The Arrott Building, designed by Frederick Osterling, is the most ornate of the famous Fourth Avenue towers. (The interior is as impressive as the exterior.) This view of the back is possible because of the temporary vacancy of a lot on Forbes Avenue, where a new skyscraper is going up. Behind and to the left, we see the People’s Savings Bank tower by Alden & Harlow with its curious rusticated stone in the kind of random patterns cartoonists use to suggest a brick wall without actually having to draw all those bricks.
Two of the three original Gateway Center towers, designed by Eggers & Higgins as a model for urban redevelopment after the Second World War. (In the picture above, the entrance to the Gateway subway station is in front.) They were meant to be clad with ordinary brick, and they would have been ugly excrescences; but for various reasons they ended up with these gleaming chrome walls instead, creating a constantly shifting play of light all day. “Towers in a park” was the International Style ideal of a city; it was usually a miserable failure when actually built, but many of the miserable failures were inspired by this conspicuous success, which was one of the most talked-about building projects of the postwar era.
It would be hard to explain Light-Up Night to an out-of-towner. The abstract idea of a night when Christmas lights are turned on for the season is not hard to convey, but no words could describe the seething mass of cheerful humanity that gathers downtown, stuffing trolleys like rolling sardine cans and tying up traffic for hours. It is a night when every good Pittsburgher feels obliged to pay his respects to the Golden Triangle. There are bands, orchestras, choirs, street performers, multiple fireworks displays, lights, ice skating, and even a few random acts of kindness. Every year it’s a bigger deal than last year.
The Horne’s Christmas tree, above, is a tradition that predates Light-Up Night by decades. The Horne’s department store is gone, but the owners of the building still graciously allow us to admire the famous tree that takes up a whole corner of what used to be our second-largest department store.