Design for the City-County Building

This rendering was published in 1916, before the building opened in 1917; but this is how the City-County Building still looks today. “Diamond Street” is now part of Forbes Avenue, except for the remnant of the outer end that veers off Forbes for one scraggly diagonal block to meet Fifth Avenue.


The Joseph Horne Department Store was Pittsburgh’s second-biggest (after Kaufmann’s, “The Big Store,” now Macy’s). The original 1897 building was designed by Boston architects Peabody & Stearns, also responsible for the Liberty Market (now Motor Square Garden) in East Liberty; additions over the next few decades greatly expanded the store. It was still going strong in the 1980s, when it was connected by a pedestrian bridge to the new Fifth Avenue Place shopping arcade; but the Horne’s chain was sold to Lazarus, which closed this store after it built a new store on Fifth Avenue, and then closed the new store down a few years later.

The building still stands, though, and you can see on the corner the brackets that hold the famous Horne’s Christmas tree, an enduring holiday tradition that has survived the demise of two department-store chains.

Gateway Towers

This Brezhnev-era apartment building from 1964 has little to recommend it architecturally, but is there a finer location in the city? Point State Park is the front yard; the Gateway subway station is next door; the Cultural District is just up the street.

Camera: Olympus E-20n.

Wyndham Grand Pittsburgh Downtown

It used to be the Hilton, whose management kept flirting with bankruptcy. For some time the odd swoopy addition on the front was stalled half-finished; it is now completed and open. This is Pittsburgh’s tallest hotel, and probably the ugliest as well. But as a place to stay, it has its benefits—among them, spectacular views in all directions.

Camera: Kodak EasyShare Z1485 IS.

Fifth Avenue Place

One of the more prominent of the skyscrapers from the Postmodernist boom in the 1980s. The spindle that sticks out the top has a particular meaning: it marks the height the builders had intended the building to reach. They were thwarted by the city government, which thought for some reason that it would be too tall at that height, although the monstrous U. S. Steel Building had not bothered them a decade and a half before.

Do you like this building better with or without a leafy frame? Father Pitt is willing to oblige either way.

Camera: Olympus E-20n.

Penn Avenue, Cultural District

Penn Avenue in the Cultural District, Pittsburgh, from the corner of Sixth Street. The view includes the O’Reilly Theater and Theater Square (architect Michael Graves) and the Penn Avenue bikeway.

Camera: Kodak EasyShare Z1485 IS.