Category: Downtown

  • Renshaw Building, Kirkpatrick Building, Shannon Building

    Renshaw Building, Kirkpatrick Building, Shannon Building
    Fujifilm FinePix HS10.

    On Liberty Avenue downtown.

  • Rear of the Federal Building

    Rear of the Federal Courthouse
    Fujifilm FinePix HS10.

    A look behind the Post Office and Courts building, now the Joseph F. Weis U. S. Courthouse, shows how the building (originally designed by Trowbridge & Livingston, who also designed the Gulf Building across the street) was expanded in the early 2000s by filling in the light courts with surprisingly unobtrusive glass additions.

  • National Bank of Western Pennsylvania

    National Bank of Western Pennsylvania

    The Penn Avenue front is now a restaurant, but it would not be hard to guess from the Ninth Street side that this used to be a bank: the National Bank of Western Pennsylvania.

    National Bank of Western Pennsylvania
  • Bell Telephone Building

    Fujifilm FinePix HS10.

    At the corner of Seventh Avenue and William Penn Place is a complicated and confused nest of buildings that belonged to the Bell Telephone Company. They are the product of a series of constructions and expansions supervised by different architects. This is the biggest of the lot, currently the 25th-tallest skyscraper in Pittsburgh, counting the nearly completed FNB Financial Center in the list.

    The group started with the original Telephone Building, designed by Frederick Osterling in Romanesque style. Behind that, and now visible only from a tiny narrow alley, is an addition, probably larger than the original building, designed by Alden & Harlow. Last came this building, which wraps around the other two in an L shape; it was built in 1923 and designed by James T. Windrim, Bell of Pennsylvania’s court architect at the time, and the probable designer of all those Renaissance-palace telephone exchanges you see in city neighborhoods. The style is straightforward classicism that looks back to the Beaux Arts skyscrapers of the previous generation and forward to the streamlined towers that would soon sprout nearby.

    Hidden from most people’s view is a charming arcade along Strawberry Way behind the building.

  • Penn Station

    Penn Station

    A Daniel Burnham masterpiece, fortunately preserved as luxury apartments (you have to go out back by the Dumpsters to catch a train). It was officially Union Station, but usually called Penn Station, since the railroads that were not owned by the Pennsylvania Railroad had their own separate stations.

    Union Station, Pittsburgh
    Penn Station
    Directly from the front
    Perspective view
    East Busway in front of Penn Station
    Fujifilm FinePix HS10.

    The East Busway runs right past the building on part of the original railroad right-of-way.

    We also have some close-up pictures of the terra-cotta decorations on Penn Station.

  • Kilkeary’s Hotel

    Kilkeary’s Hotel
    Composite photograph.

    This building on Ninth Street has housed various establishments of varying reputability over the years. It was built, however, as a good hotel for Joseph F. Kilkeary, and it was designed by the very reputable Edward B. Lee, a young architect who had made his reputation as the winner of the design competition for the City-County Building (though Lee would later insist that the real designer of that one was Henry Hornbostel).

    It seems that the project for this hotel evolved gradually from a remodeling of Kilkeary’s much smaller existing hotel to a full-scale reconstruction. In The American Contractor, July 5, 1924, we read: “Hotel (Kilkeary’s, rem.): $15,000. 9th st., bet. Penn. av. & Duquesne Waw [sic] Archt. Edw. B. Lee, Chamber of Commerce bldg. Owner Jos. F. Kilkeary, 131 Ninth st. Drawing plans.” This would have bought an extensive renovation of a smaller building. But by 1926 the plans were more ambitious, as we read in The Charette, April 1926: “Lee, Edward B., Architect, Chamber of Commerce Building, Pittsburgh, Pa. Hotel, 9th and French Sts., Pittsburgh, Pa. J. F. Kilkeary, Owner, address care Architect. Working drawings are being made. General contractor has been selected by owner, Taylor-Meyer Company, Keystone Building. Size of building 57 ft. x 56 ft., six stories in height. Basement with heating plant and two store rooms; guest rooms on 2d, 3d, 4th, 5th and 6th floors; steel frame; metal partition walls; brick and stone trim on front; side and rear tile curtain walls; 8 in, cement floors; each room with bath; steam heat; conduit wiring; modern hotel equipment; cubage approximately 150,000 cu. ft.” This listing describes the building more or less as it stands today.

  • Liberty Center

    Liberty Center

    The local firm of Burt Hill Kosar Rittelman designed the second-most-important Postmodernist development in Pittsburgh, after PPG Place. This one does not get the attention lavished on Philip Johnson’s forest of glass-Gothic pinnacles: it never gets to play a supervillain’s headquarters in the movies, and it is seldom pointed out as one of Pittsburgh’s top sights. But to old Pa Pitt’s eye it is a particularly pleasing manifestation of what was called Postmodernism at the time, but might be more accurately termed the Art Deco Revival. It consists of two skyscrapers—currently known as the Federated Hermes Tower and the Westin Convention Center Pittsburgh—linked by lower sections of building that fill in the rest of the block.

    Clock tower
    Federated Tower
    Westin Convention Center Pittsburgh
    Westin Convention Center Pittsburgh
    Westin Convention Center Pittsburgh
    Liberty Center
  • United Steelworkers Building

    United Steelworkers Building
    Fujifilm FinePix HS10.

    Seen from Mount Washington. We also have some pictures from Gateway Center Park (with a little more about the building), and from the Boulevard of the Allies.

  • Wm. O. Johnston & Co. Building

    Corner of Penn Avenue and Ninth Street
    Fujifilm FinePix HS10.

    The corner of Penn Avenue and Ninth Street. The building on the corner is the Wm. O. Johnston & Co. building, built for a printer who was one of the successors to the venerable Zadok Cramer of the Franklin Head Bookstore. We also have a composite picture of the front of the building.

  • Decorations on the Maginn Building

    Arch on the Maginn Building

    Father Pitt is fairly certain that the ornamental stonecarving on the Maginn Building was done by Achille Giammartini, Pittsburgh’s master of Romanesque whimsies. The style is Giammartini’s, and the building was designed by Charles Bickel, who is known to have brought in Giammartini for the German National Bank (now the Granite Building) around the corner, as we see in this advertisement:

    Advertisement for Achille Giammartini

    But, you say, speculation is not enough for you. You want the artist’s signature. Well, to old Pa Pitt, this looks like a signature:

    Face with mustache in the corner of the arch

    In fact, Father Pitt has formed the hypothesis that Giammartini littered the city with self-caricatures in Romanesque grotesque. Several other buildings bear carved faces similar to these two in the corners of the arch on the seventh floor of the Maginn Building.

    Grotesque face

    The rest of the ornaments are also in Giammartini’s trademark style: lush Romanesque foliage with slightly cartoonish faces peering out from the leaves.

    Capital with face
    Fujifilm FinePix HS10.