In 1888, the five-floor Allegheny County
Courthouse was built. The Courthouse's 249 foot tower stood for twenty-four years
as the highest peak in town. Near the end of the 19th century the use of structural
steel revolutionized construction design. The strength of steel meant
buildings could now rise higher than ever before. The entire landscape of
the city, now populated by buildings five-floors high or less, would soon
In 1895, the 13-floor Carnegie Building
rose on Fifth Avenue. This was the first steel-framed tower built in the city.
Soon, the skyline was dotted with new towers that rose above the Triangle.
The Frick Building, built in 1902, was the first building to reach 20-floors.
That same year, the 24-floor Farmers Bank Building, at 344 feet, eclipsed the
Courthouse tower as the tallest structure in the city.
The Oliver Building, at
347 feet, was completed in 1910, and two years later the First National Bank
Building rose to a height of 26-floors (387 feet). Sixteen years passed
before the Grant Building, build to 37-floors (485 feet) in 1928, became the
city's tallest skyscraper. The Koppers Tower, finished in 1929, measured in
at 475 feet, falling just shy of the mark.
The County Courthouse, the Cathedral
of Learning and the Gulf Building in night scenes. The Courthouse Tower
was once the tallest structure in the city. By 1932, the Cathedral and Gulf
Building towered over 500 feet.
In Oakland, east of downtown Pittsburgh,
on the University of Pittsburgh campus, ground was broken in 1927 for a proposed
52-floor Gothic Cathedral. Although it only rose to 42-floors (535 feet), the
Cathedral of Learning, when completed in 1936, was an architectural masterpiece.
It is the tallest educational building in the country.
While the Cathedral rose in the east, the
Gulf Building, completed in 1932, rose to a height of 583 feet, with 44-floors.
For the next thirty-eight years, the beacon atop the Gulf Building stood at the
Top of the Triangle. The Great Depression put a hold on further large building
projects, and signalled the end of a construction phase that could be considered
the city's first renaissance. It is more accurately described as
The first true renaissance began after
World War II. Steel for construction was again readily available and a building
boom ensued, beginning in 1950 with the construction of the US Steel/Mellon Bank
Building (now Three Mellon Center). The stainless steel skyscraper rose to 550
feet, thirty-three feet short of the Gulf Building. The next twenty years saw
several new skyscrapers re-draw the city skyline.
The end of Renaissance I was punctuated by
the towering US Steel Building, dedicated in 1970. The tower rose to an incredible
831 feet, making it visible to the South Hills over the hills of Mount Washington,
which rise to a height of over 600 feet.
The 64-floor U.S. Steel, under construction
in 1969, rises above the City of Pittsburgh
Renaissance II began in the 1980s,
and saw several new skyscrapers rise towards the clouds. One PPG Place and
Oxford Centre both eclipsed 600 feet and forty floors. The new headquarters of
Mellon Bank, One Mellon Center, completed in 1983, rose to 725 feet, or fifty-four
Like the USS Tower, the upper floors of the
Mellon Tower are also visible to the southern communities. The final skyscraper built
during the 1980s boom was Fifth Avenue Place, dedicated in 1988. Although only
thirty-one floors high, the 178 foot mast at the top brings the total height to
616 feet, making it the fourth tallest building in Pittsburgh.
For twenty years the Steel City Skyline
remained basically the same. This changed in September of 2008, when workers
added the final beam to one of Pittsburgh's newest skyscrapers, the 23-floor Three
PNC Plaza. The building opened in 2009.
PNC Financial Services Group then
announced, in 2011, that would soon begin on a 33-floor corporate headquarters,
known as The Tower at PNC Plaza. Construction began in 2012 and was completed
in October 2015. At 545 feet in height, it is the seventy tallest building in
An ironworker atop the US Steel Building in 1970
(left) and the Tower at PNC Plaza in 2015.
Skyscrapers built in Pittsburgh
since the dawn of the 20th century.
The 25-floor Oliver Building, opened in 1910,
and the 27-floor Federated Tower, opened in 1982.
Pittsburgh's Tallest Buildings:
1872-1888 - Trinity
Episcopal Cathedral, 328 Sixth Avenue, 200 feet.
1888-1902 - Allegheny County Courthouse, 436 Grant Street, 249 feet.
1902-1910 - Farmers Bank Building, 301 Fifth Avenue, 344 feet.
1910-1912 - Oliver Building, 535 Smithfield Street, 347 feet.
1912-1928 - First National Bank Building, 511 Wood Street, 387 feet.
1928-1932 - Grant Building, 330 Grant Street, 485 feet.
1932-1970 - Gulf Building, 707 Grant Street, 582 feet.
1970-present - U.S. Steel Tower, 600 Grant Street, 841 feet.
For more information on
Wikipedia - List of Tallest Buildings in Pittsburgh.
Skyscrapers.com - Pittsburgh Skyscraper Diagram.