Wood Street on a Misty Morning

Walking along Wood Street as the skyscrapers fade into the mist.

The Roberts Building and Its Neighbor

The Roberts Building was put up for a jeweler, and its gem-like attention to detail seems appropriate.

Some of the happiest carved lions in Pittsburgh adorn the cornice.

These decorative tiles suggest the jeweler’s art.

An amusing game to play with out-of-town visitors is to offer to show them an invisible building. Explain that you will make an invisible building visible before their eyes; then take them to the northeast corner of Wood Street and Forbes Avenue. Ask your visitors to describe the building on the opposite corner. They will almost invariably describe the Roberts Building. Then explain that they have described, not the building on the corner, but the building next to it. The building on the corner is invisible to them, because their brains have no category for a building that is five feet two inches wide.

This is the Skinny Building, and once it has revealed itself to you, you will see that it is indeed a completely different building. It was built as an act of spite by a property owner whose property was rendered apparently worthless by street widening. The ground floor usually sells T-shirts and Pittsburgh souvenirs; various attempts are made at various times to find a use for the upper floors.

Castle in the Air

The back side of the People’s Savings Bank building is merely functional, except for this curious stairwell, whose bronze cap seems to have flown in from another and much more fantastical world.

Fifth Wood Building

This is classicism walking the knife edge between Art Deco on the one side and modernism on the other. The architect was George H. Schwan, a Pittsburgher whose only other major commission in town that old Pa Pitt knows about is the Twentieth Century Club in Oakland. Schwan did not starve, however: he was a much-employed designer of attractive smaller houses, and his most famous commission was designing practically all the original buildings in the model Akron suburb of Goodyear Heights.

K&L Gates Center

Formerly One Oliver Plaza, this modernist block from 1968 was one of the last works of William Lescaze, pioneer of modernism, who died the next year. Old Pa Pitt confesses to not missing him a whole lot.