Monday, June 23, 2008

B.F.Jones

So here's a post close to my heart and upbringing and a sort of weird coincidence. When I was a little boy we lived in a suburb of Pittsburgh that had a wonderful library called B.F. Jones memorial library. Housed in a beautiful Beaux Arts building from the heyday of the small mill towns in the teens or 20s surrounding Pittsburgh built by the industrial robber barons, the rooms are large and airy. The windows are beautifully large bronze windows and the ceilings are coffered and intricate and also in bronze; the walls are covered in beautiful marbles which keep it cool year round without air-conditioning. The main spaces inside the door are seperated by large ornate bronze screens or fences copied from one in a European cathedral (so the story goes). The original childen's library was off of these large grand spaces and was a small cozy wood paneled room with a big fireplace and stained glass windows - one of the granddaughters of the original BJ Jones had a children's hour and would read books here (cute little old lady). I would always imagine this is my house, which rooms would serve which purposes (and had it figured out pretty well!)Years later I would meet her in college when I was an usher for our theater department and she had season tickets. This heiress's life mission was this library and children's education in a small town outside of Pittsburgh. The entire basement of this large magnificent building was devoted to childen's books - it was entirely marble clad as well and had a fountain (to a small boy you can imagine how cool that was). This was my favorite place to visit as a child and was among the first stirrings in me from a tender age to love beauty of spaces and in particular this type of Beaux Arts architecture which is still so important to me.So years later while also in college, I had a favorite house that was seemingly abandoned for years. I would drive BLOCKS out of my way to pass it and make sure no one had vandalized it or hadn't torn it down and one day -slowly - someone started to restore it.

I was simultaneously excited but disappointed that it wasn't me. Unfortuantely I don't have pictures of it in its current glory -but I have these shots of it under construction. It was a lovely chateauesque townhouse on a double lot with lots of windows and just beautifully done. Not too big, not too small - with a walled courtyard between the carriage house and the house in the rear.
Guess who's house this was....just guess.........
B.F. Jones 1st house before he built the huge mansion next to it (that you can see in red stone behind it) which is now part of the Local community college campus.

Small world, isn't it; everything is connected! Thank you B.F. Jones!

17 comments:

L said...

I'll try to take a picture of it for you (since I'm here in lovely Pittsburgh!) and email it to you so that you can post it on your blog here.

YAY!!

with love from Pittsburgh...

Be the change..... said...

Thanks L! I wish I had more pics! You seem to know where it is :-)

pve design said...

This post stirs fond memories of trips to the Crescent Hill Library in Louisville, KY. Each time I visit, I must go there to get a good smell of the place! We would drive home down the "dare-devil back hill" I loved the thrill of a trip to the library. Still do today!

Be the change..... said...

I only wish DC had better libraries here -the library system is appalling in our nation's capital!

franki durbin said...

what a great story. I love finding out that seemingly disparate things are connected.

Be the change..... said...

as you can guess, franki -i was FLOORED!

London Calling said...

Great story. I can see why you were captivated by the gorgeous buildings.

Be the change..... said...

Still am, London, still am :-)

Style Court said...

I LOVE this post. Love how you describe being inspired by beauty and architecture -- and books -- as a small boy. Glad you shared this.

Be the change..... said...

Thanks S.C.! I'm glad you appreciated it! I just wanted to share this very special place with everyone!

Derek said...

Glad to hear that it wasn't ruined by somone who had no idea what they were doing. Would love to see the restored version for my file. I watch to local landmark in my home town destroyed by people who thought they knew what they were doing. It was enough to make you cry. I'm sure you feel that physical pain too when you see something of beauty destroyed.

Be the change..... said...

yes derek, I definitely do feel that. I think thats what made me start my blog, to reach out to others that felt the same way. I had very mixed feelings about the restoration of this house because I didn't like some of the treatments (the windows for one) but told myself i'm sure they did everything else correctly and at least it wasn't left to deteriorate!

Derek said...

Good heavens! is my typing the worst ever? I promise I'm smarter than my typing would lead you to believe.

Anonymous said...

The B. F. Jones Library was designed by the Greensburg-based firm of (Paul) Bartholomew & (Brandon) Smith. They did a lot of work in Greensburg during the 1920s, including Troutman's Department Store and the Southwest National Bank Building, as well as quite a few houses in Greensburg's Academy Hill neighborhood. I'm currently working on a Wikipedia article on Paul Bartholomew, where I write under the nickname Canadian2006 (although I'm originally from Westmoreland County).

Be the change..... said...

Thanks Canadian2006! I never knew who designed it :-)

Anonymous said...

Benjamin Franklin Jones was my great grandfather. I was so happy to see pictures of his house(s)as I do not live anywhere near Pittsb.Thanks to all who supplied info.

Anonymous said...

Brandon Smith of the architecture firm Bartholomew & Smith was my grandfather, so I am glad to see this blog entry and photos.