When We Were Young: Masonic Hall & The Bradberry
Everything old is new again when it comes to much of Pittsburgh’s rental scene, with brand new apartments popping up in recently renovated, historic buildings all over the city. Since many cities take the route of demoing these unused buildings in favor of rebuilding, we love the idea of preserving a piece of history (and living in a space with a story to tell). This month, we’re focusing on the histories behind two of the city’s most recent apartment overhauls.
The Bradberry Building
Located smack in the center of the historic Mexican War Streets on Pittsburgh’s North Side, this 1905 Renaissance Revival building stands out as one of the most beautiful buildings on a block full of building buildings. It rises four stories tall and features the original brick, arched windows, stone scroll brackets and a metal cornice molding on the exterior. Bradberry was originally designed by famed architect Frederick J. Osterling, whose resume also includes Pittsburgh landmarks like the Heinz factories, Clayton House at The Frick, the Union Trust Building and the Negley-Gwinner-Harter House (it’s that Fifth Avenue mansion with the giant red ribbon at the holidays).
The building’s original owner was William T. Bradberry, president of the Anshutz-Bradberry Stove Company. Unlike many new lofts and apartment buildings in Pittsburgh, the Bradberry Building was always used as apartments — and true to Pittsburgh’s melting pot roots, the building was filled with workers from Pennsylvania, Ohio, England, Ireland, and Hungary almost immediately after it was originally built.
Today’s Bradberry Garden apartment building takes the original 16 units and gives them major upgrades while still maintaining the building’s historic charm. The first batch of residents since its re-opening in January 2018 enjoy modern, redesigned layouts with historic details, like exposed brick and a green courtyard to hang in all summer long. We especially love the white and bright kitchens with their gray walls and black stone countertops, as well as the luxe, hotel-like, glass-walled showers.
Masonic Hall Apartments
Right next door is the former Masonic Hall building, which now houses City of Asylum bookstore (a Pittsburgh organization that provides a home base for exiled writers from around the world), as well as the newly opened Brugge on North from the Point/Park Brugge restaurant group.
The building was first constructed in 1893 as a meeting place for secretive philanthropic Masons and features tan brick facade, tall, arched windows, ornately carved designs in stone and incredible wooden double doors that might make you feel like you’re coming home to your own castle. Some of the most unique historic details are inside, though; an original blue and red tile fireplace with “Allegheny 233 Lodge” in hexagon tile, window seats, and replication newel posts and banisters made to look like the originals by JMJ Carpentry of Johnstown. As for the unit interiors, the Masonic Hall Apartments put emphasis on the original details while making things feel fresh and modern. Original 8-foot-high windows let light into the rooms with 10 or 16-foot ceilings, allowing for bonus loft spaces and open floor plans that breathe new life into the spaces. Many of the new updates are even built into and around the original design, though, such as the preserved plaster wall details, the original molding and the washers and dryers housed inside of light wells. More details on a unit can be found here.
Maybe the best amenity of the two property’s is the historic neighborhood, the Mexican War Streets. Even though it’s home to some of Pittsburgh’s most stunning historic row homes, rolling green spaces and West Park’s scenic lake, this neighborhood is often overlooked when compared to trendy East End enclaves. But when you can count cultural destinations like the Mattress Factory and the Warhol and a new crop of retail like Federal Galley, Pizza Badamo, and the aforementioned Brugge on North as your neighborhood hangouts, the case for the Mexican War Streets looks pretty strong.