Father Pitt

Why should the beautiful die?

“Chapel” on the Union Trust Building


This wonderfully ornate protrusion on the roof of the Union Trust Building, the masterpiece of Frederick Osterling, has given rise to the urban legend that there is a secret chapel on the roof, where perhaps Henry Clay Frick himself went to repent of his many sins. The truth is more prosaic and yet more impressive as an architectural accomplishment: the chapel-like structure houses the mechanics for the elevators and other necessities that normally make ugly blisters on the roofs of large buildings.

The Union Trust Building is just across the street from the Grant Street exit of the Steel Plaza subway station.

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4 responses to ““Chapel” on the Union Trust Building”

  1. I think I read somewhere that an old church once stood on the spot, and the only way that Frick could get the bishop’s blessing on a new building(pun intended, sorry) was if it bore some resemblance to the sacred structure it replaced.

    Though after reading “Meet You in Hell,” an excellent book about the bitterness that grew between Frick and Andrew Carnegie (that also touched on the architectural one-upsmanship Frick later engaged in), I might like the legend better.

  2. Father Pitt replies: The Union Trust Building replaced St. Paul’s Cathedral. With the money Frick paid for the land, the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh built the new St. Paul’s in Oakland. Although some have said that the style of the new building was a recollection of the cathedral that had once stood there, Father Pitt is inclined to regard that as another urban legend. Frick destroyed a whole row of churches to build his Grant Street empire. The Frick Building replaced St. Peter’s, an Episcopal church, and the William Penn replaced Third Presbyterian.

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