... A Cathedral to A Chicken Coop
Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Railroad Station, Coraopolis
Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge 1895 (later freighthouse visible at right, unknown architect)
“I will plan
anything a man wants from a cathedral to a chicken coop.”
Henry Hobson Richardson revealed to a client what his portfolio
confirmed: a broad range of buildings including churches, civic and
institutional buildings, offices, town homes, country homes, libraries and
railroad stations. Neither did
his successors, Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge, limit their scope.
And although they built only three structures in
Old Colony Railroad Station, North Easton, MA
H. H. Richardson 1881-1884
It is a sign of
Port Cochere, North Easton Station, Landscaping by Frederick Law Olmstead
(The firm designed three stations for P&LE. See the bottom of
(The firm designed three stations for P&LE. See the bottom of the page.)
Towers at Coraopolis Station & Shadyside Presbyterian Church
Richardson and his
contemporaries pioneered the use of broad, low, hip-roofed structures,
usually with long covered waiting areas at trackside.
Often, the stationmaster needed visibility up and down the tracks.
This was provided two ways: a
bumped-out bay with observation windows or a tower.
Coraopolis employed both. The
lower tower formed the bump-out and, as early photos show bricked-in upper
windows, whether it was used for observation is uncertain.
The tower is a quotation from Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge’s
Shadyside Presbyterian lantern.
The proportions, round-arch windows with stone voissoirs, sharply
incised square windows and “sprung” slate roof are immediately
familiar to those who know the church. (A sprung roof has an outward
curvature or shallower slope at the lower edge.)
The station displays
an unusual masonry treatment. An
ample brown-tan sandstone water
table is “battered”, enhancing the organic grounded sense of the
structure. The main walls are
brick, but of unusual proportion. They
are Roman bricks which measure 2” x 4” x 12” in contrast to common
brick at 2” x 4” x 8.” Red
mortar offsets the buff-colored brick.
Windows and door arches (round and flat) are sandstone. The
arches and stringcourses match the water table stone.
The polychromy of the Coraopolis station distinguishes it from the
Roman Brick with Red Mortar
emphasized convenience and shelter with a port-cochere extending from the
street side of the building. This
feature has an Arts-and-Crafts feel, with the sloping water table section
of the columns and extended, embellished wood rafters.
Tudor references emerge in the flat pointed arches and half
Port Cochere at Coraopolis Station
on the broad hip roof, with red cap tiles at the ridge of the gray-black
slate planes. The tower sprung
roof is echoed here in the broad overhang covering the walkways. Further
picturesque roof touches include an eyebrow window, deftly executed in
slate, to admit light to the interior.
The skills imparted by
Exploration of the
station interior awaits a time when the sadly deteriorated building can be
re-opened. After retiring from
commuter service, it was used for storage and warehousing. The
Coraooplis Community Development Foundation has acquired the structure,
which the National Register for Historic Places lists.
Plans are to return it to a community asset on a par with its life
as a rail station. Renovation
is to accommodate a café, museum and community center.
1918 Photo - Trackside Waiting Area Enclosed, Freighthouse at Left
And so, as Richardsonian Romanesque architecture suited a wide variety of building types, individual structures are used and adaptively re-used creatively. There are, however, no plans to designate any space as chicken coops.
A second station for P&LE possibly by Shepley Rutan & Coolidge was in Beaver, PA (below). It shares many features with the Coraopolis building. It has been converted for use as the Beaver County EMS 911 Center. The firm's records show three stations designed for the P&LE: Coraopolis, Glassport and "New Castle Junction." It is not known if the Beaver location substituted for this last, or whether another architect replicated much of Coraopolis there.