Tag: Fourth Avenue

  • Centennial Building

    Composite of two photographs.

    So called because it was built in the year of the Centennial, 1876. We have not yet discovered the architect (and neither has anyone else, so far as we know), but it is a work of rare taste. The ground floor has been modernized, but in a sympathetic way that does not detract much from the elegance of the overall composition.

  • Base of the Law & Finance Building

    Base of the Law & Finance Building

    The Law & Finance Building was a rather old-fashioned skyscraper when it went up in 1927–1928. It was designed by Philip Jullien of Washington (D. C., where he wasn’t allowed to design skyscrapers, owing to city height limits that are still uniquely in place) in the base-shaft-cap formula typical of the early age of skyscrapers. It even has the regulation bosses’ floor above the base.

    Base of the Law & Finance Building

    What is unique is the row of ornamental heads above the bosses’ floor, perhaps representing the severed heads of the developer’s political opponents.

    Ornamental heads
    Ornamental head
  • Standard Life Building

    Standard Life Building

    Built in 1903, this early skyscraper was designed by Alden & Harlow, who festooned it with terra cotta.

    Plaque: “Standard Life Building, 345”
    Fruity swag
    Terra cotta
    Standard Life Building
    Canon PowerShot SX150 IS.
  • Fourth Avenue

  • Base and Bosses’ Floor of the Benedum-Trees Building

    Base and bosses’ floor of the Benedum-Trees Building

    Built in 1905 as the Machesney Building, this early skyscraper was designed by Thomas Scott, who kept his office there, which doubtless made a strong first impression on potential clients. It was renamed eight years later when it was bought by a pair of oil barons, and it has been the Benedum-Trees Building ever since.

    Here we see the generous base of the building, with three-storey Corinthian pilasters and huge windows. Above it is the “bosses’ floor.” For a short lesson in reading a Beaux Arts skyscraper like this, see our article on the West Penn Building.

    Entrance to the Benedum-Trees Building
  • Bradford Pear at PPG Place

  • Burke Building

    Burke Building

    Designed by John Chislett, our second resident professional architect (Benjamin Latrobe was our first), the Burke Building opened in 1836. It just missed the Great Fire nine years later, and it was substantial enough to remain valuable through the many booms that followed, so that it has survived to be the oldest building downtown outside Fort Pitt. That seems astonishing when we recollect that there had been a city here for 78 years before this building was put up, but flood and fire wiped away much of what came before, and prosperity destroyed the rest.

    We are lucky to have the Burke Building. It is a particularly elegant example of Greek Revival design, and it manages to create a very rich appearance with minimal ornament. Young architects would do well to imitate it.

    Scallop lintel

    The Brookline Connection site has a page on the Burke Building with some interesting historical pictures.

  • Colonial Trust Company

    Colonial Trust Company Building

    Fourth Avenue, the second-biggest American financial center after Wall Street, was famous for its bank towers. But one bank decided to go long instead of high. The Colonial Trust Company built a magnificent banking hall that ran right through from Forbes Avenue to Fourth Avenue, skylit all the way. Pittsburghers passing between Fourth and Forbes, especially in cold weather, would take the route through the bank so regularly that the hall became known as Colonial Avenue.

    Frederick Osterling was the architect, and he designed this magnificent Corinthian face for the Forbes Avenue side.

    Lion’s head

    What would a bank be without its lions?


    Home-repair tip: if your pediment is broken, you can fill the gap with a baroque cartouche.

    Two years ago, old Pa Pitt got pictures of the other entrances as well, so the rest of the pictures are reruns.

    The Fourth Avenue side is in the same style, but narrower:

    Fourth Avenue entrance

    This side also has its lions.

    In 1926, the bank decided to expand by building another equally magnificent hall perpendicular to the first, with an entrance on Wood Street. Osterling was the architect again—but fashions, and Osterling’s own taste, had changed.

    Wood Street entrance

    Instead of florid Corinthian, this side is in a simpler Ionic style. The outlines are cleaner, and the wall of rectangular panes of glass and the shallow arch at the top seem almost modernistic. It is still a bravura performance, but perhaps a more perfectly controlled one.

    Fortunately the whole building has been adapted as Point Park’s University Center, so it is not going anywhere, for the near future at any rate.

  • How to Improve a Design by Alden & Harlow

    Here is how the Land Trust Company building (later the Commercial National Bank) looked in 1905:

    Land Trust Company
    From Palmer’s Pictorial Pittsburgh.

    And here is how it looks today:

    Land Trust Company today

    Much better, isn’t it?

  • Allegheny County Morgue


    By a splendid exercise of bureaucratic irony, the old morgue now houses offices of the county health department. It was designed by Frederick Osterling and built—on Forbes Avenue—in 1901. In 1929, it was moved to its current location on Fourth Avenue.

    Lion-headed serpent

    Frederick Osterling’s Romanesque buildings nearly always give us a monster or two to admire.