The Skinny Building

The Skinny Building on Forbes Avenue and Wood Street.

In 1903, the City of Pittsburgh confiscated thirty feet of throughway to widen Diamond Way into what is now Forbes Avenue. Given that the standard parcel was 36 feet wide, there wasn't much left, so most property owners sold off the remaining six-foot wide fragments to the city to widen the sidewalks.

In 1907, Andrew Mellon purchased a six-foot wide parcel of land at the corner of Forbes Avenue and Wood Street. He hoped the city would widen the street further and offer him a profit on his investment. The city was not interested, and in 1918 Mellon sold the parcel to Louis Hendel. For reasons that will never be completely understood, Hendel built a very narrow, three-story building on the parcel that became known to Pittsburghers as the "Skinny Building."

The inside of the Skinny Building.

Nearly a century later, during a move to spur development along the Fifth-Forbes corridor, Pittsurgh Mayor Tom Murphy threatened to seize the property, using eminent domain, and hand it over to developers. That plan was eventually abandoned. Today, vendors occupy the ground floor of the Skinny Building. The second and third floors, accessed through a narrow spiral staircase, are used as a public art display. Each month the twenty-four windows show off innovative projects by Pittsburgh artists.

The Skinny Building on Forbes Avenue and Wood Street.

At 5'2" wide, Pittsburgh's "Skinny Building" is the narrowest in the world. This fact, however, has never been officially acknowledged. In Vancouver, British Columbia, there is a six-foot wide structure called as the Sam Key Building that is currently listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the shallowest commercial building in the world.

The Skinny Building - 1981.

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