Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Downtown Lunchbreak: Henry Clay Frick's Buildings, October 2011

A book I cannot recommend highly enough for any person who has lived, does live, or wants to live in Pittsburgh is Franklin Toker's Pittsburgh: A New Portrait. This book lives on my nightstand and I try to take a few pages in every night before I go to bed. I fall asleep thinking about how amazing it must have been to watch this city and its magnificent buildings and neighborhoods rise and transform. I also think about the decay and unfortunate histories that this city has seen, but I know that I'm back for good now, and I'm about to witness some truly inspiring city rejuvenation.

I work downtown, which gives me an opportunity to explore a part of the city that most of my friends only visit for things like gallery crawls or sporting events. Downtown is definitely a unique place, mostly due to the random assortment of people who populate its streets during the business day. But, after reading the Downtown chapter of the Toker book, I'm setting off on a string of mini-adventures on my lunchbreaks to explore some of the buildings and places that are special to Pittsburgh.

The first of these mini-adventures took me to a few buildings commissioned by Henry Clay Frick, who played a great role in the development of Downtown Pittsburgh.

The first building on my checklist is the Union Trust building on Grant Street. Passing by, one might not notice the uniqueness of the building on the outside. Its mansard roof is peppered with little windows, but you wouldn't notice unless you looked up. (So, look up!) Even better than the outside of the Union Trust Building is the inside, which is beyond beautiful. It's almost overwhelming walking into the building and taking in the immensity and beautiful craftmanship of Burnham's design. I was short on time, so I just walked through quickly, but a future mini-adventure will take place where I explore the inside. I'm determined to walk up the floors and take a shot looking down.

Rotunda ceiling in the Union Trust Building: gorgeous.

The exit of the Union Trust Building.

The William Penn Hotel, another of Henry Clay Frick's commissions.

Beautiful chandeliers give the William Penn an ambiance that makes you feel like you've time traveled back to the days when the building had just opened to the public.

This building wasn't commissioned by Frick, but it was designed by Daniel Burnham, and it's where I go to work every day. It's the Henry W. Oliver Building, and the window to my office looks out onto the Trinity Church and a very old cemetery, which will be another future mini-adventure. After a year of working downtown, it's time to hit the streets and take in the buildings and nooks and crannies that make Pittsburgh Pittsburgh. Lunchbreak adventures. Best way to send the one hour of my day when I'm not chained to a desk.

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