Pittsburgh – October 2018 – Doors Open Part 1

Having been in and around Pittsburgh for most of our lives, we were excited to find that they offer an Open House like Chicago and New York.

Known as Doors Open Pittsburgh, the event took place over a weekend featuring 50 buildings downtown and on the North Side.

I had the opportunity to email a number of times with Bonnie Baxter, the founder of the organization that coordinates the event. Her input was instrumental in our planning that allowed us to visit over 30 of the sites over two (busy) days. Bonnie has done a great job pulling together an event of this scale – it shows her pride in her hometown.

The next 4 posts are fairly long but give a brief overview on each of the venues we visited.

 

Frick Building – As we were walking down Grant Street in downtown Pittsburgh waiting for the start of Doors Open Pittsburgh we saw a couple of people in their orange DOP volunteer shirts. Striking up a conversation with them, we found out that one of them, Al, was headed to the nearby Frick Building.

Al also volunteers with the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation, and was more than happy to share his knowledge of Grant Street, and the nearby buildings as we walked along. This was a precursor of what was to come, as for the entire weekend we met enthusiastic volunteers who are proud of their city and the architecture.

Once we arrived at the Frick Building we entered the lobby from the Fifth Avenue Side. Al then gave us a personal tour of the lobby.

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This unique lamp served as a cigar lighter feed by natural gas with a perpetual flame (since there is no smoking in buildings anymore the flame has been extinguished.)

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The current main lobby elevators reflect the Art Deco look.

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The re-purposed telephone booths are fantastic. Al pointed out that most people under the age of 25 can’t even guess what they were used for.

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In what started a trend that we kept most of the weekend, most of the buildings have very stylish mailboxes that had to be photographed.

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Grant Street in Pittsburgh used to have a large ‘hump’. In 1914 this hump was taken out, but as a result what used to be a ground level entrance sudden was 15’ in the air, so any building that pre-dates the removal had to be retrofitted with a new entrance in what was the basements. The Frick Building is one of those buildings, having been completed in 1902.

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As a result the second floor/mezzanine level has a very ornate elevator lobby since it used to be the primary entrance.

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The elevator doors are a piece of art in themselves.

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One final look at the lobby; a stained glass window by John LaFarge titled Fortune and Her Wheel.

Whatever history thinks of Henry Clay Frick, he did build an amazing building. Thanks to Al we had a great tour of the lobbies.

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Benedum Trees Building – Our first ‘official’ visit was to the Benedum-Trees Building. I had been fortunate enough to secure ‘insider tour’ tickets for this building, with a visit to the 18th floor to visit the offices of the Benter Foundation.

The 19 story building was completed in 1905 along the Fourth Avenue financial district. The name came from the Benedum Trees Oil Company, founded by Mike Benedum and Joe Trees in the early 1900s.

Our tour started in the lobby with another classic mailbox, along with the building directory sign and some great lighting.

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We then headed up to the 18th floor.

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Our visit was topped off (literally) by checking out the roof top terrace, with commanding views around downtown – despite being somewhat surrounded by newer, taller buildings.

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Later that afternoon we were able to look back from Mt Washington to see where we had been.

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Bank Tower Building – Completed in 1902 as the Peoples Savings Bank Building, the Bank Towers exterior features figures carved by John Massey Rhind.

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Easily the most impressive feature of the building is the spiral staircase that goes the entire 16 floors.

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A very nice bonus to this stop was visiting the offices of MCF Architects, where one of the principals showed us the offices, and some of the amazing work they have completed, as well as historic drawings they have.

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Their security gate is modeled after da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man.

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Dollar Bank – Designed by Isaac Hobbs & Sons of Philadelphia in the late 1860s, the Dollar Bank Building on Fourth Avenue is built primarily out of brownstone. Hobbs was known for his ornate design of houses, and it is clear it was carried over to this design.

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Built in the Beaux Arts style, it’s most famous exterior feature are the large lion sculptures, symbolizing a ‘guardianship of the people’s money’.

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The original lions are located inside the building.

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The lobby is impressive, and is used to this day for it’s original purpose, a bank.

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The Park Building – We spent most of our time at the Park Building staring up at the cornices.

Built in 1896, this 15 floor building depicts men kneeling, holding up the building. We have seen this used previously, most recently in the ‘Ruins’ in Indianapolis.

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continued in the next 3 postings.

 

 

Pittsburgh – October 2018 – Doors Open Part 2

Doors Open Pittsburgh continues…

 

Koppers Building – When it was completed in 1929 this 35 floor building was topped out at 475 feet high, making it Pittsburgh’s tallest for a time (passed a short time later by the Gulf Tower).

Constructed of polished granite and Indiana limestone, it is an excellent example of Art Deco.

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Lets head inside.

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As we entered we were greeted by a couple of the more than 200 volunteers. Events like this rely on volunteers, and all weekend we met welcoming, enthusiastic people who made the visits more worthwhile. A big thank you to all of the volunteers, but on to the visit….

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The three story lobby has a variety of marble finishes.

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There is significant use of bronze throughout the lobby including another great mailbox.

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Do you ever wonder where the elevator is? Not in this building!

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The cool clock collection continues…

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Even the handrail is stylish.

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First Lutheran Church – One stop that was not originally on our itinerary was the First Lutheran Church, but a hard rain shower had come along so we ducked inside.

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They are proud of the fact that this church was the first English speaking Lutheran church west of the Alleghenies, having been founded in 1837.

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The ceiling is amazing.

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As is the pipe organ.

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As with most churches, this one has some very ornate stained glass windows.

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Union Trust Building – Another building built by Henry Clay Frick, the Union Trust Building was completed in 1916 in a Flemish Gothic structure.

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It is believed that the roof is modeled after the Woolworth Building in New York, with the terra cotta dormers and mechanical towers that look like chapels.

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Even with this stunning roof, the most amazing feature of this building is the lobby, and its massive atrium leading up to the skylight.

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A closeup of the skylight.

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What a great building.

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The clock tour continues in the Union Trust Building.

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As does the mailbox tour.

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City/County Building – As we continued our day it became obvious that Pittsburgh experienced a massive building boom in the 1910s. Another example of this boom is the City/County Building, which was completed in 1916.

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The entire build emphasized local resources, from the architects to the materials and construction workers, it was directed that all the resources should come from Allegheny County.

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The lobby features a bust of William Pitt.

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As well as sculpted columns.

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Our visit included a stop at the Mayor’s office.

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Pittsburgh is noteworthy for their unique dialect, differing from the rest of the country with the accents and use of words. The most common of these is ‘Yinz’, which is Pennsylvanian for Y’all. Another is the way that downtown is pronounced (Dahntahn), and is celebrated with this sign in the Mayor’s office.

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Also open were the Council Chambers, located directly next to the Mayor’s Office.

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Oliver Building – The Henry Oliver Building is located directly across Smithfield Street from Mellon Square. Completed in 1910, the 25 story building now contains offices and an Embassy Suites hotel.

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The building was designed by Daniel Burnham. Interestingly other than Chicago, Pittsburgh has the most Burnham buildings still standing (7), and when first built they were actually taller than those in Chicago. It is thought by some that this is as a result of the steel barons, whose steel was required for the skyscrapers, for this ego boosting building boom.

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The building features another great safe.

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Art Deco is used throughout.

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The mailbox collection continues….

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The highlight however was being permitted to go check out the 25th floor lobby of the Embassy Suites, and the views from the windows throughout the floor.

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continued…..

 

Pittsburgh – October 2018 – Doors Open Part 3

Doors Open continues…

 

Smithfield Church – The church was completed in 1927, at the corner of Smithfield Street and Strawberry Way.

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The church was built by the German Evangelical Protestant Church, and has German sayings throughout.

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As with the other downtown churches, the Smithfield Church has an impressive organ.

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As well as the stained glass.

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The HYP Club – The Harvard, Yale, Princeton Club of Pittsburgh has a small 2 floor building surrounded by skyscrapers.

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The Alcoa Building towers over it’s neighbor.

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The interior itself was nice, but not noteworthy. We did have an enjoyable conversation with one of the hostesses, learning much about the club – which interesting is no longer restricted to just alumni of Harvard, Yale and Princeton.

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Pittsburgh Engineers Building – Daniel Burnham’s first Pittsburgh building was the 1899 Union Trust Company. Built in 1899 for Andrew Mellon and Henry Clay Frick, it was noteworthy for it’s safe.

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The bank left long ago, but the safe is still there.

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The Engineering Society of Pittsburgh has taken over the building, and has a club/restaurant that celebrates the engineering of Pittsburgh, with an emphasis on the bridges.

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William Penn Hotel – The William Penn Hotel, a classic old school hotel, was opened in 1916. Over the years it has hosted many famous people, including numerous presidents.

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Situated along Grant Street, it has long been the center of society in Pittsburgh.

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The main lobby.

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The lower level has the famous Speakeasy Bar, so named because of it’s reputation during prohibition.

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The hotel has a collection of artifacts including Lawernce Welk’s first bubble machine (for those too young google or youtube Lawrence Welk)

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The Pennsylvanian –  While it was officially called Union Station, the major train station at the corner of Liberty and Grant was always more commonly known as Penn Station, as the only railroad it served was the Pennsylvania Railroad

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Designed by Daniel Burnham it went into service in 1901.

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As you approach the station you are greeted by a great rotunda that was once used by carriages arriving and departing.

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The ceiling of the rotunda is one of the master pieces of the city, and of Daniel Burnham’s career.

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The rotunda is worth a number of looks…

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Immediately inside is a smaller room that greeted passengers.

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The Main Hall, with it’s high ceilings and skylights, continue to impress people today. After the buildings restoration in the 1980s to apartments, this hall has been used for functions like weddings and meetings.

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Original benches from the station era are still used in this hall.

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Detailed carvings are throughout.

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The skylights open up the lower level to natural lighting, despite the fact that the entire building rises another 10 floors around and above them.

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Another classic public clock.

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On this day they were also offering tours of one of the apartments.

From the 4th floor hallway you had a better look above the skylights at the higher floors of the building

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As with most of the other historic buildings in town, the Pennsylvanian has a great mailbox.

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Doors Open Pittsburgh is continued in part 4…

 

 

 

 

Pittsburgh – October 2018 – Doors Open Part 4

Doors Open Pittsburgh continues…

 

David Lawrence Convention Center – David Lawrence was one of Pittsburgh’s greatest mayors, leading the ‘Renaissance’ era in the 1950s. He has been honored by having the convention center named after him.

The convention center is built along the Allegheny River at the edge of downtown.

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It features a couple of gardens in an urban space.

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For Doors Open Pittsburgh the highlight was being able to go on the roof.

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The building is interesting but the views from the roof are great.

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Troy Hill

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A telescope with style.

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The north side of Pittsburgh is very hilly, hence the hodgepodge of buildings in no uniform order.

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A railroad bridge across the Allegheny River.

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Detail on the 16th Street Bridge.

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In Pittsburgh you can have a bridge any color you like as long as it is yellow.

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A different angle view of Gateway Center and Mt Washington.

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The Gulf Building – Sadly it was not open for DOP.

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The Pennsylvanian – one more look.

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Benedum Center – The Benedum Center opened in 1927 as the Stanley Theater, which name remained on it until the 1980s. Many rock concerts were held in this classic theater (Bob Marley played his last show here), although by the 1970s numerous modifications had taken away much of it’s classic look.

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That all changed in the 1980s, with a $43 million dollar restoration that returned it to its original look, complete with opulent lobbies.

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The theater seats 2,800 people in elegance.

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Today it is used primarily for the opera.

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The highlights however are the spectacular lighting, especially the main chandelier.

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The additional lighting would be the centerpieces elsewhere, but here they are secondary to the main chandelier.

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Byham Theater – The Byham is a great old theater, opened in 1903 as a vaudeville house. Had we not just been to the Benedum Center, it would’ve seemed more impressive.

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Our final stop – what an amazing weekend in Pittsburgh thanks to Bonnie and her fantastic volunteers, and the buildings who were willing to welcome visitors.

First Presbyterian Church – This church was completed in 1853, replacing another building that had been built on this spot in 1805.

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Downtown Pittsburgh has many impressive churches, and First Presbyterian is second to none.

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Another great pipe organ.

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The most impressive feature (to me) are the massive doors at one end.

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Although many would say the most impressive feature are the massive Tiffany stained glass windows.

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Pittsburgh – October 2018 – More Architecture

Having spent the weekend in the city for Doors Open Pittsburgh, we had additional time to check out the sights that weren’t officially part of the tour.

 

The Armstrong Tunnel. Built in 1927, there are longer tunnels in Pittsburgh, but none have a curve in them like the Armstrong.

There is great debate as to why the tunnels have a curve.

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South Side Slopes – An old church, an old bridge and new condo’s.

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The Warner – it was once a theater, then a food court, now a welfare office. But the sign is cool, with one of the newer skyscrapers as a backdrop.

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The famed Kaufmann’s clock – the store has been closed for some time now, but appears to be getting new life soon.

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Some classic cornices.

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A streetlight, the US Steel (aka UPMC) building with interesting lighting after a thunderstorm.

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Even the smaller old buildings on Liberty Avenue have excellent detail up high.

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From Mt Washington the view of the Cathedral of Learning at Pitt looks quite small. In reality it is 500′ high, but partially hidden behind the hill.

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Another vintage downtown building.

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Not to be outdone by Kaufmann’s, Gimbels had a cool clock too.

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Heinz Field just after a University of Pittsburgh game ended.

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Carnegie Science Center on the north side with one of the subway trains in the background.

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A view from Mt Washington through downtown buildings up the Allegheny River.

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It has been almost 40 years since Station Square restored the old rail station and yards and it is still going strong.

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Sun setting on the Mon.

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Replica Christopher Columbus ships have been making their way up the Ohio River all summer, and are now in Pittsburgh – as this panorama shows the Nina and Pinta.

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Four Gateway Center.

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Gateway Center with a purple fountain. (must have been Raven’s fans sneaking the water coloring in).

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The 1764 Ft Pitt Blockhouse, the 1960 Ft Pitt Bridge and Mount Washington in the background.

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A major rowing competition was occurring on this early Sunday morning as the first of the boat tailgaters were arriving for a Steelers game.

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An amazing wildlife photo from the Allegeheny River.

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The Point Fountain from a different perspective with the apartments on Mt Washington in the background.

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The very cool Duquesne Incline.

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Along the Mon Wharf.

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The Gateway Clipper crews getting ready for that Steelers crowd.

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Pittsburgh is the city of bridges.

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Finally a shot of PPG Place with one of the more architecturally interesting parking garages.

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Lancaster, Ohio – September 2018 – Frontier Spirit Festival

The city of Lancaster is one of the older towns in Ohio. The initial settlers came here in the late 1700’s, with the town itself being officially founded on November 10,1800.

Each year the Frontier Spirit Festival takes place. This festival has numerous actors who represent people who were instrumental in the settlement of the area in 1799.

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Pre dating Ohio becoming a state, the area was wilderness for the first settlers. The festival does an excellent job describing, and demonstrating what it took for these settlers.

The festival takes place in a large park at the south end of Lancaster. After an introduction, you are lead on a mile long hike with stops along the way for more detailed interpretations from the actors.

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The first large group of settlers came from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, thus the name. So many of those who came were of German descent that one of the first newspapers was a German language newspaper, Der Ohio Adler.

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All of the actors are volunteers. Their period clothing and other items, such as their guns add to the presentation.

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They spoke of the challenges in settling in the wilderness. There are more than 150 players in the group.

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Lancaster was founded by Ebenezer Zane, who was a famous merchant, trail blazer, pioneer and soldier. Zane was instrumental in treaties with the Native American’s (much debate about how equitable those treaties were, but that is another story).

Zane was given a contract by the United States government to open a road from Wheeling, West Virginia (then Virginia) to Maysville, Kentucky. In payment for this road he was given 3 square mile tracts of land at the crossing of the 3 major rivers – the Muskingum, the Hockhocking and the Scioto Rivers.

To make money he needed settlers to come buy some of this land, so he offer bounties to people to lead groups of settlers through the wilderness to each of the towns that developed. These leaders often were wanted by the law back east, so they were more than happy to move to the wilderness and earn some money.

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Anyone settling in the wilderness then had to fend for themselves, being hunters, building their cabins, becoming farmers, and generally having no dependency on anyone else.

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The promise of a better life in Ohio in 1799 was often not what they were lead to believe. This actress portrayed a frontier wife who wanted nothing more than to go back to Philadelphia and civilization.

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The husband and daughter wanted to make a life here. As with today, many marriages were strained by the stress of the move.

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This actress portrayed a young woman who was moving to the frontier to be married. She carried with her a dowry, a bag of salt.

The theme of this years presentation was about salt, and how important it was to the pioneers. They needed salt to cure their meat so it would last for long periods of time, as well as many other uses.

Salt was so rare, and in so much demand that in the Ohio frontier of 1799 it was worth more per ounce than gold.

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Along the way we met Johnny Appleseed, whose real name was John Chapman. All American school children know the story of Johnny Appleseed, who went from place to place scattering apple seeds for trees to grow,

Only that wasn’t quite how it was. John Chapman did indeed travel around to encourage the planting of fruit trees, but they were much more structured in orchards. He would plant the orchards then work with a local farmer to tend to the orchard, and share in the profits.

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There were numerous Native tribes in the area when it was being settled. Obviously not happy about losing their land with nothing in return, the local tribes tended to push back against the settlers.

Some tribes, such as the Wyandotte, had made deals with the US Government prior to 1799, thus allowing the development to continue faster.

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Our leaders into the wilderness.

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Once our tour down the trail was over, we visited the camp that was set up where they had a number of demonstrations.

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A band was playing.

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One tent had candle making – a very important item in pioneer life.

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Another musician with a zither.

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The Frontier Festival in Lancaster was far better than expected, with the actors and musicians all passionate about their presentation. It made for an entertaining and educational afternoon.

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Columbus – September 2018 – Fall at the Botanical Garden

With an annual membership at the Franklin Park Conservatory we now stop by for the various seasonal exhibits they present. The current one is for fall.

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The topiary’s are still being displayed, this time with ornamental brassica (aka – cabbage and kale). Who knew cabbage and kale were used as landscaping?

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A 10′ high ‘Pumpkin House’ is featured in the Children’s Garden.

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They have mixed in pumpkins throughout.

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Lots of pumpkins….

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Good thing some gourds have handles to hang them by.

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In addition to the traditional orange pumpkin, they have white ones.

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There are literally thousands of gourds on display.

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Small ones in hanging baskets.

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Alien gourds.

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Pumpkins with bumps, pumpkins of different colors…

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They seem to have cornered the market in pumpkins, but they add a nice touch and different coloring for the fall display. Soon the leaves will change adding even more color  before winter sets in and turns everything brown.

Enjoy it while we can.

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