The Burke Building

The Burke Building

The Burke Building in downtown Pittsburgh, located at 209-211 Fourth Avenue, is the City's oldest standing commercial building. Constructed in 1836 for attorneys Andrew and Robert Burke, the structure was one of the few survivors of the Great Fire of 1845.

Designed by John Chislett, an Englishman who became Pittsburgh's first professional architect, the Burke Building is the city's only remaining large Greek Revival building. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.

The outer design is accented by a minimum of classical ornament, including a slightly projecting central bay with two pediments, double laurel wreaths and fluted columns at the entrance. The facade walls are made of sandstone that was cut from nearby quarries.

The Central Staircase.    The Central Staircase.
The central staircase is one of the main features of the interior design, linking all three main levels.

The inside of the building still contains many of the original features, including the central staircase that rises to the three stories, the four fireplaces, and the internal pocket shutters in the front windows. Plank flooring and tin ceilings remain in several rooms. On the second floor is a unique double-door safe. The pine, tuliptree and white oak used for the rafters, floors and staircases is still in good condition.

The building has had many commercial uses over the years, the last being a restaurant that closed in 1990. The property was purchased in 1996 by the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. Major renovations were made that preserved and refurbished the historic materials and also brought the structure into compliance with 21st Century environmental "green" standards. The Burke Building is now considered a living model of environmentally responsible design.

Valued at nearly one million dollars in 2011, the Burke Building, which has stood for 165 years, will forever be a priceless link to Pittsburgh's past.

The Burke Building and 3 PPG Place.

The 1836 structure occupies the property next to 3 PPG Place, part of the modern PPG Plaza complex, which was built in 1984. The two structures, erected nearly 150 years apart, provide an interesting contrast, and a historic look at Pittsburgh urban architecture, past and present.

The Burke Building is also known as the Meyer Building, and is the second oldest structure in downtown Pittsburgh. The Fort Pitt Blockhouse, built in 1764, is the oldest.

The Burke Building in 1935.    The Burke Building in the early-1970s.
The Burke Building in 1935 (left) and in the early-1970s, before historic designation and renovation.

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