The Highland Building is East Liberty’s only proper skyscraper. One cannot apply such a romantic name to the Stalinist housing blocks built all over the East End to warehouse the poor in the 1960s—excrescences that are now being blown to bits one by one, and high time, too.
Designed by Daniel Burnham, the Highland Building uses the classic base-shaft-cap formula that always produces a balanced-looking building. It’s a national treasure, for the simple but sufficient reason that every building by the great Burnham is a national treasure. Pittsburgh is blessed with a larger number of Burnham buildings than any city outside his home of Chicago, and most of them are treated with the respect they deserve. This one, however, is not.
This picture of the Highland Building was taken years ago and found on an old archival disc:
The thing has sat vacant for years, prey to vandals and vermin. But that’s about to change. According to the Post-Gazette, the Highland Building will see new life as a hotel. It’s too early to celebrate: deals can fall through, money can dry up, and projects can always be abandoned. But it looks as though one of our most undeservedly neglected buildings may have found a new life at last.