Gulf Tower

Coordinates: 40°26′33″N 79°59′43″W / 40.44250°N 79.99528°W / 40.44250; -79.99528
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Gulf Tower
Gulf Tower, from US Steel Tower
Record height
Tallest in Pennsylvania from 1932 to 1971[I]
Preceded byPhiladelphia City Hall
Surpassed byU.S. Steel Tower
General information
Architectural styleArt Deco
Location707 Grant Street
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Coordinates40°26′33″N 79°59′43″W / 40.44250°N 79.99528°W / 40.44250; -79.99528
Construction started1930
CostUS$10.05 million
($176.1 million today)
Roof177.4 m (582 ft)
Technical details
Floor count44
Floor area409,320 sq ft (38,027 m2)
Design and construction
Architect(s)Trowbridge & Livingston
Edward Mellon
DeveloperAndrew W. Mellon
Structural engineerMcClintic-Marshall Construction Company
Main contractorMellon-Stuart
Other information
Public transit accessPittsburgh Light Rail Steel Plaza

The Gulf Tower is a 44-story, 177.4 m (582 ft) Art Deco skyscraper in downtown Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.[5] The tower is one of the major distinctive and recognizable features of the city and is named for the Gulf Oil Corporation.

Built as the headquarters for the Gulf Oil Company, the structure was designed by the firm of Trowbridge & Livingston and completed in 1932 at a cost of $10.05 million ($176.1 million today). As late as 1981 Gulf Oil employed 3,100 within the building.[6] Now called Gulf Tower, it has 44 floors and rises 177.4 m (582 ft) above downtown Pittsburgh. The crown of the skyscraper is modeled after the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus in the style of a step pyramid. The building was listed as a Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation Historic Landmark in 1973.[7]

On June 13, 1974, a bomb was detonated on the 29th floor of the Gulf Tower.[8] The Weather Underground Organization took credit for the attack, claiming it was in protest to Gulf Oil's involvement in the oil rich regions affected by the Angolan War of Independence.

The building was condemned following a fire on May 19, 2021,[9] reopening after repairs six months later. [10]


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.[11] This concept was developed by the building manager Edward H. Heath. He used the Gulf Oil colors to create a simplified forecast: steady blue meant colder and fair; flashing blue meant colder with precipitation; steady orange meant warmer and fair; flashing orange meant warmer with precipitation. Subsequently, in an effort to conserve energy, the weather forecasting role had been limited to the weather beacon at the pinnacle of the pyramid, which would glow blue for precipitation and red for fair weather. Although the terraced sides were once again illuminated at night (by means of spotlights), the entire pyramid structure no longer changed color with the weather (the pinnacle beacon still had that function).

Original Weather Beacon
      Blue – steady fair & colder temperature
      Blue – flashing precipitation & colder temperature
      Orange red – steady fair & rising temperature
      Orange red – flashing precipitation & rising temperature

Since 2001, the opening of PNC Park across the Allegheny River, fans have noticed that after Pittsburgh Pirates home-runs, the "beam" light flashes in celebration. Recently it was revealed that the afternoon and evening receptionist at the lobby desk was the one responsible for this fan favorite, following the games on her cabinet radio. The slogan "Flash the beam, Regina – that one's out of here!" has gained popularity among Pirates fans recently.[12]

The KDKA Weather Beacon, the most recent weather beacon to adorn the pyramid atop the tower, was officially dedicated on July 4, 2012. In partnership with KDKA-TV, the Gulf Tower has been retrofit with a modern, automated LED weather beacon that will tell a more complete forecast than ever before. The Design concepts were created & implemented by the Design Team of Cindy Limauro and Christopher Popowich of C & C Lighting, LLC. A Pittsburgh based company. It will also feature holiday displays. Hearkening back to the original 1950's beacon, the entire pyramid will once again change colors at night depending on the current weather conditions. The new color-coded, tiered system works as such:[13]

Floor By Floor Breakdown

  • 44th floor – temperature
  • 43rd floor – temperature
  • 42nd floor – temperature
  • 41st floor – precipitation
  • 40th floor – humidity
  • 39th floor – wind speed
  Dark blue <0 °F (−18 °C)
  Med blue 0 to 32 °F (−18 to 0 °C)
  Light blue 33 to 49 °F (1 to 9 °C)
  Amber 50 to 65 °F (10 to 18 °C)
  Orange 66 to 79 °F (19 to 26 °C)
  Red >80 °F (27 °C)
  Red purple >.25 in (0.64 cm)
  Blue purple ≤.25 in (0.64 cm)
  Light green <50%
  Dark green ≥50%
Wind Speed
  Magenta >10 mph (16 km/h)
  Pink ≤10 mph (16 km/h)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Historic Landmark Plaques 1968–2009 (PDF). Pittsburgh, PA: Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation. 2010. Retrieved July 2, 2010.
  2. ^ "Emporis building ID 121981". Emporis. Archived from the original on March 6, 2016.
  3. ^ "Gulf Tower". SkyscraperPage.
  4. ^ Gulf Tower at Structurae
  5. ^ Conti, John (May 4, 2013). "Art Deco style survives in Pittsburgh—if you look around". Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Retrieved May 5, 2013.
  6. ^ "Loss of Gulf Would Be Costly in Pittsburgh". Beaver County Times. Associated Press. Retrieved March 25, 2016 – via Google News Archive Search.
  7. ^ "Historic Landmark Plaques: 1968–2009" (PDF). Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation. Retrieved April 19, 2012.
  8. ^ Craig Smith (March 27, 2010). "Ayers' talk kept quiet at Pitt". The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Archived from the original on July 15, 2010. Retrieved March 14, 2011.
  9. ^ Lovingood, Chris (June 7, 2021). "Gulf Tower in downtown Pittsburgh slapped with condemnation notice". WTAE. Retrieved June 7, 2021.
  10. ^ Belko, Mark (November 1, 2021). "Return of a landmark: Downtown's Gulf Tower reopens after May 19 fire". Pittsburgh Post Gazette. Retrieved February 15, 2022.
  11. ^ "Gulf Building 1930–1932". City of Pittsburgh. Archived from the original on May 17, 2012. Retrieved October 14, 2012.
  12. ^ "A paperweight maybe?". June 13, 2005. Retrieved March 25, 2016.
  13. ^ "How To Read The KDKA-TV Weather Beacon Atop Gulf Tower". July 2, 2012. Retrieved October 14, 2012.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Media related to Gulf Tower at Wikimedia Commons

Preceded by Tallest building Pennsylvania
177 metres (581 ft)

Succeeded by
Preceded by Tallest building in Pittsburgh
177 metres (581 ft)

Succeeded by
Preceded by Pittsburgh Skyscrapers by Height
582 feet (177 m)
44 floors
Succeeded by
Preceded by Pittsburgh Skyscrapers by Year of Completion
Succeeded by