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Places Around Pittsburgh: Façade in Your Face

e.jpgFourth Avenue still contains a few “swagger banks,” with facades contrived to give a small-but-O-My! impression even though the properties are diminutive. One of these is Number 337, now the Pittsburgh Engineers’ Building, once the Union Trust Company, a work of 1898 by D. H. Burnham & Co.

Now, street architecture downtown in any case is very likely to strut its lithic stuff, make a grand display despite the drab structural facts, and in this regard a swagger bank is not to be left behind. But 337’s facade is most frankly a work of fictive architecture, a gratuitous composition shoved well out from the glazing line. A Grecian Doric temple stands on a thin imitation of a rusticated basement with a lot of batter. The order is in antis, and the antae are set against the granite-faced end walls, which rise above the pediment to terminate in antefixes (antephiges?) and go back to a little-detailed pediment-like feature that echoes the real pediment. The whole composition has one door and eight window openings, and the front as a whole keeps the weather out somehow, but it is panache that spent the money—wisely and functionally in its own way.

—Walter C. Kidney

Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation

100 West Station Square Drive, Suite 450

Pittsburgh, PA 15219

Phone: 412-471-5808  |  Fax: 412-471-1633