Shadyside's First Cousins

Part I The Younger Generation


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Alexander Wadsworth Longfellow (l) and Frank Alden (r), Richardson's Assistants (2)

Train up an apprentice in the way he should go, and when he is an independent architect, he will not depart from it.  H. H. Richardson was not known to be a religious man.  However, this paraphrased Proverb describes the development of the key assistants in his architectural office.  The staff was organized as an atelier, the practical teaching environment that Richardson experienced at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris .

A remarkably talented group of architects emerged from the short, twenty-year existence of Richardson ’s practice.  Among those who served as chief draftsman were Charles McKim, Stanford White, H. Langford Warren, A. Wadsworth Longfellow and Charles A. Coolidge.  Those who supervised construction as resident architects included Charles Rutan, George Shepley and Frank Alden.  From these individuals, prominent architectural offices formed:  McKim, Mead & White; Warren, Smith & Briscoe; Longfellow, Alden & Harlow; and Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge. To this group, we should add Herbert Burdett, who had a brief, productive practice with James Marling in Buffalo.

Considering their closely related parentage, the Romanesque Revival churches of these firms can be considered cousins.  In two articles, we will look for family resemblances among these to Shadyside Presbyterian (the design of Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge – SR&C).  Longfellow, Alden & Harlow (LA&H) formed at about the same time as SR&C, upon Richardson ’s death in 1886.  This article examines LA&H churches as Shadyside’s First Cousins, Part 1 – The Younger Generation.  

(See also Shadyside's Sisters and Shadyside's Second Cousins and First Cousins Older Generation)

None of these firms practiced Richardson ’s Romanesque very long, as architectural styles continued to change fast.  The critical acclaim for these architects has been muted until recent decades, in part because Henry Russell Hitchcock, an influential twentieth century historian, denigrated their talents to varying degrees.  However, newer scholarship and the legacy of their buildings attest that Richardson “trained them up” well in planning, functional design and refined proportioning.

All Saints' Episcopal

 

All Saints' Episcopal Church, Reiserstown, MD, (1)

A. W. Longfellow, nephew of the poet, was the only assistant as well educated as Richardson – Harvard and the Ecole des Beaux-Arts.  Wanting to flex his own muscles, and piqued by the ascendancy of Coolidge in the office, he left shortly before Richardson ’s death.  He and Frank Alden had both supervised work at Pittsburgh ’s Allegheny County Buildings.  When Alden’s assignment there for SR&C ended (or, perhaps, before), they formed a practice with Alfred Branch Harlow maintaining offices in Boston and Pittsburgh.  Longfellow remained in Boston and his influence was strongest there.

In Richardson ’s and his own practices, Longfellow developed expertise in railroad station design.  Could this have attracted the attention of William Keyser, a railroad man and donor of a building to All Saints’ Episcopal Church (1891), near Baltimore ?  In any case, Longfellow had a demonstrated facility with low, horizontal, small buildings like railroad stations.  It served him and the patron exceedingly well in the scale and form of All Saints’.  

 Richardson's Old Colony Railroad Station, North Easton, MA (4)

Keyser was a summer resident of Reisterstown, MD, where he attended All Saints’.  He was charmed by a summer chapel in Massachusetts , which became the inspiration for the Maryland church he dedicated to his mother.  All Saints’ charm owes not only to its picturesque massing, but also to the efficient combination of elements required by a small Anglican congregation.

 

All Saints' Apse exterior and interior (1)

The broad, low roof – terminating gracefully at “sprung” edges – embraces the nave.  An Episcopal church of this era “wants” a clearly divided chancel.  This is expressed outside by the rounded apse, and inside by the broad Romanesque arch.  A crossing of sorts is formed by a transept balanced by a large dormer with triplet windows.  A fleche spire, a touch that would have been well known to Longfellow from his time in France, tops the intersection.  A comfortable entrance is afforded by the porte cochere, a feature strongly recalling a rail station.

 

Longfellow’s use of color reflects his teacher’s mastery of polychromy, even though Richardson employed it rarely, late in his career.  The dark gray random ashlar of the walls is accented by lighter stone for window trim, quoins, belt course and water table.  Both are subsidiary to the striking red tile roof.

Two years after the church completion, a freestanding bell tower was erected.  Its design and detailing match the church so well that it is reasonable to attribute it to Longfellow.  The two structures rest comfortably on a site that still retains much of its rustic character.

 

All Saints' Tower (1)

The ecclesiological purposes of All Saints’ Episcopal and Shadyside Presbyterian were quite different at the end of the nineteenth century.  Yet they show the adaptability that Richardson found in Romanesque.  His apprentices obviously learned this well, as each church achieved a satisfying and lasting result.  The differences were decreased in 1937, when Shadyside’s sanctuary, under the influence of an ecumenical movement, became “high church Presbyterian.”  Its sloped nave was leveled, its chancel divided, raised and set into a new rounded apse.  In its compactness and graceful medieval lines, All Saints’ relates to Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge’s 1892 Chapel for the Pittsburgh church.  

Shadyside Chapel

All Saints’ Church is a gem of Longfellow’s long practice.  It is not better known, perhaps, because it is not in Boston or Pittsburgh where a majority of his work resides.  In the skillful combination of Romanesque with English Arts & Crafts movement sensibilities, this church shows the personal influence of Longfellow.  As such, it demonstrates an increasing independence of the Pittsburgh and Boston offices.  Five years later, the practices amicably split to concentrate their efforts regionally.

 

Renderings of All Saints' (2) and West End Methodist (3)

West End Methodist Episcopal

Frank Alden had a knack for dealing with clients.  The skill would have served him well in his role as Richardson ’s on-site representative during construction.  It also made him an effective salesman.   He was responsible for some of LA&H’s earliest Pittsburgh commissions.  One was for Sunnyledge, the home of Shadyside Church member Dr. James McClelland in the East End , just blocks from the church.  Another was at the opposite corner of the city for a Methodist congregation in the West End .

  

Richardson's Emmanuel Episcopal (l), Alden's Sunnyledge (r)

Both structures show the influence of Richardson churches.  Sunnyledge adopted the simple geometrical shapes, smooth surfaces and understated brickwork patterning of Emmanuel Episcopal on Pittsburgh’s North Side.  The West End church employed rusticated stonework and a Syrian arch entrance from the Trinity Boston buildings.  Alden is believed to have been the principal design influence in his new firm on these buildings.  Both rise above mere imitation of Richardson designs.  

 

Entrances, Alden's West End Church (l), Richardson's Glessner House (r)

Both show the firm’s skill in setting structures into Pittsburgh’s steep hillsides.  The West End church crowds its narrow street and makes the entrance/bell tower all the more imposing.  The inviting recessed entrance is a welcome palliative.  This feature is seen at Richardson’s Trinity Parish Hall as well as at a secondary entrance to Chicago’s Glessner House.  The stonework of this 1886 church relates it to Shadyside Church (four years later). 

 

West End Methodist Episcopal (now AME Zion), screens cover round arch tower windows

Like Shadyside’s 1890 sanctuary, West End ’s seating was disposed radially on a sloping floor.  The Methodist church, however, was even more auditorium-like with theater style seats in place of pews and no central aisle.  Alden supplied them with an Akron Plan arrangement.  Popular before and after the turn of the century, this layout provided a Sunday School with individual classrooms arrayed around and opening onto a central space used for opening exercises.  As at West End Church, the Sunday School often adjoined the sanctuary through huge sliding or folding doors, affording overflow seating for worship.

West End Church remains vital today, housing an active A. M. E. Zion congregation.  This church finally replaced the folding theater seats in the late 1990s, when maintaining them was no longer practical.

It has been said that H. H. Richardson surely knew how to design a tower.  All Saint's, West End and Shadyside each has a round tower (as does Sunnyledge), so the disciples learned from the master.

One might speculate about the Western Pennsylvania rivalry between the former colleagues, LA& H and SR&C.  There was a contractual dispute concerning the LA& H commissions for the Duquesne Club and the Carnegie Institute.  It seems likely that LA&H was one of the unsuccessful bidders at Shadyside.  While SR&C scored two plum contracts, Shadyside Church and Freemasons’ Hall, LA&H Pittsburgh clients equaled these in prominence and overwhelmed them in quantity.  Indeed, a number residences on the church’s street, Westminster Place, can be firmly or tentatively attributed to Longfellow Alden & Harlow.  These two firms, representing the younger generation of Richardson assistants, may have produced the most closely related “First Cousins.”  

P.S.  Another of Richardson's assistants showed great promise before, like Richardson, he died young.  Herbert Burdett moved to Buffalo to replace Joseph Lyman Silsbee as the partner of James Marling.  In 1888, a year after leaving SR&C, he assisted in the design of the Church of the Good Shepherd.  This church shows the pleasing proportion and restraint of detail that so many of Richardson's imitators failed to achieve.

The adjoining rectory is designed in the compatible Shingle Style (a combination often seen in SR&C's presentation drawings).  The scale and general appearance of Good Shepherd Church relate it closely to All Saints' which it predates by several years.  The church deserves more architectural attention than it gets:  its neighbor across the intersection is the famed Martin House by Frank Lloyd Wright.  Had Burdett lived beyond his 37th year in 1891, he no doubt would be as well known, at least regionally, as fellow younger generation colleagues Longfellow and Alden.

Good Shepherd Church with rectory (3)

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(See also Shadyside's Sisters and Shadyside's Second Cousins)

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(1)  Photos and church history of All Saint’s Episcopal Church were generously provided by Neal Haynie, Parish Archivist.

(2) Margaret Henderson Floyd, Architecture After Richardson, Regionalism Before Modernism, Chicago & PHLF, 1994

(3) West End Church and Good Shepherd Church renderings by website author, Tim Engleman

(4) Margaret Henderson Floyd, Henry Hobson Richardson, A Genius for Architecture, Monacelli, 1997