Tag: Wood Street

  • Skinny Building Under Wraps

    Skinny Building shrouded

    The Skinny Building and its neighbor the Roberts Building have been bought by PNC. Here they are shrouded for renovation work. The last old Pa Pitt heard, PNC was planning on displaying art in the upper windows of the Skinny Building.

  • Union National Bank Building

    Union National Bank Building

    Now converted to luxury apartments as “The Carlyle,” this classical Fourth Avenue bank tower was designed by the firm of MacClure and Spahr. Benno Janssen, who was working at the firm, is said to have had a large part in the design. It opened in 1906. Curiously, the building behind it, the Commonwealth Bank Building, was built at the same time and reached exactly the same height, 300 feet.

  • Reliefs by John Massey Rhind on the People’s Savings Bank Building

    Relief by John Massey Rhind

    John Massey Rhind was Andrew Carnegie’s favorite sculptor; he gave us the Noble Quartet in front of the Carnegie Institute and the statue of Robert Burns outside Phipps Conservatory. Here he gives us some allegorical figures to adorn the entrances to the People’s Savings Bank’s splendid tower at Fourth Avenue and Wood Street. Not altogether coincidentally, the building itself was designed by Alden & Harlow, Carnegie’s favorite architects, whose firm (with their earlier partner Longfellow) was also responsible for the Carnegie Institute. Above, the Wood Street side; below, the Fourth Avenue side.

    Fourth Avenue side
  • Reflection of the Union National Bank Building

    Union National Bank building reflected

    The top of the Union National Bank Building (now the Carlyle luxury apartments) reflected in the Patterson Building.

  • Keystone Athletic Club

    Keystone Athletic Club, now Lawrence Hall

    Two universities in Pittsburgh have signature Gothic skyscrapers. Everybody knows the Cathedral of Learning at Pitt, but Lawrence Hall at Point Park University is also Gothic and also a skyscraper. By a strange coincidence that probably no one else in history has noticed (this is how dedicated old Pa Pitt is to you, his readers), it is within a foot or two of being precisely half the height of the Cathedral of Learning. (Cathedral of Learning: 535.01 feet; Lawrence Hall: 265.72 feet. Source: Emporis.com.)

    It was not always Lawrence Hall, of course. It was built as the Keystone Athletic Club in 1927; the architect was Benno Janssen, who also designed the Pittsburgh Athletic Club, the Twentieth Century Club, and the Masonic Temple, all in Oakland, and a remarkable number of other prominent buildings in the city. The Depression was hard on clubs; the Keystone Athletic Club (doubtless saddled with debt from building a skyscraper clubhouse) collapsed in 1934, and after that the building was a hotel until Point Park College picked it up in the 1960s. It was renamed for the Renaissance mayor David Lawrence, and now it anchors the ever-spreading downtown campus of the university.

  • The Arrott Building Reborn

    Arrott Building

    After much expensive restoration and renovation, the Arrott Building (designed by Frederick Osterling) has reopened as a hotel called “The Industrialist.” The exquisite lobby has been carefully preserved. The picture above is huge, stitched together from several photographs to make what may be the only complete head-on picture of the Wood Street façade of the building on the internet.

    Entrance to the Arrott Building
  • Colonial Trust Company

    Colonial Trust Company

    A splendid banking hall with façades by Frederick Osterling. The Wood Street one above is one of his late works, from 1926. Many of the banks along Fourth Avenue went for height, building some of the first skyscrapers; the Colonial Trust Company went for length. Its main hall extends all the way through from Fourth to Forbes, with elaborate façades at both ends; it later extended a perpendicular arm to Wood Street. Below, the Fourth Avenue façade from 1902, also by Osterling. We can see how much his ideas of classical architecture had changed in 24 years. In 1902 he chose the Corinthian order and elaborated it with every kind of ornament of which classical architecture is capable; in 1926 he chose the Ionic order and kept the ornamentation to a minimum.

  • Entrance to the Union National Building

    Entrance to the Union National Building

    This is very definitely a corner building, and architects MacClure and Spahr made the corner the most identifiable thing about it. That curved corner runs all the way up to the top, and the main entrance is right on the corner of Fourth and Wood.

    Notice the capitals on those prominent columns. How do you adapt square Doric capitals to a fairly tight curve? Making them octagonal is a solution that might have given Vitruvius a stroke, but works very well in this context.

    The building is now luxury apartments under the name “The Carlyle.”

  • 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.