Oliver Building

Henry W. Oliver wanted to leave a mark on Pittsburgh, and he certainly did. Virgin Alley was renamed Oliver Avenue, and he planned this building to be the tallest in Pittsburgh. It was the tallest when it opened in 1910, although Oliver himself didn’t live to see it finished. As architect, he hired Daniel Burnham, the great Chicago beaux-arts master for whom Pittsburgh was practically a second home—there are more Burnham buildings here than anywhere else but Chicago.

803 Liberty Avenue

The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust lives in this gorgeously restored building with a wonderfully checkered history. It has been, among other things, a hotel and an adult bookstore, where (presumably) all the books were over 21 years old.

Camera: Samsung Digimax V4.

819 and 821 Penn Avenue

Both these buildings are quite utilitarian, with ground-floor storefronts and upper-floor workshops; but each is adorned with its own distinctive classical detailing. The Greek-key pattern shows up on both, but no. 819 in particular adds a profusion of other ornaments that distinguish it from its neighbors.

Once again, the narrowness of Penn Avenue makes it difficult to get a complete picture of the façades of these buildings, so the tops are a little blurry.

McNally and Bonn Buildings, Penn Avenue

These two buildings, like many in the Cultural District, are going residential. Though the styles are radically different—the McNally Building light and classical, the Bonn Building heavy and Romanesque—they are only three years apart: the McNally building was put up in 1896, the Bonn Building in 1893.

Penn Avenue is a very narrow street, and getting a picture of the whole front of a nine-story building involves a lot of fiddling, most of it done by the Hugin stitching program automatically. Thus the picture is a bit fuzzy toward the top.

Hoffstot Building and Neighbor, Liberty Avenue

The Hoffstot Building (left) and its neighbor at 813 Liberty Avenue both have the large windows that indicate workshops of some sort on the upper floors. No. 813 has grown some curious postmodern excrescences at the top and an industrial-looking awning at ground level. It also preserves the left edge of a demolished building, now replaced by a one-story shop, that must have been interestingly ornamental.

Renshaw Building and Kirkpatrick Building, Liberty Avenue

The Renshaw Building (left) was built in 1908; it is architecturally interesting for the way it duplicates the base-shaft-cap form of a standard beaux-arts skyscraper in miniature.

The Kirkpatrick Building was built a quarter-century earlier in 1884. A cast-iron front on the first four floors gives way to standard Victorian Romanesque brickwork in the upper half.