Tag: Industrial Architecture

  • Pittsburgh Tag Co. Building, North Side

    Allen Kirkpatrick & Co. building

    This building seems to have been put up for Allen Kirkpatrick & Co., but for years it was the home of the Pittsburgh Tag Co., as this ghost sign tells us. It has been vacant for some time.

    Pittsburgh Tag Co. ghost sign
    Sony Alpha 3000.

    The Pittsburgh Tag Company was founded in 1927, as we find in the Paper Trade Journal, December 15, 1927:

    Pittsburgh, Pa.—The Pittsburgh Tag Company, care of Charles F. C. Arensberg, 834 Amberson street, Pittsburgh, recently organized with a capital of $50,000, plans the operation of a local plant for the manufacture of paper tags and kindred specialties. Mr. Arensberg will be treasurer of the new company; James M. Graham and Jonathan S. Green will be directors.

  • Allegheny Auto Spring Co., North Side

    Allegheny Auto Spring Co.

    You might think this was a building that had been abandoned a century ago and somehow pickled in an unusually intact state (though a few bricks have crumbled off the top). But in fact the Allegheny Auto Spring Co. is still in business, still serving the people who need auto springs and need them done well. The painted signs are legible, so why replace them? Thus we have a glimpse of the Pittsburgh of the early automobile age surviving into the twenty-first century.

    End of the building
    Sony Alpha 3000.

    The building itself predates the current business. It was probably built in the 1890s; in the early 1900s it appears on old maps marked “Wisconsin Granite Co. Lessee”; in 1910 it is marked “Paint Whs.”; and in 1923 “Thompson & Co.” Old Pa Pitt does not know when the Allegheny Auto Spring Co. moved in, but it has to have been a couple of generations ago at the latest.

  • Birthplace of the Modern Battery: Hipwell Mfg. Co., Allegheny West

    Hipco Batteries ghost sign

    Is there a household in America that does not keep a stock of AA batteries? Or AAA, C, D? These are reliable power sources that we just drop into electrically powered devices without a moment’s thought.

    You owe that convenience to the Hipwell Manufacturing Company of North Avenue. It was Hipwell that invented the unit-cell battery (see this ad-laden page and this PDF history), thus taming the demon electricity and even giving him a goofy smile.

    Hipwell Mfg Co.

    Until a few years ago, this building still had old advertising posters in the windows, which luckily Father Pitt recorded before they disappeared.

    Hipco Light Where You Need It
    Hipco Dry Cell Batteries
    Hipco Flashlights for Safety
    Hipco Industrial, Commercial, Residential
    831 West North Avenue

    This buff-brick building also belonged to the Hipwell Manufacturing Co, and it was featured as the Hipwell factory in company advertising—but in a form we can only call fictionalized.

    Illustration of the Hipwell factory
    Reproduced in the Allegheny City Society Reporter Dispatch (PDF).

    The distinctive alternating round and flattened arches are there, but there are twice as many of them. The building was never this size, nor was there ever a railroad siding where boxcars were stuffed with Hipco flashlights and batteries.

    View along the front of the building
    Sony Alpha 3000.

    The old Hipwell factory kept turning out flashlights until 2005, which accounts for its fortunate state of preservation. It is now an event venue called Hip at the Flashlight Factory.

  • C. S. Hixson Candy Co., Manchester

    C. S. Hixson Candy Co.

    Old Pa Pitt knew absolutely nothing earlier this morning about the C. S. Hixson Candy Company, but neither does the rest of the Internet. This article, therefore, immediately becomes the Internet’s leading and only source of information on the subject.

    The building was put up in 1917, to judge by listings in the American Contractor. Excavations had begun by April 28:

    Factory: $25,000. 4 sty. 59×96. Adams & Fulton sts, Priv. plans. Owner C. S. Hixson Candy Co., 1024 Vickroy st. Gen. Contr. C. E. Murphy & Sons, 516 Federal st. Carp. & conc. work by gen, contr. Brk. mas, to C. B. Lovatt, 1203 Federal st. Plmg, to Walter Gangloff, 2471 Perrysvilie av. Excav.

    Brick work had started by June 9.

    The company, however, did not prosper long. Its charter as a Delaware corporation was repealed in 1921 for failure to pay taxes. In 1926, The International Confectioner reported that “There will be a meeting of the stockholders of the C. S. Hixson Candy Co., Pittsburgh, Pa., Jan. 17, to consider the question of selling or leasing the business, or to liquidate it and close up.”

    And there you have everything Father Pitt was able to find out in twenty minutes, which is twenty minutes more than anyone else on the Internet has ever devoted to the subject.

    This old industrial building is tumbling to bits, and if the neighborhood were more valuable it would have been gone years ago. It is not a work of outstanding architecture; the construction listings specified “private plans,” which probably means “We can do without an architect.” The borders of the Manchester Historic District were carefully drawn to exclude it while including the modest Italianate houses next to it. The work going on at the top may be part of a demolition; at any rate, the cornice was intact a few years ago. But it is an interesting little bit of history, and it preserves a record of its original owner on the eastern face of the building.

    Ghost sign

    The old painted sign is still visible, and nearly legible with the help of some heavy manipulation. This is what it appears to say:

    C. S. HIXSON

    From Adams Street
    Kodak EasyShare Z981.
  • Carnegie Steel Company Office, Stowe Township

    Carnegie Steel Company Office

    A simple and tasteful little office built for the Carnegie Steel Company, whose steel-wheel plant was across the street, in the part of Stowe Township that is just across the line from the McKees Rocks Bottoms. Though some of the windows have been blocked in, it doesn’t take too much imagination to visualize the building in its pristine simplicity.

    Perspective view
  • Carnegie Steel Company Gatehouse, Stowe Township

    Carnegie Steel Company office and gatehouse

    The Pressed Steel Car Company had a huge plant in Stowe Township, just across the line from the McKees Rocks Bottoms. That company had a very cozy deal with the Carnegie Steel Company: Carnegie would not make railroad cars, and Pressed Steel Car would buy all its steel from Carnegie. Right next to the car works was the Carnegie Steel Company’s Schoen Rolled Steel Wheel Works, devoted to making wheels and axles. This elegant little building was the gatehouse and office for that plant.

    Front view
    Standard Forged Products gatehouse

    That plant is still in the same business, now under the name Standard Forged Products, still supplying railroad-car makers with “freight car, passenger car, subway or locomotive axles.”

  • 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.