Gulf Tower

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Gulf Tower
Gulf Tower, from US Steel Tower
General information
Type Offices
Architectural style Art Deco
Location 707 Grant Street
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Coordinates 40°26′33″N 79°59′43″W / 40.44250°N 79.99528°W / 40.44250; -79.99528Coordinates: 40°26′33″N 79°59′43″W / 40.44250°N 79.99528°W / 40.44250; -79.99528
Construction started 1930
Completed 1932
Cost US$10.05 million
($142.4 million today)
Roof 177.4 m (582 ft)
Technical details
Floor count 44
Floor area 409,320 sq ft (38,027 m2)
Lifts/elevators 15
Design and construction
Architect Trowbridge & Livingston
Edward Mellon
Developer Andrew W. Mellon
Structural engineer McClintic-Marshall Construction Company
Main contractor Mellon-Stuart
Designated 1973[1]

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, which was one of the leading multinational oil companies of its time, consistently ranking among the largest 10 corporations in the country. In 1984, Gulf and Chevron took part in the world's largest merger ($13.3 billion or $30.3 billion today) to that time.

Built as the headquarters for the Gulf Oil Company, and known as the Gulf Building, the structure was designed by the firm of Trowbridge & Livingston and completed in 1932 at a cost of $10.05 million ($142.4 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.


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.[9] 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 precipitation & rising temperature
      Blue - flashing precipitation & falling temperature
      Orange red - steady fair weather & rising temperature
      Orange red - flashing fair weather & falling 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.[10]

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. 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:[11]

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 2010-07-02. 
  2. ^ Gulf Tower at Emporis
  3. ^ Gulf Tower at 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. ^
  7. ^ "Historic Landmark Plaques: 1968–2009" (PDF). Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation. Retrieved 19 April 2012. 
  8. ^ Craig Smith (March 27, 2010). "Ayers' talk kept quiet at Pitt". The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Retrieved March 14, 2011. 
  9. ^ "Gulf Building 1930-1932". City of Pittsburgh. Retrieved 14 October 2012. 
  10. ^
  11. ^ "How To Read The KDKA-TV Weather Beacon Atop Gulf Tower". 2 July 2012. Retrieved 14 October 2012. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Media related to Gulf Tower at Wikimedia Commons

Preceded by
Philadelphia City Hall
Tallest building Pennsylvania
177 metres (581 ft)

Succeeded by
U.S. Steel Tower
Preceded by
Grant Building
Tallest building in Pittsburgh
177 metres (581 ft)

Succeeded by
U.S. Steel Tower
Preceded by
Tower at PNC Plaza
Pittsburgh Skyscrapers by Height
582 feet (177 m)
44 floors
Succeeded by
Oxford Centre
Preceded by
Grant Building
Pittsburgh Skyscrapers by Year of Completion
Succeeded by
Cathedral of Learning