Broken windows, graffiti, piles of rubbish, trees growing from the roof—this is how the Armstrong Cork Factory looked two decades ago, when architectural historians wondered whether it could be saved. It’s a fine piece of industrial architecture by Frederick Osterling, and it was turned into luxury riverfront apartments in 2007. The success of that venture proved that there was a market for loft apartments in vacant landmarks, with the result that dozens of substantial buildings in the city have been similarly adapted since then.
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.
After much expensive restoration and renovation, the Arrott Building (designed by Frederick Osterling) has reopened as a hotel called “The Industrialist.” The exquisite lobby has been carefully preserved. The picture above is huge, stitched together from several photographs to make what may be the only complete head-on picture of the Wood Street façade of the building on the internet.
This Second Empire mansion had a narrow escape: the third floor burned out in 1987, and the owner died the next year, leaving the house a derelict hulk. It was rescued from demolition at the last minute by serial restorationist Joedda Sampson, who painted it in her trademark polychrome style; it has since passed to other owners, whose pristine white also works well with the design. The house was built in 1871; Frederick Osterling worked on early-twentieth-century renovations and additions.