Tag: Sixth Avenue

  • Gimbels Building

    This was built in 1914 as the Kaufmann & Baer Department Store, the Kaufmanns in the name being brothers of the Morris Kaufmann who owned the Big Store two blocks away. It was bought out by the Gimbel Brothers eleven years later, and for generations of Pittsburghers this was the Gimbels Building. Its name is now officially Heinz 57 Center, but most people still call it the Gimbels Building. The architects, Starrett & van Vleck, were specialists in department stores from New York.

    Terra cotta swag and head

    Acres of terra cotta went into decorating the Smithfield Street and Sixth Avenue faces of this building.

    Terra cotta
    A different terra cotta swag and head
    Terra-cotta panel
    Corinthian capital
    Beside a window
    Clock

    And of course there was the clock. It was not as famous or elaborate as the Kaufmann’s clock, but it was another good place to meet someone downtown. This is obviously a good bit more recent than the building itself: it has a streamlined Art Deco look.

  • Alcoa Building

    Alcoa Building from Mellon Square

    The Alcoa Building, designed by Harrison & Abramovitz and built in 1953, was supposed to revolutionize skyscraper design.1 It didn’t, but it had some interesting innovations—swivel windows that could be cleaned from the inside, for example, and of course its aluminum cladding, which was in effect a huge billboard advertising Alcoa’s product. This building did have one important and lasting effect on Pittsburgh: it brought Harrison & Abramovitz into the city, and our skyline would certainly be very different without their work.

    Alcoa moved across the Allegheny in 1998, and for a while this was called the Regional Enterprise Tower, but now it holds luxury apartments instead of offices and is calling itself the Alcoa Building again—or, to give the marketers’ full name for it, the Residences at the Historic Alcoa Building.

    To old Pa Pitt this building always looks like a stack of 1950s television sets.

    1. See this article on Mellon Square at the Society of Architectural Historians’ Archipedia. ↩︎
  • Rosary March

    Yesterday’s Rosary March comes up Sixth Avenue. It’s not a very good picture, but old Pa Pitt was not expecting this colorful procession, and did what he could in the seconds he had to record the event from the window of a moving vehicle.

  • Decorations by Achille Giammartini on the German National Bank

    Romanesqu apital with face

    The German National Bank—now the Granite Building—is one of the most ornately Romanesque constructions ever put up in a city that was wild for Romanesque. The architect was Charles Bickel, but much of the effect of the building comes from the lavish and infinitely varied stonecarving of Achille Giammartini, Pittsburgh’s favorite decorator of Romanesque buildings.

    We have sixteen more pictures in this article, and this is only a beginning. Old Pa Pitt will have to return several more times with his long lens to document Giammartini’s work on this building.

    (more…)
  • Granite Building

    The German National Bank Building, which later took on the name “Granite Building,” was designed by Charles Bickel. It opened in 1890 as one of the wave of Romanesque buildings that followed H. H. Richardson’s County Courthouse. Mr. Bickel pulled out all the stops and used every texture of which stone is capable. To modern eyes it may almost look random, but after one’s eye has been trained to the Victorian Romanesque, the care with which the elements are balanced becomes apparent.

  • Interior of Trinity Cathedral

    Interior of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, Pittsburgh

    Trinity Episcopal Cathedral was built in 1872 from a design by Gordon W. Lloyd, an English-born Canadian architect who was popular among Episcopalians. The view above is made up of three pictures to give us a broad view of the nave.

    This is the third church for this congregation. The first was the “Round Church,” built at about the time the streets were laid out in their present plan in 1785. (It was actually an octagon—one of the first generation of odd-shaped buildings caused by the colliding grids along Liberty Avenue.) The second was a brick Gothic church built in 1824.

    Pews

    Note the divided pews, which are the original furniture from 1872. At the time this church was built, churches were generally funded by pew rents. Your family would rent a particular section, and that was where you sat every Sunday.

    End of a pew

    The number on the end of the pew identifies your section. When Father Pitt visited, the dean of the cathedral, the Very Reverend Aidan Smith, was kind enough to bring out a precious historical artifact: a pew chart of the previous church marked with the prices for each section. The closer to the front (and the more visible) the pew, the more it cost per annum. He explained that this cathedral stopped the practice of pew rents in the 1930s, after receiving a large legacy on the condition that pew rents would be stopped. (In addition to funding the church, they were a good, but arguably un-Christian, way of keeping out the undesirable poor.)

    Interior, diagonal view
    Interior
  • Spire of Trinity Cathedral

    The spire of Trinity Cathedral, with the Oliver Building in the background and the pinnacles of First Presbyterian Church in front and to the right.

  • Keenan Building

    The Keenan Building in bright early-morning sunshine, seen from Sixth Avenue.

  • Iron Lantern at Trinity Cathedral

    This great iron lantern is meant to be one of a pair flanking the steps to Trinity Cathedral from Sixth Avenue, but the other has gone missing. In the background is the old Gimbels department store.

  • Sixth Avenue

    A view of Sixth Avenue from the porch of the First Presbyterian Church, looking toward the Keenan Building with its fantastical dome. On the right in front of the Keenan Building are the Wood Street Galeries and Wood Street subway station.