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Downtown Architectural Jewels (Self Guided), Pittsburgh

The city of Pittsburgh offers amazing architecture composed of stylish contemporary buildings, as well as buildings which date back to the 18th century. Fort Pitt Blockhouse, one of the many brilliant structures in the city, is the oldest of Pittsburgh’s buildings and an outstanding landmark.
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Downtown Architectural Jewels Map

Guide Name: Downtown Architectural Jewels
Guide Location: USA » Pittsburgh (See other walking tours in Pittsburgh)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 11
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.1 Km or 1.9 Miles
Author: leticia
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Fort Pitt Blockhouse
  • Heinz Hall
  • First Presbyterian Church
  • Trinity Cathedral
  • Omni William Penn Hotel
  • Mellon Square
  • Frick Building
  • Allegheny County Courthouse
  • Grant Building
  • U.S. Steel Tower
  • David L Lawrence Convention Center
Fort Pitt Blockhouse

1) Fort Pitt Blockhouse (must see)

The Fort Pitt Blockhouse, or Bouquet's Blockhouse, is a historic building in Point State Park in the city. It was constructed in 1764 as a redoubt of Fort Pitt, making it the oldest extant structure in Western Pennsylvania, as well as the "oldest authenticated structure west of the Allegheny Mountains". The Fort Pitt Blockhouse was constructed in 1764 to address weaknesses in Fort Pitt's original design.

Fort Pitt had been completed in 1761 and survived a difficult siege in 1763 during Pontiac's Rebellion. Although the Blockhouse resides within the boundaries of Point State Park, it is owned and operated by the Fort Pitt Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution. The DAR allows visitors to the park to tour the structure. The building is recognized by the National Register of Historic Places as being the sole surviving historical building in the "Forks of the Ohio (Site of Fort Duquesne and Fort Pitt, Bouquet's Blockhouse)" historic place.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Heinz Hall

2) Heinz Hall (must see)

Heinz Hall for the Performing Arts is a performing arts center and concert hall located at 600 Penn Avenue in the Cultural District of Pittsburgh. Home to the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (PSO) and the Pittsburgh Youth Symphony, the 2,676 seat hall presents about 200 performances each year.

Originally built in 1927 as Loew’s Penn Theatre, the former movie palace was renovated and reopened as Heinz Hall in 1971. Built as the Loew's and United Artists' Penn Theatre, construction of the building was completed in 1927. Motion picture business magnate and pioneer Marcus Loew engaged the architectural firm of Rapp & Rapp to design the movie palace.

The Grand Lobby was particularly impressive, with its 50-foot (15 m)-high vaulted Venetian ceiling, massive ornamental columns, marble staircase, bronze and crystal chandeliers and silk drapes. From 1967 to 1971, the building was extensively renovated.
Sight description based on wikipedia
First Presbyterian Church

3) First Presbyterian Church (must see)

The First Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh is one of the oldest Protestant organizations west of the Allegheny Mountains. The First Presbyterian Church proudly profiles roofs, which date back to 1758, and gorgeous memorial stained-glass windows, all of which were designed and installed by the famous Tiffany Studios.
Trinity Cathedral

4) Trinity Cathedral (must see)

Trinity Cathedral is the cathedral for the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh. The present Gothic church, the third structure to hold the congregation, was completed in 1872 on the site of a hilltop cemetery. The site, centered on a terrace above the historic "point" (where the Allegheny River and the Monongahela River join to form the Ohio River) was sacred to Native Americans as a burial ground. Early settlers also used this site as a cemetery. The congregation built its second church here in 1824.

The Trinity Churchyard has the oldest marked graves west of the Atlantic Seaboard, of both Native American leaders, French, English, and American colonists. The first Trinity Church was built two blocks to the west of this burial ground at the base of the hill or terrace initially. It was constructed from the 1780s to 1805.

In 1824 Trinity moved to its current site in the middle of the terrace churchyard with what is regarded as the first gothic structure in Western Pennsylvania. John Henry Hopkins led the design and construction of the cathedral, which was complete with butresses, a tower, pointed arches and a vaulted ceiling. In 1872 the new Trinity Cathedral was completed. It was the tallest building in the city until the construction of the Allegheny County Courthouse in 1888.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Omni William Penn Hotel

5) Omni William Penn Hotel

The Omni William Penn Hotel is located at 530 William Penn Place on Mellon Square. A variety of luminaries have stayed at the hotel, including John F. Kennedy. The hotel staff innovated Lawrence Welk's now famous bubble machine, and it was the site of Bob Hope's marriage proposal in 1934.

The hotel has won numerous awards including being named to the “Best of Weddings 2009” list by The Knot and receiving the Editor’s Choice Award in the Business Hotels category on The hotel also features an award winning restaurant that dates from 1916, the Terrace Room, featuring among other amenities a wall long mural entitled "The taking of Fort Pitt". The Terrace Room was voted "Best Hotel Dining" establishment in both 2008 and 2009 by readers of the Pittsburgh City Paper.

Built from 1915 to 1916, the William Penn opened on March 11, 1916, in what newspapers hailed as the Grandest Hotel in the nation, its first night it hosted the annual Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce Gala and was recorded as the largest gala in city history up to that time with U.S. Secretary of State Philander Knox hosting the event.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Mellon Square

6) Mellon Square

Mellon Square is the first Modernist park built above a parking garage. With its distinctive black-and-white geometric pavement, it is a prominent feature and gathering spot of Downtown Pittsburgh. The square, bounded by Smithfield Street, William Penn Place, and Oliver and Sixth avenues, is surrounded by many prominent downtown buildings including the Oliver Building, 525 William Penn Place, Omni William Penn Hotel, and the Regional Enterprise Tower.

The square is part of the Pittsburgh Central Downtown Historic District, which received National Register of Historic Places status in 1985. A historical marker in the square commemorates the Founding Convention of the American Federation of Labor, which took place on November 15, 1881, in Turner Hall, near this location. This site is on the List of Pennsylvania state historical markers in Allegheny County. The Square serves as the backdrop to revealing scenes in the 2002 thriller The Mothman Prophecies with Richard Gere and Laura Linney.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Frick Building

7) Frick Building

The Frick Building was built by and is named for Henry Clay Frick, an industrialist coke producer who created a portfolio of commercial buildings in Pittsburgh. The tower was built directly adjacent to a building owned by his business partner and rival Andrew Carnegie, on the site of Saint Peter Episcopal Church. Frick, who feuded with Carnegie after they split as business associates, had the building designed to be taller than Carnegie's in order to encompass it in constant shadow.

The Frick Building was opened on March 15, 1902 and originally had twenty floors. The building's architect was Daniel H. Burnham of D.H. Burnham & Company, Chicago. The top floor includes a balcony around the perimeter of the building, a high, handcrafted ceiling, and heavy, elaborate brass door fixtures. Originally, H.C. Frick used it as his personal office and as a meeting place and social club for wealthy industrialists. On the 19th floor was Frick's personal shower.

Fittingly for a building created for a man who vowed to be a millionaire by age thirty, the lobby features an elegant stained-glass window by John LaFarge, depicting "Fortune and Her Wheel" (1902). The two bronze sentinel lions (1904) in the lobby were created by sculptor Alexander Proctor. A bust of Frick by sculptor Malvina Hoffman (1923) is displayed in the rear lobby, which extends from Forbes to Fifth Avenue.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Allegheny County Courthouse

8) Allegheny County Courthouse (must see)

Allegheny County Courthouse is a government building of Allegheny County located in the county seat of the city. Following the destruction of the second courthouse, Allegheny County Commissioners decided to hold a competition to design a replacement. The winner of the competition was Boston architect Henry Hobson Richardson and construction of the buildings was begun by the Norcross Brothers, Richardson's construction firm of choice, in 1884. The design of the Allegheny County Courthouse has influenced buildings in many cities across America, such as Minneapolis City Hall, Altgeld Hall on the campus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and James W. McLaughlin's Wayne County Courthouse in Richmond, Indiana.

In 1974, the building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 2007, the American Institute of Architects asked Harris Interactive to survey 2,000 people, who were shown 247 photographs of buildings and other structures in different categories chosen by 2,500 architects. The Allegheny County Courthouse was ranked 35th overall on the list and above every other courthouse in the nation except the U.S. Supreme Court. Muralist Vincent Nesbert completed four murals for the building on its second floor in 1940: "Industry," "Justice," "Peace," "Fort Duquesne" and "The Battle of Grant's Hill."
Sight description based on wikipedia
Grant Building

9) Grant Building

The Grant Building is located on and named for Pittsburgh's Grant Street, which has historically been the hub of the city's corporate and governmental operations. The Grant Building was completed in 1930 and it has thirty-seven floors. It rises 485 feet (148 m) above downtown Pittsburgh. The art deco building's facade is built with Belgian granite, limestone, and brick.

It was famous for a radio antenna that rose roughly 100–150 feet from the roof of the tower which had an aviation beacon that spelled out P-I-T-T-S-B-U-R-G-H in Morse Code. The beacon could be seen as far away as 150 miles (240 km) on clear nights. A smaller version of the beacon, still flashing out the name of the city remains to this day, although malfunctions with the older technology have caused it to spell Pittsburgh as "P-I-T-E-T-S-B-K-R-R-H". As of July 27, 2009, the beacon was repaired and it again spells out Pittsburgh.

The tower on the roof also served as the broadcast antenna for radio station KDKA Pittsburgh. The radio station made its first broadcast from the building's third floor.
Sight description based on wikipedia
U.S. Steel Tower

10) U.S. Steel Tower

U.S. Steel Tower, or Steel Building, located at 600 Grant Street, is the tallest skyscraper in Pittsburgh, the fourth tallest building in Pennsylvania, and the 37th tallest in the United States. Completed in 1970, the tower has 64 floors to 841 ft (256 m) and has 2,300,000 sq ft (210,000 m2) of leasable space. The U.S. Steel Tower is architecturally noted for its triangular shape with indented corners.

The building also made history by being the first to use liquid-filled fireproofed columns. U.S. Steel deliberately placed the massive steel columns on the exterior of the building to showcase a new product called Cor-ten steel. Cor-ten resists the corrosive effects of rain, snow, ice, fog, and other meteorological conditions by forming a coating of dark brown oxidation over the metal, which inhibits deeper penetration and doesn't need painting and costly rust-prevention maintenance over the years.

The initial weathering of the material resulted in a discoloration of the surrounding city sidewalks, as well as other nearby buildings. A cleanup effort was orchestrated by the corporation once weathering was complete to undo this damage, but the sidewalks still have a decidedly rusty tinge. The Cor-Ten steel for the building was made at the former U.S. Steel Homestead Works. The tower contains over 44,000 U.S. tons (40,000 metric tons) of structural steel, and almost an acre of office space per floor.
Sight description based on wikipedia
David L Lawrence Convention Center

11) David L Lawrence Convention Center

The David L. Lawrence Convention Center is a 1,500,000-square-foot (140,000 m2) convention, conference and exhibition building in downtown of the city. The initial David L. Lawrence Convention Center was completed on the site on February 7, 1981, but as part as a renewal plan the new completely redesigned center was opened in 2003 and funded in conjunction with nearby Heinz Field and PNC Park.

The building won the 2004 Supreme Award for structural engineering excellence from the Institution of Structural Engineers. The center—though completely a structure of 2003 construction—chose to retain the name of the earlier convention center on the site completed in 1981 in honor of David Leo Lawrence (June 18, 1889—November 21, 1966). Lawrence was an American politician who served as the Democratic Governor of Pennsylvania from 1959 to 1963, only retiring because of the state's then term limit of 1 per governor. He is to date the only mayor of Pittsburgh to be elected Governor of Pennsylvania.
Sight description based on wikipedia

Walking Tours in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Create Your Own Walk in Pittsburgh

Create Your Own Walk in Pittsburgh

Creating your own self-guided walk in Pittsburgh is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Pittsburgh Introduction Walk

Pittsburgh Introduction Walk

Pittsburgh appears trough its history as a city built on coal and steel. Today Pittsburgh will impress you with its exhibits of contemporary art and rides on antique cable cars. Downtown Pittsburgh, the "Golden Triangle" as it's often called, blends the historic, administrative, economic, and cultural diversity into the heart of the city. Rediscover Pittsburgh trough its fascinating...  view more

Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.0 Km or 3.1 Miles
Pittsburgh Museums and Galleries

Pittsburgh Museums and Galleries

Pittsburgh is home to various museums which depict everything from history to modern art. Visitors may learn about the city’s early history at Senator John Heinz History Center and Fort Pitt Museum, appreciate installation art at Mattress Factory Museum, admire works of Andy Warhol at Andy Warhol Museum, and have fun at two other Pittsburgh museums dedicated to children. Pittsburgh is also home...  view more

Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 7.0 Km or 4.3 Miles
Pittsburgh's Historical Churches

Pittsburgh's Historical Churches

Pittsburgh features a rich history and is home to various religious buildings and places of worship. Several of the city’s churches represent historic landmarks and date back to the 19th century. Religious buildings like these are open to the public and highly recommended during your visit.

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.1 Km or 1.3 Miles
East Pittsburgh

East Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh’s eastern region offers various attractions of interest, including city landmarks and historic sites. East Pittsburgh is home to the outstanding Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, Schenley Park, Stephen Foster Memorial Museum, Mary Schenley Memorial fountain, and two of the Carnegie Museums.

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.8 Km or 1.7 Miles