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Mellon Square in relation to the Point

a) Mellon Square 1955    Architects: Mitchell & Ritchey, with Simonds & Simonds, landscape

Mellon Square was donated to the city of Pittsburgh by Richard K. and Paul Mellon, to provide open space in the midst of a dense urban landscape and to provide a setting for the two Mellon-related skyscrapers that flank it: Three Mellon Bank Center (1952), at Fifth Avenue and William Penn Way, and the Alcoa Building (1953), at Sixth Avenue and William Penn - both by the New York architects Harrison and Abramovitz.  In addition, it provides an interrupted view of the extraordinary buildings that ring the Square.  Mellon Square has fulfilled its promise over forty years, offering a welcoming space for lunching and other events in a setting of pure 1950s design.

b) former Gimbel's Department Store 1914          Architects: Starrett and Van Vleck

The former Gimbel's store building was built to house the Kaufmann and Baer Department Store, which was purchased by Gimbel's in 1926.  It is a thirteen-story structure sheathed in white terra cotta and detailed in the Classical style.  Particularly noteworthy are the two-story arcade and the heavy projecting cornice at the roofline.

c) Duquesne Club 1887-89 Architects: Longfellow, Alden & Harlow

Founded in 1873, the Duquesne Club is renowned as the oldest and most prestigious of Pittsburgh's clubs.   The clubhouse on Sixth Avenue was designed by one of the successor firms to H. H. Richardson, the architect of the Allegheny County Courthouse, in the Romanesque style.  The original brownstone club building was symmetrical, with its arched entrance located between two shallow projecting bays.  The building was extended to the east in 1902 in the same style by the firm of Alden & Harlow.  In 1930-31, the Duquesne Club built a residential tower to the rear of the lot, in a less-emphatic Romanesque style designed by the firm of Janssen & Cocken.

d) Granite Building 1889-90     Architects: Bickel & Brennan

The Granite Building was originally built to house the German National Bank in a narrow, eight-story building at the corner of Sixth Avenue and Wood Street.  Although the ground floor was largely rebuilt in the 1980s, the end arch on the Sixth Avenue facade provides a sense of what the original arcade looked like.  The upper floors are covered in (what appears to be) every form of ornament used in the Romanesque style.

e) First Presbyterian Church 1903-05         Architect: Theophilus P. Chandler

The First Presbyterian Church stands on land that was donated to the church in 1787 by the Penn family.  Its twin-towered design is in the English Gothic style, and the interior features a number of Tiffany stained-glass windows.  This church building is the third on the site, having replaced an earlier structure that faced Wood Street.  The earlier church was demolished and replaced when the congregation sold the Wood Street frontage for the construction of the McCreery Department Store Building (300 Sixth Avenue, 1904, by Daniel Burnham).

f) Trinity Cathedral 1870-71 Architect: Gordon Lloyd

This is the third church building for Trinity Cathedral, which occupies another of the church lots donated by the Penn family in 1787.  It is designed in the Decorated English Gothic style that was favored by mid-Victorian Episcopalians.  The parish house at the rear, on Oliver Avenue, was designed in 1907 by Crocker & Carpenter.  Trinity Cathedral is located on a terrace that is the remains of a low hill that had been used as a graveyard by Native Americans, French, British, and American settlers; a portion of that graveyard still survives between Trinity and First Presbyterian.

g) Oliver Building 1908-10           Architects: D. H. Burnham & Co.

The Oliver Building is a twenty-four-story office building built as a memorial to the Pittsburgh industrialist Henry W. Oliver.  It was designed in the Classical base-shaft-capital form typical of the turn of the century, with a stone base supporting a terra cotta skin that rises to a graceful arcade and cornice at the roof.

site of former City Hall (no picture)

The Saks Fifth Avenue store stands on the site of Pittsburgh's second City Hall.  The first municipal building was located in Market Square from 1852 until 1872, when the City Hall on Smithfield Street opened.  The 1872 City Hall was a fashionable Second Empire building, noted for its mansard-roofed tower.  It was supplanted as City headquarters by the City-County Building in 1917, but lingered on until it was demolished in 1952.

h) Park Building 1896          Architect: George B. Post

The Park Building is probably the oldest surviving steel-framed building in Pittsburgh.  The advent of steel framing in the U.S. in the 1880s and 1890s, along with the invention of safe elevators,  allowed the construction of taller buildings than before that time, and led eventually to the immense skyscrapers of today.  Post designed the Park Building for David and William Park, of the Park Steel Company.  He used a Classical form (stone base, brick shaft, and ornamental cap) and elaborate Classical details, the most spectacular of which is the row of crouching male figures (called "atlantes" or "telemones") supporting the ornamental cornice at the roofline.  An unfortunate remodeling during the 1960s altered the windows and their historical ornamental surrounds in the central section of the building.

j) Mellon Bank 1923-24  Architects: Trowbridge & Livingston with E. P. Mellon

This building conforms to the classic image of the banking house: a sober Classical stone exterior, four stories in height, with a tall interior banking room surrounded by colossal marble Ionic columns.  The Mellon Bank was founded by Judge Thomas Mellon in 1869, and has been one of the economic engines of industrial development in Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania.

k) Kaufmann's Department Store 1898&1913  Architects: Charles Bickel and Janssen & Abbott

Kaufmann's Department Store is the gigantic descendant of a successful South Side dry-goods venture from the mid-nineteenth century.  The stone section of the store, at Smithfield Street and Forbes Avenue, was an addition to Kaufmann's original "Big Store"; the Indian heads on the Classical facade are noteworthy.  In 1913 a larger white terra cotta-sheathed section was constructed with Renaissance Classical detailing and a large ornamental public clock at the corner.  Edgar Kaufmann, who owned the company at mid-century, was a patron of Frank Lloyd Wright, and commissioned the famous summer house, "Fallingwater".

site of the Carnegie Building (no picture)

The addition to the Kaufmann's Department Store located at Fifth Avenue and Cherry Way was built in 1952 on the site of the first steel-framed building in the city, the Carnegie Building.  The Carnegie Building was built in 1893-95 as a memorial to Thomas Carnegie, Andrew's brother, and served as a steel company headquarters until it was demolished in 1952.

m) Frick Building 1901-02           Architects: D. H. Burnham & Co.

The construction of the Frick Building, a severe Greek Classical structure of steel encased in limestone and granite, marked the beginning of corporate dominance on Grant Street.  The columns at the base were originally at street level before the lowering of "the Hump", the steep hill at Grant Street and Fifth Avenue, in 1912.  The lowering of the entrance made the marble lobby even more impressive by making it two stories tall.  Daniel Burnham and Company, a nationally-known Chicago-based firm, designed a total of seventeen buildings in Pittsburgh - many commissioned by Henry Frick, the coke and steel magnate - including the Union Station at Grant Street and Liberty Avenue.

n) Union Trust Building 1915-17    Architect: Frederick Osterling

This Flemish-Gothic style building was built by Henry Frick as a shopping arcade, known as the Union Arcade, with 240 shops and galleries on four levels.  Lively terra cotta dormers and ornaments decorate the steeply pitched mansard roof, above which rise two chapel-like mechanical towers.  The interior is organized around a central rotunda capped by a stained-glass dome.  This building was built on the site of Pittsburgh's nineteenth-century Catholic cathedral.  The architect, Frederick Osterling, was one of Pittsburgh's premier architects, and also designed the Arrott Building (1901-02), and the County Mortuary (1901-03).

p) William Penn Hotel 1914-16 & 1928           Architect: Janssen & Abbott, Janssen & Cocken

Henry C. Frick was also responsible for the construction of the William Penn Hotel.  The original block of the hotel faced what is now Mellon Square and is ornamented in an eighteenth-century Georgian Classical style.  It was built with three towers separated by light shafts, to allow maximum light into all of the suites.  The exterior design, with a limestone base, deep red brick shaft and terra cotta cornice and trim, were later extended to the addition on Grant Street.  The architect, Benno Janssen, alone and in collaboration with Abbott or Cocken, designed many buildings in the Pittsburgh area beginning in 1913.

q) Alcoa Building 1953         Architects: Harrison & Abramovitz

The Alcoa Building is the most prominent of the new structures that face onto Mellon Square.  It is a thirty-story skyscraper that was designed as a showpiece of the use of aluminum in building construction.  Aluminum was used wherever possible, from the skin of the building to its utilities, reducing the weight of the building so those substantial savings could be made in the structure's steel frame.  The Alcoa Building stands on the site of the renowned Beaux Arts-style Nixon Theater.  Harrison and Abramovitz was one of the most famous architecture firms in the U.S. at mid-century and was responsible for many buildings in Pittsburgh (including the USX Tower and Four Gateway Center).

r) Harvard-Yale-Princeton Club  c. 1890, remodeled 1930            Architect: Edward B. Lee

The HYP Club occupies the northern half of a former residential court at the corner of William Penn Place and Strawberry Way (offices occupy the southern half).  A row of six narrow three-story houses flanked each side of a narrow courtyard.  They were designed as worker housing, and symbolize the former residential character of much of Pittsburgh's Downtown.  The houses were joined and remodeled into a Colonial-style clubhouse in the 1930s.

s) former houses c. 1850

Behind the Harvard-Yale-Princeton Club, crowded by their large neighbors, stand a number of small survivors from Civil War-era Pittsburgh.  The best-preserved of these brick structures is the former house at the corner of Strawberry and Montour Ways, a three-story building that once had an open wooden porch and stair at the rear.  Immediately behind it are two tiny former two-story houses, behind which used to be a small courtyard.

t) Smithfield United Church 1925-26       Architect: Henry Hornbostel

The congregation of this church is the descendant of the original German Protestant church that received a land grant from the Penn family ion 1787.  The present building was built after the congregation sold or leased its land on Sixth Avenue, and the former church was demolished to make way for a commercial building.  This Gothic-style building is an unusual design by one of Pittsburgh's premier Classical architects.  The blocky mass of the building culminates in a square tower that is capped by an openwork aluminum spire.

u) Koppers Building 1928Architects: Graham, Anderson, Probst & White

The Koppers Building is one of the best examples of an Art Deco-style building in Pittsburgh.  This stepped-back skyscraper is encased in limestone and crowned with a copper chateauesque roof.  The lobby provides an excellent example of an elegant and urbane Art Deco interior. The architectural firm was the successor of D.H. Burnham and Company, which designed several Pittsburgh buildings in the Classical and Beaux Arts styles. 

v) Gulf Building 1930-32   Architects: Trowbridge & Livingston with E.P. Mellon

This forty-four story former corporate headquarters of the Gulf Oil Company was the tallest building in Pittsburgh until 1970, when it was surpassed by the USX Tower across Grant Street.  Designed in an eclectic Classical/Art Deco style, the limestone-sheathed steel shaft is capped by a stepped pyramid, which recalls the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus (one of the Wonders of the ancient world).  Until the 1970s, these steps were illuminated with neon that flashed a weather report to the city by a code using steady or flashing blue and orange lights.  The architects, a successful New York firm, also designed the Mellon Bank on Mellon Square.

w) Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland 1930-31      Architects: Walker & Weeks

Built of white Georgia marble and trimmed in aluminum, the Federal Reserve Bank's Art Deco facade was recently cleaned, allowing its restrained elegance to again brighten the northern end of Grant Street.

x) U.S. Post Office and Courthouse 1930-32      Architects: Trowbridge & Livingston

The block of Grant Street north of Seventh Avenue was opened in 1929 when a railroad freight yard was removed, and a number of the newly-available lots became occupied by government buildings.  The Post Office was designed in a stripped-down Neo-classical style with an imposing monolithic facade.  The rear of the building was built as three wings with light wells between, to allow maximum light into the work space.

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