Good Enough for Horses




Some of the goals of Shadyside Presbyterian Church’s Building Community Capital Project include a welcoming fellowship space adjacent to the sanctuary, a recognizable Westminster Place entrance and easy, accessible circulation within the structure.  The complexity of the pastor’s directions to the Parish Hall for coffee hour can be risible.  The journey includes going outside, negotiating steep stairs or traversing the mysterious undercroft.


Comparison of present courtyard and planned atrium

The enclosure of the cloister courtyard  accomplishes the goals, and in the bargain re-establishes an old north-south circulation axis.  For its first forty-five years, Shadyside Church consisted of the sanctuary building and the chapel joined by a colonnaded walkway, separated by a narrow space.  The human scale of the present entrance opening to the street obscures its original purpose.

Present colonnade with floorline raised from original street elevation

Model of Shadyside Church in 1892

In 1890, some would have arrived at the church by horse and carriage.  Many buildings included a porte cochere - a covered space where passengers could alight from the carriage protected from inclement weather.  It has been a matter of mild curiosity that there was no obvious porte-cochere at Shadyside Church – a feature so common in that era.  Our neighbor, Korean Central Church (originally First Methodist), at the end of Westminster Place still has its porte cochere.  

Porte cochere at Korean Central Church today & shown on Pittsburgh Plat Plan

A City of Pittsburgh plat plan is a hint that this amenity had not been ignored at Shadyside Church.  It indicates a pathway through the colonnade between the church and chapel.  Recently re-discovered site information and close inspection of an old photo seem to confirm that the present opening through the covered walkway extended down to street level. It provided a sheltered disembarkation at an east-end door of the nave.  A moderate downward slope reached the location of the present Parish Hall.  Space appears to have been limited, so that, rather than park there, carriages may have turned and passed back onto the street.


Plat Plan showing drive & photo showing porte cochere extending to ground at Shadyside Church

Model showing carriage path through porte cochere & between church & chapel

By the 1930s, auto travel made the passage unnecessary or impractical.  Addition of the chancel apse and office space made it impossible.  The elevated floor level in the colonnade and the raised ground level between church and chapel allowed the original use to fade from memory.

Model of Shadyside Church after 1938 additions

A new porte-cochere will be extruded toward the street from the existing segmental arch opening – shelter for those arriving at the new Westminster door.  The renewed circulation axis will extend through the atrium to ministry/business offices as well to a new stair tower to the Parish Hall and Christian Ed/Nursery School facilities.  (The existing elevator offers alternate access.)  At the head of the stair, a window will look down into the renovated Parish Hall.  The atrium will not only be a pass-through, but a convenient gathering space after worship, with ample access to the welcoming Parlor.


New (or rediscovered) porte cochere on Westminster Place

The rediscovery of the original circulation axis pathway did not suggest its re-establishment.  However the size, shape and location of the courtyard that replaced the pathway did suggest an improved circulation path for today. It was good enough for horses.