The Gulf Building

The Gulf Tower

The Gulf Building opened in 1932 and for the next thirty-eight years reigned as the signature skyscraper along the Pittsburgh skyline. Built to a height of 583 feet, or forty-four stories, the crown of the skyscraper is modeled after the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus in the style of a step pyramid. The building was the headquarters of the Gulf Oil Corporation until 1984. Listed as a Pittsburgh Historic Landmark in 1973, the Gulf Tower is now home to several corporate and commercial interests.

The Gulf Building - 1932
The Gulf Building opened in 1932.

The building was constructed by Booth and Flinn, a firm that was responsible for several major construction projects in the city, including the Union Trust Building, the Federal Building, the Post Office and major portions of the Parkway East. Built of structural steel and Indiana limestone weighing over 27,000 tons, not including the thousands of tons of material used in the walls and floors, the building required innovative construction techniques to secure the foundation.

Fourteen pneumatic caissons were sunk through the saturated soil to bedrock, nearly 80 feet below street level. The center caissons, which bear the buildings main load, are 18 feet by 42 feet thick (shown below).

Constructing the foundation for the Gulf Building
Constructing the foundation for the Gulf Building required innovative techniques.

Besides being one of the main attractions in the Golden Triangle vista, the Gulf Building has another interesting feature. The top of the skyscraper has relayed the weather forecast for decades. Until recently, a lighted beacon blinked either red or blue. A red light signifies that the weather will be clear the following day and a blue light indicates rain is on the way. Upgrades in 2012 have expanded the forecasting capabilities of the Gulf Tower. The diagram below shows the new range and color schemes.

The Gulf Tower Weather Forecast Chart
Courtesy of the Post-Gazette.

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