Stones of Shadyside
It doesn’t sound very durable.
Certainly, stone made from sand doesn’t seem like a material for
a church that is expected to survive centuries.
But, there it is in the 1889 proposal specifications to Shadyside
Presbyterian from the architect, Shepley Rutan & Coolidge: Beaver
some of the applications for this variety of sandstone speak of its
durability – government buildings, streets and many bridge piers around
Stone color of original building & crispness of carved detail retained from 1890
1891, the US Geological Survey published this description of
the time of the church’s construction, there were a number of active
sandstone quarries in
Quarry-faced random ashlar
The church walls are laid up in random, quarry-faced ashlar. Ashlar is stone that has been squared and smoothed to ease laying. Quarry-faced indicates that the exposed surface is left rough, giving texture and shadowing/reflecting facets that add interest to a simple and monumental mass. Random signifies that rectangular blocks of various sizes are used, so that no regular pattern results.
Smooth-faced ashlar water table
Uniform-sized, smooth-faced ashlar is used in some locations, such as the water table. This the transitional section between the main wall and the foundation, which slopes outward from top to bottom. The original function was to direct rain water washing down the wall away from the foundation, to avoid erosion. It is also a pleasing, subtle design feature, imparting an appearance of stability to the building.
Recent construction showing falsework supports of voissoirs in arch
& rust-color stone (enclosed in box) mixed with original putty color stone replacing
window in 1937
the dedication of the Chapel, Shadyside has undertaken five significant
building campaigns. The first one extended the Chapel to the north in 1908. The stone
work was matched well enough to the original that little evidence remains.
Subsequent building projects presented difficulties in stone selection, resulting from the
progressive soot-darkening of
Juncture of 1937 office wing with 1892 Chapel showing color change
Stone colors distinctly different from the original “putty” were used in the 1937-38 project. A round apse was added to the east wall of the sanctuary building. An office wing was built from the northeastern corner of the main building to the chapel, creating the courtyard which recently has been transformed into the Sharp Atrium. At the same time, windows were in-filled adjacent to the new apse and at the Pastor's Study.
The new stone was of gray color and some of it contained rust -colored veins, both subtle and pronounced. In the apse and window work, these were mixed with stones from the original wall. This original stone must have already been gray or black with soot. (See photo at bottom of page) It is not clear what visual effect this mixture would have produced. On the office wing, mainly the new gray & shades of rust-color stones were used.
1963 photo of Pastor's Study showing progressive darkening of 1890 stone & 1937 infill
The mixing is apparent in a black and white photo from the 1960s. By this time, the 1937 stone work used to fill in windows had acquired some soot, although the skies were becoming cleaner. In the 1990s, the church stonework was chemically cleaned. Remarkably, after cleaning, the mixed stone sections blended well enough with the original walls that they were forgotten until they were noticed during construction of the Atrium.
Stone color 1953 Parish Hall
The Parish Hall was the next major addition, in the early 1950s. The mainly gray stonework includes of the rust hues. Perhaps the 1937-38 specifications were available and matched. In any case, this wing blends well with the rest of the complex, including the fields of solid putty color of the main building.
Juncture of 1982 Scharfe Wing with original building
early 1980s “North Porch” addition (the Scharfe Wing which encloses the
Sample stone panel from 2010 near Chapel
Although the cleaned surfaces eased the problem, a daunting and important task faced those charged with producing stone for the “Building Community” construction project. The church’s Building Committee was very sensitive to preserving and honoring the original fabric of the historic structure. They undertook, with Celli-Flynn Brennan Architects and Volpatt Construction of Pittsburgh to match the existing stonework. We have seen that there was a wide variety of material to match.
Brick inner wall construction used in 1890 & 1937 seen at the Apse
I Friday Mason Contractor of
Concrete block & stone construction at Westminster entrance 2010
addition to the slight variation in stone, changes in building methods are
2010 Westminster entrance portico against 1892 Chapel
all the emphasis here on matching stone, exact duplication is neither a
requirement or necessarily desirable.
Certainly, some cathedral building campaigns spanned several
centuries. Not only material,
but construction techniques and even architectural style changed, and this
can be discerned by the careful observer.
Construction sympathetic to existing structures and honesty in
expression of building technique are desirable goals.
It is also helpful to maintain consistent stone sizes,
surface texture and lay-up pattern. We are fortunate that many generations at Shadyside Church
have had the means and the wisdom to add to our historic church building
in a harmonious way.
It is also helpful to maintain consistent stone sizes, surface texture and lay-up pattern. We are fortunate that many generations at Shadyside Church have had the means and the wisdom to add to our historic church building in a harmonious way.
Progressive darkening of exterior walls due to soot followed by chemical cleaning (L-R) 1890, ca 1905, ca 1920, 1963, 2006