smaller Colonial Revival houses in the district are typified by the four-square, hipped-roofed buildings lining the 1100 block of Euclid (photograph #47), which were constructed speculatively by City Treasurer D. R. Torrence in 1901. Alden & Harlow was the largest and most fashionable architecture firm in Pittsburgh at the turn of the twentieth century. Its partners had worked for Henry H. Richardson in Boston, and after supervising the construction of his design for the Allegheny County Courthouse (1884-1888) had established themselves in Pittsburgh. Alden & Harlow quickly became the firm of choice for institutions (including the Duquesne Club, the Carnegie Institute, and the Carnegie Libraries), Downtown skyscrapers, and extravagant residences for the industrial and financial elite. Starting in the Richardsonian Romanesque style, Alden & Harlow soon adopted the Classical Revival as its style of choice. In Highland Park, besides the extant Niemann residence, the firm also designed the now-razed Peacock mansion on N. Highland Avenue. Several houses in Highland Park show other aspects of the classical revival. For example, the Anna Goeddel house, 1157 N. Negley Avenue (1906, photograph #40, right side), has the lavish classical ornament of the Beaux Arts style applied to a standard hipped-roof house form. Several buildings, including the Henry Stewart house at 820 N. Highland Avenue (constructed in 1908, photograph #9) and the Andrew Houston house at 5544 Beverly Place (1905, photograph #48), show the revival of interest in Italianate Renaissance models. The use of straightforward but vigorous classical elements can be seen in the 1899 Neo-Classical Newton Hemphill residence, at 1305 N. Highland Avenue (photograph #30). The Tudor Revival style was also a product of an interest in the past, the architecture of medieval England, from which the style was loosely and creatively drawn. Characteristic elements included steeply-pitched, front-facing roof gables, often with decorated vergeboards; decorative half-timbering; multiple wall materials; massive, elaborate chimneys; and tall, narrow windows, often set in groups and glazed with many small panes of glass. The style is generally informal and asymmetrical. It is, however, a peculiarity of early examples that they often have symmetrical facades. The Malcolm Hargrave house at 1151 N. Negley (1905, photograph #40, left side) and the Edward West residence at 1000 Sheridan (built in 1904, photograph #12 and 12A) are examples, each with balanced pairs of projecting bays on its façade. Other substantial Tudor Revival designs are the 1909 rectory at St. Andrew’s Church (photograph #13), at 5801 Hampton, and the Jonathan McDowell house at 923 Heberton (1908, photograph #49). [Text adapted from Mike Eversmeyer's final nomination documents for the Highland Park Residential Historic Distict. Mike has given explicit permission for its inclusion on the Highland Park web site.]