Many buildings, Shadyside
among them, are misattributed to H. H. Richardson.
The church has a closer connection than most, having been
’s designated successors, Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge (SRC).
That firm’s presence in
was occasioned by their work finishing construction supervision of the
Allegheny County Courthouse after their mentor’s death in 1886.
Richardson, based in
, had sent his employee, Frank Alden, to oversee the
work. Supervising architect
was a key position with various duties.
He was to assure that contractors adhered to specifications.
He interpreted the architect’s drawings and resolved conflicts
and mistakes. A nineteenth
century builder often engaged in drafting work, producing, for example,
working drawings for construction details.
They were subject to the supervising architect’s approval.
He was usually a liaison with the client, a relationship that
often led to soliciting new business for the firm.
Alden performed similar duties for the construction of Emmanuel
Episcopal Church in what is now the North Side of Pittsburgh.
Courthouse & Jail where Frank Alden & Frank I Cooper were among
the supervising architects
The position called for
a talented, decisive person. A
number of architectural luminaries filled this job for Richardson: Stanford White, Langford
Warren, A.W. Longfellow and George Shepley. That
these individuals had the competence to strike out on their own is not
surprising. The equally
talented Frank Alden had hoped to have it both ways, for a while at
least. He asked
for permission to engage in independent design work while in Pittsburgh, and was denied.
This prohibition was
apparently loosened somewhat when Alden continued Pittsburgh
supervision work for Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge.
He entered an informal arrangement with A. W. Longfellow, who had
’s office to design buildings in
and Pittsburgh. The team had some success
winning contracts that SRC had solicited.
This led to business disputes between SRC and Longfellow’s
firm. Such a dispute over
the contract for the Duquesne Club forced Alden to resign from SRC.
Rutan & Coolidge proposal to Shadyside Church through Frank I Cooper
SRC replaced Alden with
Frank Irving Cooper, a former Richardson
draftsman who had been trained in both architecture and engineering.
SRC clearly hoped for more Pittsburgh
work, as Cooper stayed on after the completion of the Courthouse as
their resident architect. It
was through Cooper that SRC submitted their successful proposal to
design Shadyside Presbyterian’s third church building.
(Newspaper accounts mention two other unnamed competitors.
It seems likely that Longfellow, Alden & Harlow was one of
them, as they already had contracts for three important Pittsburgh
churches). Cooper then
supervised construction at Shadyside after the contract award in
Photo of Shadyside Church
It seems unlikely that
Frank Cooper participated directly in the design of
. While a draftsman might
follow his office work on a project with field supervision, Cooper
probably remained in
while designs were in progress in Boston. Charles Allerton Coolidge,
a principal in the firm, was designing a church for the
campus at about the time
was being conceived. Similarities
in overall massing as well as some details argue for Coolidge as the
main creative force for both churches.
House, Westminster Place, where Frank I Cooper lived during construction
of Shadyside Church
recollections in the church archives indicate that Cooper purchased a
home a short distance east of the construction site on Westminster Place. This charming Gothic
Revival cottage is known today as the Spinelli House.
Its style and wooden construction speak of the rural nature of
Shadyside in the late nineteenth century.
Frank Irving Cooper had
an eventful year in 1890. The
first phase of the Shadyside project, the main church building, was
completed and dedicated. Cooper
married Anna Wellington Sawyer of Bridgewater, MA.
Cooper also left Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge and launched his
own practice, initially based both in
and Pittsburgh. Whether he was involved in
construction of the Shadyside chapel over the next two years is unknown.
He may have been available to SRC to continue supervision on a
Presbyterian Church shortly after completions of church and chapel
We do know that he
maintained an interest in the busy Pittsburgh
architectural market. He is
listed as once of the participants in the nationwide competition for the
design of Carnegie Institute in 1891.
His submission was made with another former
draftsman, Welles Bosworth. The
project was awarded to other former colleagues, Longfellow, Alden &
Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge also competed, the loss apparently
convincing them to withdraw from the
market to concentrate on
Chicago. In 1891, Cooper created a
presentation drawing for the Standard Underground Cable Company
facilities at Brinton in Western Pennsylvania (still listing his
location as both
County Superior Court Building (photo courtesy of Marc
N. Belanger) (Marc has told me the dome
had a flame)
& Syrian arch at Allegheny County Jail
concentrated on business in
. His experience at the
Allegheny Courthouse and in
’s Romanesque designs was put to good use for a commission in
Taunton, MA His Bristol County
Superior Court Building reflects many of the Allegheny Courthouse
details, as well as its symmetrical composition centered on a prominent
tower. The mullions and
oculus detail of the triplet windows recall those of
more than the corresponding features at the
courthouse. Some drama is
added to the entrance using a Syrian arch – a much more modest version
of those on the Allegheny County Jail. A
most appealing feature is the copper roof. The patina harmonizes
with the ashlar granite walls. One
wonders how it might have appeared before the oxidation took place.
This roof, however, is not original to the building. Red
Akron tiles were used, but did not stand up to harsh New England
County Superior Court Building (photo courtesy of Marc
N. Belanger) & Shadyside triplet windows
lived until 1933, became widely recognized for expertise in two fields:
heating and ventilation of buildings and the design of school
houses. He spoke and wrote
extensively on the requirements of school buildings and served on numerous
national committees and boards.
Street School, Fall River, MA
1890s, taste turned abruptly from Richardsonian medieval to a Classical
renaissance, exemplified by the “White
City” of the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition.
Cooper and some of his former colleagues in
’s office, produced a more gradual and pleasing turn toward Classical.
MA, he retained the proportions of the Romanesque arch, but the delicate
moldings around windows was more in keeping with Classical details.
The Classical symmetry of the façade is softened somewhat by the
steep hip roofs, sprung at the edges.
(1893) may look familiar to Pittsburghers who know the
in Bloomfield. Designed in 1897 by Samuel
Thornburg McClarren, it has a similar composition and combination of
medieval and Classical details. It
is possible that McClarren knew Cooper’s Fall River
school, perhaps by a published image.
It seems more likely that both schools had a common source of
inspiration. McClarren is
known to have been influenced by Longfellow, Alden & Harlow.
Cooper may have watched the designs of his increasingly successful
former colleagues while he was still in Pittsburgh.
pavilion and details at Loretto and Woolslair
It is not
difficult to perceive sources for both schools in the massing and details
the Convent of the Sister of Mercy of Loretto (1892) in Cresson, PA,
by LAH. All three are
anchored by cubical corner pavilions topped by sprung hip roofs, which in turn,
find precedent in the pavilions of the Allegheny County Courthouse.
pavilions also may have been an inspiration for the composition of a
structure well-known to Frank Irving Cooper:
the central lantern tower
Shadyside Presbyterian Church.
Courthouse pavilion and Shadyside central tower