Mellon Bank Building

The downtown Pittsburgh headquarters (1921) of Mellon Bank
on Smithfield Street between Fifth and Liberty Avenues.

Mellon Bank was founded by retired-Judge Thomas Mellon and his sons. The institution began as a private banking house, located at 145 Smithfield Street, at the intersection with Second Avenue (now the Boulevard of the Allies). The bank opened it's doors on January 2, 1870.

The T. Mellon and Sons Bank invested capital for, and lended capital to, major clients as opposed to retail customers. Among the people they lent money to were Henry Clay Frick, a steelmaker whose company became U.S. Steel, and George Westinghouse, inventor of the pneumatic air-brake and founder of the modern Westinghouse Corporation. Capital provided by the Mellon Bank was critical in developing Pittsburgh as a center of the industrial revolution.

In addition to it's involvement with industrial giants like Frick and Westinghouse, the Mellon family had direct involvement in the founding the modern aluminium, oil, consumer electronics and financial industries. Alcoa, Gulf Oil (now Chevron-Texaco) and Rockwell were all directly founded and managed by the bank. Heinz, General Motors, Koppers and ExxonMobil (as Rockefeller's Standard Oil) were all born and nurtured by the Mellons.

Thomas Mellon    Andrew Mellon    Richard Mellon
Left to right: Thomas Mellon, Andrew Mellon and Richard Mellon.

In 1882, Thomas Mellon retired and his son Andrew became President of the bank. Andrew and his brother Richard prospered, and by the turn of the century owned controlling interests in a diverse range of local businesses. The bank financed the creation of Union Transfer and Trust Company, and joined the national banking system as Mellon National Bank in 1902.

The Mellon Bank offices were moved to the 500 block of Smithfield Street, and soon the company had acquired the entire block of buildings between Fifth and Oliver Avenues. In 1924, this complex was replaced with a new, magnificently decorated structure, located across from the Kaufmann's Department Store. The Mellon Bank Building was refered to as the "Cathedral of Earning."

Mellon Bank    Interior of the Mellon Bank Building

In 1946, Mellon National, Mellbank, and the Union Trust Company, all owned by the Mellons, merged to form Mellon National Bank and Trust Company. Through a series of mergers and acquisitions, Mellon Bank continued to grow. In 1951, the first U.S. Steel Building, now known as 525 William Penn Place, was built adjacent to the bank where the Hotel Henry once stood. The first eight floors became an extension of the Mellon Bank Building, with a penthouse for Richard Mellon on the top floor. When U.S. Steel moved to their new Tower in 1971, the building was entirely occupied by Mellon Bank.

Mellon Square Plaza

Also in 1951, in a move to keep the Alcoa Corporation headquarters located in Pittsburgh, the Mellon family spent $4,500,000 to develop the Mellon Square Plaza, a complex that included a 900-car parking garage and store-fronts along Smithfield Street, topped by an oppulent open-air plaza. The plaza occupies the entire city block, between Oliver and Sixth Avenue, adjacent to the Mellon Bank Building.

In 1981, construction began on a new signature building that would be the headquarters of Mellon National Corporation. The Mellon Tower, or One Mellon Center, opened in 1983. The 54-story skyscraper dramatically altered the Pittsburgh skyline.

One Mellon Center

Then, in July 2007, Mellon Corporation merged with the Bank of New York, creating the Bank of New York Mellon. It is the world's largest securities servicing firm and one of the world's top ten asset managing firms.

The Mellon Bank Building was added to the list of Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation Historic Landmarks in 1976. The building was sold in 2000 and became a Lord and Taylor's Department Store. The store closed in 2004 and the building has sat vacant ever since. In May, 2012, the building was purchased by PNC Financial Services Group as future office space.

The former Mellon National Bank Building

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