Tag: Fourth Avenue

  • Looking Up at the Keystone Bank Building

    Underside of the arch, Keystone Bank Building

    Most of the light well, once this building’s most distinctive feature, has been filled in; but for some reason the mutilation stopped before it reached the very top. Here we see the underside of what used to be a spectacular arch.

  • The Arrott Building Reflected

    Reflection of the Arrott Building

    The wonderfully elaborate top of the Arrott Building reflected in the Patterson Building.

  • Lion on the Keystone Bank Building

    Lion on the Keystone Bank

    Fourth Avenue has a denser population of lions than anywhere else in Pittsburgh, and possibly anywhere else in North America.

  • Times Building

    Times Building

    In his earlier career, Frederick Osterling carved out a niche for himself providing Richardsonian Romanesque buildings for people who couldn’t get Richardson (because Richardson was dead). The Allegheny County Courthouse created a mania for the style in Pittsburgh, and Osterling seems to have had all the work he could handle. In this building from 1892, we see the hallmarks of Osterling’s own variation on the style. He was more florid than Richardson, but he was always aware of the overall composition, never allowing the numerous individual details to break up the carefully orchestrated rhythm of the façade.

    Below, we see the Times Building in context, with One Oxford Centre looming in the middle distance.

    Times Building and One Oxford Centre
  • Industrial Bank

    Industrial Bank

    A little bank built in 1903, designed to convey the message that you don’t have to be big to be rich. The architect was Charles M. Bartberger.

  • Eagle on the Keystone Bank Building


    A proud eagle perches on a keystone, reminding us that this tower on Fourth Avenue was built for the Keystone Bank, though it now houses the Pittsburgh Technology Center. The tower is in a somewhat mutilated state, but many of its decorations are still intact.

  • Daniel Burnham Makes a Little Plan

    Union Trust Company

    “Make no little plans,” said Daniel Burnham; “they have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably themselves will not be realized.” The Chicago Tribune tells us the interesting story of the long search for the original source of that quotation, and the determination that it was in fact what Burnham said. It is probably the second-most-famous quotation from an architect in history: only Louis Sullivan’s “Form follows function” has been heard more often.

    Outside Chicago, Pittsburgh was where the great Burnham was most prolific. Many of our most famous buildings—the Oliver Building, Penn Station, the Frick Building, and a good number of others—are by Burnham. Most of them are colossal. But the old Union Trust Company building—now the Engineers’ Society of Western Pennsylvania—was his first work here, and it is on a small scale. Small, but rich and perfect in its way. The front is a traditional Doric temple; the treatment of the top storey behind the pediment seems to enclose the temple in its own perfect world, insulated from the ugly realities of Fourth Avenue commercialism around it. It was built in 1898, and it can be seen as an answer and a rebuke to the tasteless extravagance of Isaac Hobbs’ 1870 Dollar Bank building across the street.

  • Fourth Avenue

    Fourth Avenue

    Some of the earliest skyscrapers sprouted on Fourth Avenue, which is an absurdly narrow street for towers like these. Since Pittsburgh never developed a setback rule like Chicago or New York, the towers go straight up, which accents the narrowness of the street even more.

  • Reflected Towers of Fourth Avenue

    Fourth Avenue towers reflected

    Left to right: Arrott Building, Investment Building, Benedum-Trees Building.

  • Commercial National Bank

    Commercial National Bank

    This little bank on Fourth Avenue was originally designed by Alden and Harlow. The central section has been ruthlessly mutilated, with the elegant arch replaced by a cartoon suggestion of an arch. For reasons unknown, much of the rest of the building was left untouched (although it is pretty clearly missing its top), and the details there are enough to make it worth our while to stop and admire them.

    Of course there are lions. How could there not be lions?