The richly detailed Peoples Building deserves owners and tenants who will love it, and we hope it can find them. It has at least been stabilized by its current owner, and it looks like an attractive place to have an office.
These entrances want clocks, but the elegance of the gleaming white stone is unimpaired.
This classical roof ornament was clearly meant to be right in the middle of the Fifth Avenue side, but it appears that the building was expanded by two more bays not long after it was built.
The McKeesport Community Newsroom site gives us A Peek Inside the Peoples Building, showing us a wonderful time capsule that it would almost be a shame to disturb. If old Pa Pitt were a billionaire, he would buy the building, preserve all the contents as they are, and call it a museum, and then not care whether anyone actually paid the 50¢ admission fee, because he would be a billionaire.
In some cities, when spring rolls around, people start to think about their gardens. In McKeesport, the headline is “Spring Demolition Projects Underway.” The story comes from the Tube City Almanac, one of the best local-news sites old Pa Pitt has ever seen, and a worthy successor to the lamented Daily News.
The old Theatre Bar, with its splendid Art Deco ground floor and its eclectic museum of brickwork above, is not on the list to be demolished, but Mikell’s Barber Shop is. “Contrary to rumors, the building did not collapse, but it is being demolished by hand, slowly, to avoid damage to neighboring structures,” the Almanac reports, citing “A.J. Tedesco, city community development director.” If you ever wanted to know what “community development” looks like, here is a picture. The work is being done very slowly: the Almanac article was dated June 5, and this picture was taken three weeks later, but they show the building in the same state, including that pile of bricks coming through the window, which were, we presume, each carefully laid in place by hand, slowly, to avoid damaging neighboring structures.
For many years, old Pa Pitt has admired the front of the Theatre Bar, but each time he was whizzing by on Walnut Street and did not stop to take a picture. This time, with the golden afternoon sun at the right angle, and the half-destroyed state of the building next door making him wonder how many more opportunities there might be before the bar was replaced by a vacant lot, he stopped.
This will not be the last time Father Pitt praises the Tube City Almanac. It has been going for many years now, even longer than Father Pitt’s own site, beginning as a cheeky blog that covered the news the Daily News ignored, and gradually growing to a journalistic institution that employs real reporters and covers the news better than most local papers. It really is “Worthy of All Yohogania,” in the words of its longtime motto—a parody of the Tribune-Review’s “Worthy of Western Pennsylvania.” Its other motto, “More Than a Website—It’s a Community Instigation,” pays tribute to the Daily News, and we’ll talk about the Daily News soon.
Built by the Peoples Union Bank & Trust Company in 1906–1907, this is a perfect miniature Beaux-Arts skyscraper, with base, shaft, cap, and even the bosses’ floor (the third floor) outlined to mark its social importance. The building was abandoned for some time, but its latest buyer seems at least to have stabilized it. We’ll see pictures in natural color later, but for now, old Pa Pitt decided to render it in black and white with a red filter (simulated in the GIMP, which saves ever so much money on optical equipment), giving us a view that almost makes McKeesport look like a thriving and important metropolis again.
The history of this building is obscure, like many McKeesport things. Father Pitt was not able to find the architect, though it must have been some well-known figure; and although he has not read of any expansion, it seems clear that the original building had four bays along Fifth Avenue, with the two bays to the right added later. Subtract those two bays, and the Fifth Avenue face would be perfectly symmetrical, with the roof ornament right in the center.
Most of the people who mention the Peoples Bank on the Internet add the obvious apostrophe to the name, but it appears that the company itself, in line with many similarly named companies, always left out the apostrophe, as we see in this 1894 picture of its earlier building:
The picture comes from The First One Hundred Years of McKeesport, where it is captioned “The People’s Bank,” with the apostrophe, because sensible people can’t help themselves and feel compelled to correct the name.