Pittsburgh: #2

August 30, 2014 • 7:25 am

This covers only half of yesterday, for I had an awesome visit to a historic mansion that one of my friends just bought, and then a wonderful multi-course Hungarian dinner, and one of the guests happened to be a Big Macher in Pittsburgh. But more on that tomorrow. Yesterday morning and afternoon I roamed around downtown admiring the architecture of the city, which is underappreciated. Here are some buildings:

The Allegheny County Courthouse (completed 1888) and Allegheny County Jail (completed 1886). The complex now houses offices.

Allegh Cty. court

The Union Trust Building (1915-1916), erected by Henry Clay Frick, originally designed as a shopping arcade (the malls of their day). I love the neo-Gothic roof, which reminds me of the Tribune Tower in Chicago (the world’s only Gothic skyscraper):

Un. Square

I believe this logo is made out of real vegetation, but I may well be wrong. It seems to be for the PNC Bank in Pittsburgh. Perhaps it’s Astroturf after all, for how would they mow it?

Garden mural

A hidden little Art Deco building;

Art Deco

The diversity of architectural styles in Pittsburgh:


“Meet me under the Kaufmann’s clock.” Kaufmann’s Department Store. The Pittsburgh store, built in 1887, became the first of a chain, and is now owned, as is Marshall Field’s in Chicago (also with a famous “meet me” clock), by Macy’s. As Wikipedia notes:

The original clock which was installed in 1887 was a large free standing four faced clock. It immediately became a popular downtown meeting place, with the oft-used phrase “Meet me under Kaufmann’s clock.” With the expansion of the store in 1913, the current clock was installed.The clock is a Pittsburgh icon, and is often featured in visual materials representing and marketing the city. Both the Kaufmann’s flagship building and the clock are designated as Pittsburgh Historical Landmarks. Upon announcing the 2006 retirement of the Kaufmann’s name and the downtown store being rebranded as Macy’s, the store gave out tote bags printed with the Clock’s image and its phrase “Meet me under the Kaufmann’s clock” to honor the store’s 135-year history.


The 64-story U.S. Steel Tower, completed in 1970. It’s a rusty steel building, but designed to be that way. As Wikipedia notes:

The U.S. Steel Tower is architecturally noted for its triangular shape with indented corners. The building also made history by being the first to use liquid-filled fireproofed columns. U.S. Steel deliberately placed the massive steel columns on the exterior of the building to showcase a new product called Cor-ten steel. Cor-ten resists the corrosive effects of rain, snow, ice, fog, and other meteorological conditions by forming a coating of dark brown oxidation over the metal, which inhibits deeper penetration and doesn’t need painting and costly rust-prevention maintenance over the years.

US Steel 1

A closeup of the partly rusted Cor-ten steel.

US steel 2

Time for lunch at last!  And what better place for a light lunch than Primanti Brothers, a Pittsburgh landmark and now a chain. Michael Stern’s description and review at Roadfood notes that Primanti’s weird custom of including french fries and cole slaw within the sandwich began when the restaurant (which has another branch in the busy “Strip” district) was servicing truck drivers. (It’s open 24 hours a day.) The drivers had no time for a sit-down meal, so the cole slaw and fries were simply stuffed into the sandwich along with some Russian dressing. (One also adds a vinegar sauce to spice it up.) That sounds icky, but it was actually quite good. Primanti’s is a Pittsburgh Institution.

I ate early and had a pastrami and cheese sandwich, shown here in normal view and cross section:

Primati 1


Primati 2


32 thoughts on “Pittsburgh: #2

  1. I am an artist and and I’v been painting Pittsburgh scenes for over forty years. If you type, James Guentner artist, you can see all my paintings. If you go to Tube You and type Guentner’s Pittsburgh, you can see my video. Here is one of my paintings.

  2. I am always struck by the diversity of the buildings in downtown Pittsburgh, which is strange because I find it quite normal in Chicago, my home town. Maybe it’s because downtown Pittsburgh seems so cramped.

    As to that sandwich, they need to reverse the ratio of fries and pastrami. That’s just a french fry sandwich with pastrami and cheese.

    “What do they know in Pittsburgh?”

    “They know what what they like.”

    “If they knew what they liked, they wouldn’t live in Pittsburgh.”

    Sullivan’s Travels

    1. I think there’s a minimum thickness for the effect to work. The corroded protective layer is pretty thick, so body panels would be mostly corroded through and very weak.

      I am not a trained expert in this subject, but I did go to high school across the road from a steel mill where they sometimes made Cor-ten products.

      1. Cor-ten steel was developed in the 1930s for railway freight cars, so that they wouldn’t need to be painted. However, near salt water, it rusts through, so it can’t be used for buildings close to an ocean. An earlier example of a skyscraper clad in Cor-ten is the Richard J. Daley Center in Chicago, completed in 1965; the Picasso sculpture in the plaza there is also of Cor-ten.

  3. “Michael Stern’s description and review at Roadfood notes that Primanti’s weird custom of including french fries and cole slaw within the sandwich began when the restaurant (which has another branch in the busy “Strip” district) was servicing truck drivers”

    In Belgium and France, meat sandwiches with French fries are called “mitraillettes” (“submachine guns”) or “Américains”.


  4. Re: PNC building logo. It could be made of read vegetation and yet not need mowing. Vertical “gardens” are usually made of Sedum (stonecrops). I can’t tell from this distance if it’s real, of course.

    1. PNC advertises it as being bona fide vegetation, and one of the largest vertical gardens. I have no reason to believe that a bank would ever lie. (Snark!)

  5. From PNC’s website:
    PNC’s Green Wall: one of the largest in North America is located on the southern exposure of One PNC Plaza.

    From Wikipedia:
    A green wall is a wall partially or completely covered with vegetation that includes a growing medium, such as soil. Most green walls also feature an integrated water delivery system. Green walls are also known as living walls, BIOboards, biowalls, ecowalls, or vertical gardens.

  6. There’s a couple of buildings that I know in outer London that have vegetation as decoration like that. It’s a very cool idea, it really stands out.

  7. What is the ultra-neo-gothic building in the right side background of photo just before the Kaufmann’s clock pic?

  8. That sandwich is a MOUTHFUL! It reminds me of when I was working in rural Northern Wisconsin back in the 80s: a little tavern that served sandwiches had, as their “specialty” a “taterburger”- a double cheeseburger with a hash brown patty in it. I’ve often thought that this was one of those, “million-dollar” ideas, as I’ve never seen it anywhere else.

  9. I hesitate to correct Professor Ceiling Cat, but an error is still an error. The Tribune Tower in Chicago is most definitely not the “the world’s only Gothic skyscraper”. The Cathedral of Learning at the University of Pittsburgh (a link provided in Part 1 of the photos from Pittsburgh)is actually more authentically Gothic, and significantly taller. A large area of the main floor consists of a 1/2 acre hall with true Gothic architecture – no structural steel supporting the walls or ceiling. It’s all carved stone. The steel skeleton supporting the building are all outside the perimeter of the Commons Room, or are contained inside massive piers that pass through the room.

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