Kazimier Pulaski Society

Our friend Father Pitt made a trip to the Woods Run valley on the North Side to get pictures of this building, which has always been absurd but has only grown more absurd with the passing years. According to a city architectural survey, the original building was a work of the remarkable early modernist Frederick Scheibler; the survey identifies it as “the former Kazimier Pulaski Society building.”

This makes sense. There is something about men’s clubs in Pittsburgh, and in some other cities Dr. Boli has seen as well: the members shun the light as if the sun would burn them to dust if it touched them. The architect may have provided tall, generous windows to flood the interior with illumination, but the club members take over the maintenance of the building themselves and gradually plug every hole through which a ray of sun might penetrate. That is what clearly happened to this building. The front was rendered safe for whatever fiendish rites of darkness the Polish club members practiced within.

Now enlarge the picture, if you like, and note the other details. Dr. Boli is thinking particularly of the doors on the second, third, and fourth floors.

This is one of those rare occasions when Father Pitt and Dr. Boli cannot agree. Father Pitt thinks the doors are evidence that there were once balconies, or a fire escape, on the front of the building. Dr. Boli believes that they were part of the initiation ritual for the club. Survivors of the ritual were admitted to full membership. The others—well, nobody ever goes into Woods Run anyway.

Between the bridges


  1. von Hindenburg says:

    My first assumption was that the doors were for lifting large items to the upper floors, but the lack of hardware over them for mounting pulleys would seem to mitigate against this. The remains of mounts from a balcony attachment does appear to be visible at the bottom of the second and third floor doors, while there is no visible spot in between where a stairway joining them might have been attached.

    Also of interest are the lights over the second and third floor doors and the siren over the third. Would the latter be part of a security system or something else? The lights may also support the balcony theory.

    Either way, there’s a joke about Poles and doors here somewhere…

  2. tom says:

    Absent a picture of what the original facade might have been, the best guess is that the doors led to a fire escape, that was removed at some point.

    • Dr. Boli says:

      Father Pitt says that a fire escape is his favorite theory. The staggered right-and-left arrangement, he says, would be explained by a fire escape and by nothing else except random whim. That is what Father Pitt says. Dr. Boli points out that such irregularity would also be ideal for initiation rituals, especially if the subject is blindfolded.

      Whatever it was was added long after Scheibler washed his hands of the building. Nothing in the first three floors is original except the exaggerated pilasters that frame the building. The lighter-colored bricks mark the area where the club members had their way and implemented their own aesthetic ideas.

      We can take the top floor as a guide to what would have been on the other floors. The same rhythm of three identical windows would have been kept up on the third and second floors. The lower floor would most likely have had an elaborated main entrance in the center, flanked by tall windows that continued the lines of the windows above them—unless the ground floor was a storefront, in which case it might have had display windows running the width of the building.

  3. Fred says:

    I guess the concrete on the left is part of an overpass, but I keep thinking it looks like a giant table leg.

  4. Pk says:

    A Bing streetside view clearly shows a fire escape zig zagging from the top door to the next one and back to the third one. The fire escape had stairs and not ladders between floors. There were also window air conditioners on the side, so perhaps appartments over a business of some kind. Originally, I suspect perhaps a fire house, though the front has been all redone.

  5. John Salmon says:

    Besides the missing fire escapes/balconies, nothing looks right about this building. We’re seeing what is presumably the front of the structure, but it looks like the side. It has the air of a facade for a movie. If you opened the door you might well see a meadow instead of the interior of a long-abandoned mens club.

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