Tag: Classical Architecture

  • West End Savings Bank & Trust Co.

    In classical times, worshipers deposited their money in temples, leaving it under the protection of the god. In neoclassical times, banks were built in the form of classical temples, but the only god was money itself.

  • 311 and 321 First Avenue

    These two buildings are nearly identical, but differ in their decorative details. The cherubs on the pilaster capitals of number 321 are especially notable.

  • Forbes Avenue Side of the Frick Building

    Louis Sullivan was of the opinion that Daniel Burnham’s success in the classical style was a great blow to American architecture. But what could be more American than a Burnham skyscraper? Like America, it melds its Old World influences into an entirely new form, in its way as harmonious and dignified as a Roman basilica, but without qualification distinctly American.

  • The Roberts Building and Its Neighbor

    The Roberts Building was put up for a jeweler, and its gem-like attention to detail seems appropriate.

    Some of the happiest carved lions in Pittsburgh adorn the cornice.

    These decorative tiles suggest the jeweler’s art.

    An amusing game to play with out-of-town visitors is to offer to show them an invisible building. Explain that you will make an invisible building visible before their eyes; then take them to the northeast corner of Wood Street and Forbes Avenue. Ask your visitors to describe the building on the opposite corner. They will almost invariably describe the Roberts Building. Then explain that they have described, not the building on the corner, but the building next to it. The building on the corner is invisible to them, because their brains have no category for a building that is five feet two inches wide.

    This is the Skinny Building, and once it has revealed itself to you, you will see that it is indeed a completely different building. It was built as an act of spite by a property owner whose property was rendered apparently worthless by street widening. The ground floor usually sells T-shirts and Pittsburgh souvenirs; various attempts are made at various times to find a use for the upper floors.

  • Fifth Wood Building

    This is classicism walking the knife edge between Art Deco on the one side and modernism on the other. The architect was George H. Schwan, a Pittsburgher whose only other major commission in town that old Pa Pitt knows about is the Twentieth Century Club in Oakland. [Update: The Twentieth Century Club is usually attributed to Benno Janssen. Schwan may also have designed the Natatorium Building in Oakland, or the renovations that made it into a movie theater.] Schwan did not starve, however: he was a much-employed designer of attractive smaller houses, and his most famous commission was designing practically all the original buildings in the model Akron suburb of Goodyear Heights.

  • Allegheny Building

    Forever overshadowed by its taller neighbor the Frick Building, the Allegheny Building, built in 1906, is also by Daniel Burnham, and also a Frick project. It is one of his spare, almost modernistic designs, and it is fascinating to see how well the classical vocabulary adapts to twentieth-century simplicity.

  • 242 Fifth Avenue

    This ostentatious little building on Fifth Avenue is in need of some restoration. Something could be done with the ground floor to make it more in sympathy with the upper storeys without spending the immense fortune it would probably take to recreate the original classical front. Even a simple modernist glass front would be more harmonious.

  • Union National Bank Building

    The architects, MacClure and Spahr, gave this classical tower an unusual rounded corner, and drew attention to the main entrance by placing it in that corner.

  • Clark Building

    The Clark Building, designed by the Hoffman-Henon Co of Philadelphia, was built in 1927 at the same time as the Stanley Theater by the same architects. This late-Beaux-Arts skyscraper has for a long time been the center of the jewelry district downtown, with at least a dozen jewelers in the building (“over thirteen,” a sign on the building says, meaning, what, fourteen?) and more within a block or so.

  • The Mellon Institute

    Benno Janssen, whose many designs helped define the Oakland Civic Center, created perhaps his most monumental work here. The huge columns are cut from single pieces of stone—the largest monolithic columns in the history of the world. And Father Pitt, through the magic of computer stitching software, brings you perhaps the only complete face-on photo of the block-long Fifth Avenue façade on the entire Internet. Below, a picture from the corner of Bellefield and Fifth.