Henry Clay Frick continued his business interests in Pittsburgh, New York, and other cities. He made several major real estate investments in Downtown Pittsburgh including the 21-floor Frick Building, 23-floor William Penn Hotel, 13-floor Union Arcade(now known as the Union Trust Building/Two Mellon Center), and the 19-floor Frick Annex(now known as the Allegheny Building).
Originally, the Frick Building(shown on the left) rose 20 stories from ground level. However, by the end of 1914, a steep hill on Grant Street, known as "The Hump"(part of Grant's Hill), had been leveled, allowing a more gradual rise from the lower part of Downtown Pittsburgh's "Golden Triangle." What was the basement level now became the entrance level of the Frick Building; the former first floor became a Mezzanine.
Some of the earth and stone from The Hump was used to fill-in a small off-shoot of Panther Hollow known as St. Pierre's Ravine, in the central portion of Pittsburgh's Oakland section. This new land became Schenley Plaza and includes the present site of the Henry Clay Frick Fine Arts Building, Library, and Auditorium of the University of Pittsburgh, built by Helen Clay Frick in memory of her father. Interestingly, when filling-in St. Pierre's Ravine to create Schenley Plaza, a stone arch bridge known as the Bellefield Bridge crossing the Ravine (close to the present site of the Frick Fine Arts Building), was literally buried where it stood! The Mary E. Schenley Memorial Fountain, dedicated to the memory of the woman who donated the land for Schenley Park, now sits above the former bridge site--in front of the Frick Fine Arts Building. Ironically, the Frick Fine Arts Building(on the south side of Schenley Drive) and Carnegie Library and Lecture Hall(on the north side of Schenley Drive) frame the Oakland entrance to Schenley Park.
At the beginning of the Twentieth Century, Oakland, located three miles east of Downtown Pittsburgh, was beginning to become Pittsburgh's "civic center," spurred by the "City Beautiful" urban and architectural movement of that era. Also, since Pittsburgh's topography was so rugged, and, hence, Downtown Pittsburgh was confined to a very small area, Downtown land values were much too high for the incorporation of cultural assets within the Golden Triangle. So, facilities such as the University of Pittsburgh(a.k.a. Pitt); Mellon Institute of Industrial Research; Carnegie Technical Schools(now Carnegie Mellon University); Henry Clay Frick Training School for Teachers(now the Frick International Studies Academy of the School District of Pittsburgh); Pittsburgh Board of Public Education headquarters; Carnegie Library, Institute Museums of Natural History and of Art, Music Hall, and Lecture Hall; Phipps Conservatory; Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall; Syria Mosque(razed); Masonic Hall (now part of Pitt); Pittsburgh Athletic Association; Young Men's and Women's Hebrew Association(now part of Pitt); Twentieth Century Club; the first small museum of the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania(now physicians' offices); Forbes Field(razed; second home of the Pittsburgh Pirates National League professional baseball team); and several hospitals were built in Oakland.
Originally, Union Arcade was built as a multi-level retail arcade, a precursor to today's indoor shopping malls, with office floors above. Unlike similar arcades of the era such as the Jenkins Arcade in Pittsburgh's lower triangle and Ohio's Cleveland Arcade, the Union Arcade was not successful. Apparently, it was too far removed from the City's Fifth Avenue/Forbes Avenue retail core, even though it was just a block up Fifth Avenue from Kaufmann's Department Store. Consequently, the upper levels of the arcade were converted into office space, leaving a small retail arcade on the first floor; the building was renamed the Union Trust Building. As with many Downtown buildings, Union Arcade was constructed with two wall-mounted public mailboxes which also acted as receptacles for two mail chutes from the upper floors; one is located on the first floor, near the Grant Street entrance; the other is located on the basement level across from the barber shop, just down the steps from the William Penn Way(now William Penn Place) entrance. Building nameplates(saying "Union Arcade") on these two public mailboxes, the last vestige of the building's original name, were removed in the mid-1980s when the building was renamed Two Mellon Bank Center.
The new building name was prompted by the reorganization of Mellon office buildings, following the opening of the 56-floor One Mellon Bank Center, across Grant Street from the Union Trust Building. The 41-floor Mellon Bank Building, across William Penn Place from the Union Trust Building, became Three Mellon Bank Center; in the 1950s, this was built as the U.S. Steel/Mellon Bank Building, when an annex to Kaufmann's Department Store was scheduled to replace the Carnegie Building(previous home of U.S. Steel Corporation; was located just below the Frick Building, on Fifth Avenue). The landmark Mellon National Bank and Trust Company Building on Smithfield Street, with its huge vaulted banking lobby, became Four Mellon Bank Center; this building was recently converted into a Lord and Taylor Department Store. It turned-out that the latest name change of Union Arcade was not very practical; few people knew where Two Mellon Bank Center was located, while everyone knew the location of the Union Trust Building. Today, the building goes by the dual monikers of Union Trust Building/Two Mellon Center(the word "Bank" is left-off, since the company now goes by the name Mellon Financial Corporation). By the way, the nameplates on those two public mailboxes have been changed again, from Two Mellon Bank Center to Union Trust Building!
Jenkins Arcade was a very busy three-level arcade, which, along with the Joseph Horne Company Department Store, anchored the lower end of the Downtown Pittsburgh retail district. Jenkins Arcade was designed in such a way that it served as a pedestrian link between Horne's and Fifth Avenue. When the Jenkins Arcade was razed in the mid-1980s, the link between Horne's and Fifth Avenue was severed, and Horne's business started to decline. Eventually, the Horne's Department Store chain was bought by Lazarus, the midwest division of Federated Department Stores, Inc. Lazarus built a new downtown store in the heart of the Fifth Avenue retail corridor; the Joseph Horne Co. building was sold to Oxford Development Company which now leases the building to Highmark Blue Cross-Blue Shield. On the site of the former Jenkins Arcade in 1988, the Hillman Company built the 31-floor Fifth Avenue Place building(had City zoning allowed, it would have been 60 floors!) as the headquarters of Blue Cross of Western Pennsylvania. This building includes a two-level "Arcade Shops," an attempt to create a modern Jenkins Arcade. Except for the pedestrian traffic generated by the much larger office building, these Arcade Shops, with their larger stores, have never replicated the pedestrian traffic of the Jenkins Arcade.
Click here to read news articles about the dispute
regarding possible relocation of the Frick Family Archives.
History of The Buhl Planetarium and
Institute of Popular Science, Pittsburgh -
Including the Oldest Operable, Major Planetarium Projector in the World !
History of The Adler Planetarium
and Astronomy Museum, Chicago -
America's First Major Planetarium !
History of Andrew Carnegie and Carnegie Libraries
History of The Duquesne
Incline, Pittsburgh -
Historic Cable Car Railway Serving Commuters and Tourists since 1877 !
Other History Links
Quick-Reference Pages(Valuable Library References)
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