Pittsburgh History: Evolution of The Point and Skyline 1921-1947 Vol. 2

The next series of Posts will focus on the transformation of Pittsburgh’s skyline over the last 100 years.  Volume 1 will discuss the changes in the city and skyline from 1900-1920.  Volume 2 will focus on the changes from 1921-1947.  Volume 3 will cover Renaissance 1 and changes from 1946-1970.  Renaissance 2 completed the city’s transition and Volume 4 will highlight the changes to the skyline from 1971-1989.

Pittsburgh’s topography is what makes the skyline so unique.  The characteristic shape of Pittsburgh’s central business district is a triangular tract carved by the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers, which form the Ohio River.  The Point, Golden Triangle, Three Rivers, and City of Bridges are just some of the names given to Pittsburgh’s skyline.

Pittsburgh 1921-1947

During this period in Pittsburgh, the skyline took shape and many of the buildings are still prominent in the cityscape. Continuing with earlier building projects, the new wave of buildings were constructed on or near the Grant Street business district.  The next generation of skyscrapers started in the late 1920s with the construction of the Grant Building (1928) and the Koppers Building (1929).  Quickly following was the Gulf Building (1932) which was located right next to the Koppers Building.

The Grant Building succeeded the First National Bank Building in 1928 as the tallest skyscraper in the city.  The title was short-lived after the Gulf Building was completed in 1932.  The Gulf Building held the title for over 38 years until the US Steel building was built.

Koppers Building:

The Koppers Building was built between 1927 and 1929 of Indiana limestone. Located at 436 7th Avenue, Pittsburgh, it is 475 feet tall, with 34 stories of commercial offices. Koppers occupies five floors of the building.

In the Koppers Building, architects Graham, Anderson, Probst & White created one of the best examples of an Art Deco-style building in Pittsburgh. This stepped-back skyscraper is encased in limestone and crowned with a copper chateauesque roof. The lobby provides an excellent example of an elegant and urbane Art Deco interior. The architectural firm was the successor of D.H. Burnham and Company, which designed several Pittsburgh buildings in the Classical and Beaux Arts styles.*

* Koppers Building information obtained from the following website – http://www.koppers.com/htm/OurCo_Heri_Build.html


Grant Building

When it was built-in 1928, the Grant Building was the tallest and most prestigious building in the City of Pittsburgh. It is on Grant Street’s premier business location, adjacent to the City-County Building and Allegheny County Courthouse.

Renowned architect Henry Hornbostel, pictured right, created a building in the classic Beaux Arts style to compete with the great high rises of the early twentieth century. Developers spared no expense, cladding the building in Swedish Granite at its base and topping the building with a flamboyant neon tower that spells out P-I-T-T-S-B-U-R-G-H in Morse Code. Like the Empire State Building, the Grant Building with its mast helped aviators to locate their way. Both buildings became iconic symbols of their cities.

The list of tenants occupying the Grant Building through the years reads like a Who’s Who of successful power brokers. Today the building houses respected attorneys, judges, and financiers. McKnight Realty Partners has undertaken an ambitious restoration of the Grant Building to align the Class A building with their signature project, Heinz 57 Center.

The collection has a number of photographs of the interior and exterior of the Grant Building – http://bradystewartphoto.photoshelter.com/gallery/Buildings-Architecture-of-Pittsburgh/G0000TiSQpG_VGoQ/1

Information on the Grant Building was obtained from this website – http://www.thegrantbuilding.com/content/history/

Gulf Building

Built as the headquarters for the Gulf Oil Company, and known as the Gulf Building, the structure was designed by the firm of Trowbridge & Livingston and completed in 1932.

Prior to the late 1970s, the entire multistory “step-pyramid/mausoleum” structure at the top of the building was neon-illuminated, changing colors to provide a weather forecast that could be seen for many miles.

Subsequently, however, the weather forecasting role has been limited to the weather beacon at the pinnacle of the pyramid, which glows blue for precipitation and red for fair weather.

Major construction projects around the city were far and few between during the Depression era (1932-1938) and also during World War II (1941-1945).  After the war, government and civic leaders worked together to create a blueprint for the next era in the city’s evolution called Renaissance 1.

If you are interested in downloading an image or to purchase a print, please contact Brady Stewart Studio by phone (724.554.9813) or email bstewartphoto@aol.com.  Additional Images can be viewed at http://bradystewartphoto.photoshelter.com/gallery-list.

Article from The Almanac, A Newspaper in the South Hills of Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh’s past detailed in photos

By Amy Philips Haller For The Almanac writer@thealmanac.net

The Historical Society of Mount Lebanon took a historic journey into the snapshots of Pittsburgh’s past last week when the organization hosted a speaking event about the photography of Brady Stewart Jr. and Sr.

Once an army photographer, Stewart left a legacy in his images. Decades of pictures tell stories about southwestern Pennsylvania. He  and his father documented important hometown events such as Pittsburgh’s devastating 1936 flood and the grand opening of Pittsburgh International Airport in 1952.

Margaret Betzler Jackson, president of the Historical Society of Mount Lebanon, commented, “When I got on the Brady Stewart website to look at the pictures, I immediately realized this was a program we had to have.” She contacted his son, Mike Stewart, to come speak to HSML.

“My father was born and raised in Wilkinsburg (1920). He followed in his father’s footsteps and got into photography in high school,” explained Stewart. After completing one year of college at Penn State, he was drafted into the Army. After the war, he joined his father, Brady Stewart Sr., at his studio. After Sr. passed away in 1965, Brady Jr. was the owner and operator until his untimely death in 1981.”

His sons, Mike and Brady III, decided to continue the legacy. “For the next 10 years, we evolved the business into a visual communications company specializing in computer graphic and business presentations,” explained Mike Stewart. “In 1987, we opened the Brady Stewart Collection of 20th Century Photographs. The collection offered stock photography for advertising agencies and custom photographs for restaurant and business décor. Today, we are a fourth generation photography business. Two of my sons, Dan and Kevin, are also active in the business.”

Jackson pointed out some of her favorites “I love the shanty town series because it shows a Pittsburgh past that is often not seen, ” she said.  “But my favorite is the one taken outside the old Pittsburgh International Airport the night it opened.  It is just a gorgeous print and, for some reason, it speaks to me.  Michael gave the historical society a print of it to auction off at our dinner last fall, and I had a bidding war with another board member.”  Sadly, Jackson’s endeavors did not end victorious.  One of Stewart’s favorite memories included going with his father to shoot an early morning Easter service at the Civic Arena.  “At 9 years old, it was amazing to witness the opening of the Civic Arena roof.  Sections of the steel roof grinded together as one section folded under another.”

Stewart recalled one of his father’s proudest efforts.  “Dad worked with Dr. Robert Egan and the U.S. Health, Education and Welfare Department to successfully duplicate mammogram X-rays for publication into medical books. He worked closely with Eastman Kodak to develop a process to effectively duplicate over 100,000 X-rays. He was very proud of the final product and that doctors were in a better position to diagnose breast cancer.”

Stewart’s work was also published in ‘The Art and Architecture of the East Liberty Presbyterian Church.’

Now, the Stewart family is carefully going through hundreds of photographs and over 90 years of Pittsburgh history, cataloging images and putting them online.

“It took over a year to create the website, digitize, research and add detail to the images. Currently, we have over 900 images uploaded and plan to add another 30-50 per month over the next few years.”

The pictures are available for the public to purchase duplicates.

To learn more about the collection, or to view photographs online, go to www.bradystewartphoto.com.  All images in the blog and web site are copyrighted by Brady Stewart Studio Inc.  If you are interested in downloading an image or to purchase a print, please contact Brady Stewart Studio by phone (724.554.9813) or email bstewartphoto@aol.com.

To contact the Stewarts about speaking engagements, email them at bstewartphoto@aol.com

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