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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Pittsburgh – August 2018 – Sights on a Saturday

In town for the Regatta, we were able to check out a number of other sites for sights during the day.

Throughout downtown there were ‘earths’ painted with messages of making the world a better place.

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Flags of the world on the relief of the countries.

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A very artistic earth.

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Market Square is always busy with something going on.

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Meanwhile on the North Shore a large artistic installation graces the riverfront.

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I believe that architecture is the most beautiful art form – and functional.

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Alcoa Headquarters building.

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After we left the Photo Antiquities Museum we came across a festival in a park where they were promotion the protection of animals, including many vegan food options.

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There were many artists as well.

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But most booths had various animal protection themes.

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He needs our help.

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The cat rescue group leader.

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Origami art

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A novel use for test tubes.

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I was tempted to bring home a beagle rescue – but we travel far too much – it wouldn’t be fair to the dog.

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Nearby is the Children’s Museum – formerly the Buhl Planetarium – with a nice carved relief.

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A series of tubes would occasionally created a fog cloud.

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Making our way to the river for the Regatta we passed by the baseball stadium, and the Willie Stargell statue.

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As well as Roberto Clemente, along with the bridge they renamed for him.

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As we made our way to our seat for the regatta fireworks nature provided one last shot for the day.

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Pittsburgh – August 2018 – Ya Gotta Regatta

For Decades now Pittsburgh has celebrated their position on the rivers with an annual Regatta. More than just boat races, the Regatta features all sort of events – on the water, on the land and in the air.

First up – The Red Bull Paratroopers.

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They came down fast, dropping into the valley from above.

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Before pulling up just before they….

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Hit the water!

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The XPogo crew were on hand for some amazing acrobatics.

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They have amazing skills on a pogo stick.

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Doing backflips while dismounting their stick.

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Flipping the pogo stick between their legs in mid air.

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These guys were crazy – but very skilled.

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Next up – the Anything That Floats competition. When we would come to the regatta back in the 1990s there were 20 or more contestants.

While fewer this year, those that were here were enthusiastic.

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A nice water touch.

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The boat was misnamed.

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The Isaly’s Ice Cream Shop boat wasnt fast, but it was steady.

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Not sure if the beer cans were empty or not.

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Sharks and Pirates together.

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As they made their way down the river they met up with one of the Tiki Hut floating bars.

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Which left them at the finish to sail into the sunset.

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The water jet guy came out to wow the crowd.

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Followed by the jet ski’s, who all were adapt at doing flips.

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They seemed to be upside down as much as upright.

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A perfect shot – an upside down jet ski with the Point Fountain, Ft Pitt Bridge and Mt Washington in the background.

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But it was time for boat racing – the officials surveyed the river.

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The crews were ready for the start.

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Some less intense than others.

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And it was time to race – first up were smaller boats that made a turn before the Ft Duquesne Bridge.

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They were quick down the straights.

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The larger boats finally took over the course.

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The south turn was right at the point where the Monongahela, Allegheny and Ohio Rivers meet.

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Another nice view of the Point Fountain.

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It is amazing how fast the boats separate – just a few laps and they were all over the course with little grouping together.

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Downtown Pittsburgh offers great backdrops for the racing.

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After the races, we headed over to Point Park where they had other activities. One was an amazing sand sculpture dedicated to the historic (and defunct) Pennsylvania Railroad.

This entire sculpture is sand.

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The detail was fantastic.

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The train.

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Detail of the train wheels.

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After dinner we headed back to the North Side for…..

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FIREWORKS!

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A great ending to a great day.

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