Armstrong Cork Company Buildings

Now converted to loft apartments and known as “The Cork Factory,” this landmark of industrial architecture was designed by Frederick Osterling. Here we see it from Washington’s Landing on a grey day. Since the weather was mopey, Father Pitt decided to make this picture look as much as possible as though it could have been made in 1901, when the buildings were new; but in fact it was taken just this afternoon.

Camera: Konica Minolta DiMAGE Z3.

Skyscrapers, Old and New

The Tower at PNC Plaza under construction in March of 2015. In front of it, three of the Fourth Avenue towers: the Benedum-Trees Building (1905, architect Thomas H. Scott), the Investment Building (1927, architect John M. Donn), and the Arrott Building (1902, architect Frederick Osterling).

St. Augustine Church, Lawrenceville

John T. Comes (sometimes spelled Comès) designed a splendid Romanesque church for this congregation. It was built, however, on an improbably narrow street in the most crowded section of Lower Lawrenceville, so it is impossible to see the front as Comes designed it—unless we appeal to technology, merging fifteen separate photographs to produce one overall picture. In spite of the distortion caused by taking the pictures from a low position and altering the perspective, this imperfect picture comes very close to presenting the front of the church as the architect drew it.

East Liberty Presbyterian Church

Franklin Toker suggests that, per square foot, this is the most expensive church ever built in America. It was built with Mellon money, so it is sometimes called the Mellon Fire Escape by locals who see it as an atonement for the sins inevitable on the way to becoming the richest family in America; but the congregation prefers the nickname “Cathedral of Hope.” The architect was Ralph Adams Cram, who could easily be called America’s greatest Gothic architect, and the Mellons gave him free rein and an unlimited budget. The result was Cram’s ultimate fantasy Gothic cathedral, whose massive central tower dominates the skyline of the neighborhood. To the left, in the distance, we see the Highland Building.

Fidelity Building

If you love architecture, Fourth Avenue gives you a more varied aesthetic experience per block than any other street in the city. Here we have the Richardsonian Romanesque style as it applies to a proto-skyscraper: the Fidelity Building, designed by James T. Steen. It opened in 1889, when Richardson’s courthouse on Grant Street was brand new. Its seven floors are close to the limit for pre-steel-cage architecture. Only a year after this building opened, construction began on the Conestoga Building on Smithfield Street, the first steel-cage building in Pittsburgh.

The photograph is huge, by the way: at full size it’s 8.88 megabytes, so don’t click on it on a metered connection. Once again, old Pa Pitt has put it together from multiple photographs, which was the only way to get the whole front of the building from across the street.

Third Presbyterian Church

“Mrs. Thaw’s Chocolate Church,” as it was called when it was put up, this splendid building was designed by Theophilus P. Chandler, Jr., and opened in 1903. Mary Thaw, the widow of Henry Thaw, paid for most of it, and doubtless specified the architect; Chandler had also designed the Thaws’ mansion, which (alas) is long gone. Chandler was also the architect of First Presbyterian downtown and the titanic Duncan mausoleum and column in the Union Dale Cemetery.

The picture of the front above is put together from eight different photographs, which is the only way old Pa Pitt could get the whole building from this angle.

Camera: Konica Minolta DiMAGE Z3.

Four Gateway Center

A 1960 skyscraper by the prolific Harrison & Abramovitz (who also gave us the U. S. Steel Tower, the Westinghouse Building, and the Alcoa Building). Father Pitt thinks it looks better as an architect’s rendering than in person. He has therefore made his photograph (merged from three separate photographs) look as much like an architect’s rendering as possible.