Tag: Industrial Architecture

  • McKinney Manufacturing Company Warehouse, Chateau

    View of the warehouse from the corner of Preble Avenue and Liverpool Street

    The Hunting-Davis Company was a versatile firm, but its specialty was industrial architecture. The McKinney Manufacturing Company warehouse was noted as an innovation in reinforced-concrete construction when it went up in 1914, and it still stands in very close to its original form, giving us a good look at the ultra-modern industrial architecture of the early twentieth century. We note that even such a utilitarian structure as a warehouse was not allowed to go up without some elegant Art Nouveau ornamentation:

    Ornamentation on the corner of the warehouse

    Here is the architects’ Liverpool Street elevation as it appeared in an article in the Construction Record for February 7, 1914:

    And here is the same building today:

    McKinney Manufacturing Co. warehouse, Preble Avenue side

    This is the Preble Avenue side, which is shorter by one bay but otherwise similar. Old Pa Pitt would have preferred to duplicate the architects’ drawing as closely as possible, but Liverpool Street no longer exists in that block: it has been filled in with lower buildings.

    Here is the text of the article, which will be of interest to students of architecture and construction:

    Last week the contract for building the warehouse for the McKinney Manufacturing Company, Northside, Pittsburgh, was placed with the Henry Shenk Company, Pittsburgh. The building as designed by the Hunting-Davis Company, Century building, Pittsburgh, will be approximately 105×120 feet, six stories high with basement. It will be of reinforced concrete throughout. There will be no steel beams or girders used in the construction work except those for the outside lintels and elevator framing.

    In order that the reinforced concrete work may be properly constructed, thus eliminating any possibility of poor workmanship and accidents, it is agreed that superintendent of five years experience on reinforced concrete building must remain on the work at all times. The mixture of the concrete will be one part cement, two parts sand and four parts gravel. All columns will have a one to two cement and sand mortar placed to a depth of three inches before the concrete is placed. The columns will be cast a day ahead of the beams and slabs. Care is to be exercised in removing the forms so that no board marks or imperfections on the exterior of the building are noticeable.

    The building will be one of the heaviest loaded flat slab buildings ever designed in the country. A four-way diagonal reinforcement will be used in the slab construction. The columns will have hoop-reinforced concrete. All ceilings will be flat. The floor loads per square foot will be as follows: First floor, 800 pounds; second floor, 1,200 pounds; third floor, 650 pounds; fourth floor, 450 pounds; fifth and sixth floors, 300 pounds. The basement floor and walls will be reinforced to take care of flood water pressure with flood gates on basement windows.

    The design carries with the proposed work the building of a tunnel to connect with the present plant and the construction of a bridge to connect up with the second floor. Solid steel sash will be used on all windows. A sprinkler system will be installed. All floors in the basement tunnel and pent houses will have a granolithic finish.

    For the connecting bridge the walls and roof will be constructed of self-centering material plastered with cement mortar. The walls will be two inches thick and finished smooth on both sides. The roof will be two and one-half inches thick and finished with a smooth under coat. Composition roofing will be used throughout all the work.

  • Fort Pitt Brewery, Sharpsburg

    Inscription: Fort Pitt Brewing Co.
    Fort Pitt Brewery

    Fort Pitt was the biggest beer brand in Pennsylvania in 1952. Then there was a big brewery strike, which affected the big three in Pittsburgh—Fort Pitt, Duquesne, and Iron City. When the strike ended, Fort Pitt rushed to be the first back on the market by shipping the past-its-prime beer that had been sitting around in its warehouse. Drinkers could tell. People with functioning olfactory senses in the vicinity of the drinkers could tell. The famous slogan “Fort Pitt—That’s It” was passed around with a slurred sibilant, and the brand declined precipitously.

    Slogan: Fort Pitt—That’s It

    Pittsburghers of an older generation still have this slogan on their lips, using it to mean “I’m done with this.”

    As you can see, the brewery still stands in Sharpsburg. Much of it has been turned into apartments; one of the buildings now houses the Hitchhiker Brewing Co.

    Hitchhiker Brewing Co.

    The office is a fine example of late Art Deco.


    The Blockhouse was an obvious choice for an emblem.

    Composite view
  • Dilworth, Porter & Co. Office

    Dilworth, Porter & Co. office

    This fine Jacobean office in the forgotten industrial back streets of the near South Side is certainly the work of a distinguished architect or architects, but old Pa Pitt has not been able to find a name with the limited research he was able to do. He is therefore going to go far out on a limb and attribute it to MacClure & Spahr, because it is just their sort of thing.

    Dilworth, Porter & Co. made railroad spikes and other things you would need if you were putting a railroad together. The company later became part of Republic Steel, and the plant was closed in 1950. It is now the M. Berger Industrial Park, with the old industrial sheds behind this office painted in garish colors. (Update: A reader very reasonably questions the use of the word “garish”—see the comment below—and perhaps “cheerful” would have been better. The point is that the colors are extraordinarily bright and seldom seen on old industrial buildings like these.)



  • Pittsburgh Terminal Warehouse & Transfer Company, South Side

    Terminal Way

    Now called “The Highline,” the Pittsburgh Terminal Warehouse and Transfer Company was one of the largest commercial buildings in the world when it was finished in 1906. The architect was the prolific Charles Bickel, who gave us a very respectable version of Romanesque-classical commercial architecture on a huge scale.

    The building was planned in 1898, but it took several years of wrangling and special legislation to clear three city blocks and rearrange the streets to accommodate the enormous structure. Its most distinctive feature is a street, Terminal Way, that runs right down the middle of the building at the third-floor level: as you can see above, it has now been remade into a pleasant outdoor pedestrian space. You can’t tell from the picture above, but there is more building underneath the street.

    Pittsburgh Terminal Warehouse & Transfer Company from the river side

    The bridge coming out across the railroad tracks is the continuation of Terminal Way, which comes right to the edge of the Monongahela, where the power plant for the complex was built.

    The reason for the complex is more obvious from this angle. Railroad cars came right into the building on the lowest level to unload.

    Track No. 5

    It also had access to the river, and road access to Carson Street at the other end. Every form of transportation came together here for exchange and distribution.

    McKean Street

    McKean Street separates the main part of the complex from the Carson Street side; Terminal Way passes over it on a bridge.

    Fourth Street

    The Fourth Street side shows us the full height of the building. Fourth Street itself is still Belgian block.

    Terminal Way

    A view over the McKean Street bridge and down Terminal Way from the Carson Street end.

    Narrow outbuilding

    This absurdly narrow building is on the Carson Street side of the complex; it has usually housed a small restaurant of some sort. One suspects that this was the result of some kind of political wrangling that ended in a ridiculously small space on this side of Terminal Way between Carson and McKean Streets.

    Power plant

    The power plant for the complex, seen above from the Terminal Way bridge across the railroad. It could use some taking care of right now.

    Power plant
    Pittsburgh Terminal Warehouse & Transfer Company

    This view of the complex from the hill above Carson Street was published in 1911 as an advertisement for cork from the Armstrong Cork Company.

  • More Views of the Gimbels Warehouse, South Side

    Entrance to 2100 Wharton Street

    More views of the old Gimbels warehouse on the South Side, now called 2100 Wharton Street. We have a couple of other angles here.

    Gimbels warehouse
    Another view
    Eastern end of the Gimbels warehouse

    The building covers almost the entire block, but leaves a narrow space for one row of old houses at the eastern end on 22nd Street.

  • Gimbels Warehouse, South Side

    Gimbels Warehouse

    Now an office building poetically called 2100 Wharton Street, this enormous warehouse covers almost an entire block of the South Side. It was built for the Gimbels department store in the 1920s, when it would have had rail access to the Pennsylvania Railroad spur that ran right down the middle of 21st Street.

    Below we see it from the riverfront, looming over South Side rowhouses in the middle distance.

    2100 Wharton Street

    Addendum: The warehouse was built in about 1924; the architects and engineers were James P. Piper and Henry M. Kropff.

  • Allegheny City Electric Station

    Allegheny City Electric Station

    In 1889 the whole idea of a power station was new. What should it look like? Obviously it should be elegantly proportioned, because we don’t want to give the neighbors any more reason than they already have to object to the death rays we’ll be generating in there. Thus this fine example of Victorian industrial architecture, which old Pa Pitt believes was Allegheny’s first power station, and which still stands with not too many alterations just off Brighton Road on what is now for some reason called Riversea Road, though it has previously been Braddock Street and then Brocket Street.

    Date Stone

    Once there was an elegantly arched entrance, which has been replaced by a wider commercial garage door. The date is still prominent in the keystone of the arch.

    A few years later, a new building was added in quite a different style:

    Irwin Avenue substation

    This one still belongs to Duquesne Light and is still called the Irwin Avenue Substation, in spite of the fact that Irwin Avenue has been Brighton Road for many years now. The style is impossible to pin down: the tall rounded arches and flared buttresses make us think of a Norman castle, and the pointed Tudor arch in the middle makes us think of a Norman castle that had passed into the hands of an Elizabethan landowner who placed more value on being able to drive a showy carriage through his gate than being able to defend his castle.

  • Power House for the Mount Oliver Incline

    Mount Oliver Incline power house

    Most Pittsburghers with an interest in local history know that there were many inclines operating in the city a hundred years ago. Few know that part of the Mount Oliver Incline is still here. The incline itself closed in 1951, and the stations are gone, but the power house, which was across Warrington Avenue from the upper station, still stands. It has been converted into a shop for a heating and air-conditioning contractor.

    Mount Oliver Street side
    Warrington Avenue end


  • Bair & Gazzam Building, Strip

    Bair and Gazzam Building, Strip

    A dignified industrial building now converted to loft apartments. It was built in the 1890s as a machine shop for the Bair & Gazzam Manufacturing Company, and by 1910 it belonged to the Ruud Manufacturing Company, makers of those marvelous automatic water heaters. The style is very much in line with the industrial Romanesque that was popular in the late 1800s; but if we look carefully at the arches on the ground floor, we notice that they are very subtly pointed.

    Father Pitt does not know the whole history of this building, but it looks as though the top two floors were a later addition.

    From the Hill
    Bair and Gazzam Building
  • White Motor Company Dealership, Oakland

    White Motor Company emblem

    Continuing our visits to car dealers of the past, we visit the White Motor Company dealer on Melwood Avenue, which has fortunately found a new use in the medical-industrial complex.

    White dealership

    White started in the automobile business with a successful steamer (more Whites were built than Stanleys), but as gasoline-powered cars took over the market, White abandoned steam and went with the crowd. At some point around World War I or after, White left the car business and concentrated its efforts on trucks and buses. The company was very successful in that business, and remained a manufacturing force until it was bought out by Volvo in 1980.

    From the other end

    Correction: We had identified the architect as Edward B. Lee, based on the Construction Record for November 18, 1911: “Architect E. B. Lee, 1307 Peoples Bank building, has completed plans-for a two-story brick and reinforced concrete garage and sales building, to be constructed in the East End, for the White Motor Car Company, 3122 West Twenty-fifth street, Cleveland.” However, it appears that this entry refers to the building at the corner of Craig Street and Baum Boulevard, which later became an Oakland dealership (Oakland automobiles, that is). A picture of that dealership appears in the September 1913 issue of The Builder, with the caption “Garage and Sales Room for the White Motor Company, Pittsburgh, Pa., Edward B. Lee, Architect, Pittsburgh.”