Union Trust Building (Pittsburgh)

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Union Trust Building
Union Trust Building Pittsburgh.jpg
Exterior of the Union Trust Building on Grant Street in Downtown Pittsburgh
General information
Location501 Grant Street, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Coordinates40°26′24″N 79°59′49″W / 40.440°N 79.997°W / 40.440; -79.997Coordinates: 40°26′24″N 79°59′49″W / 40.440°N 79.997°W / 40.440; -79.997
OwnerDIV 501 Grant Limited Partnership, an affiliate of The Davis Companies
Roof237 ft (72 m)
Technical details
Floor count15
Floor area550,000 sq ft (51,097 m2)
Design and construction
ArchitectFrederick J. Osterling
DeveloperHenry Clay Frick
Main contractorGeorge A. Fuller Company
Union Trust Building
Location501 Grant St. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Area1 acre (0.40 ha)
ArchitectGraham, Anderson, Probst & White; Harry L. Widom[2]
Architectural styleRenaissance, Gothic, French Renaissance
NRHP reference #74001748[1]
Significant dates
Added to NRHPJanuary 21, 1974
Designated PHLF1968 [3]

The Union Trust Building is a high-rise building located in the Downtown district of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, at 501 Grant Street. It was erected in 1915–16 by the industrialist Henry Clay Frick. The Flemish-Gothic structure's original purpose was to serve as a shopping arcade.


Known as the Union Arcade, it featured 240 shops and galleries. The mansard roof is adorned with terra cotta dormers and two chapel like mechanical towers. The interior is arranged about a central rotunda, capped by a stained glass dome. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The roof of the Union Trust Building

Designed by Frederick J. Osterling, the building was constructed on the site of Pittsburgh's nineteenth century St. Paul's Catholic Cathedral.[4][5] It is not known to have been modeled after any particular building, but Brussels Town Hall, Leuven Town Hall (both Brabantine Gothic) and the then-new Woolworth Building have been suggested as influences.[6] The design has also been partially attributed to Pierre A. Liesch (1872–1954), who worked with Osterling on the project. Liesch was a native of Luxembourg and later used a similar Flemish Gothic style for his design of the Croatian Fraternal Union Building.[7]

The Union Trust Company purchased the structure in 1923, renaming it from the Union Arcade to the Union Trust Building, as well as remodeling the first four floors.

Many people believe that the building's unique roof is the result of a restrictive covenant placed on the land by its previous owner, the Diocese of Pittsburgh. One story is that the bishop at the time (Rev. Richard Phelan) placed a restrictive covenant on the land when Frick purchased it so that, although it would now have commercial purposes, residents would always remember the cathedral that once stood there. Another story suggests that there is a requirement that a place of worship must be maintained perpetually on the site, and thus there is supposedly a chapel in one of the towers to comply. This is all urban legend – there was no restrictive covenant or other restriction in the original 1901 deed transferring ownership from religious to secular use.[6]

On May 31, 1984 San Francisco 49ers, Pittsburgh Penguins and Pittsburgh Maulers owner Edward J. DeBartolo, Sr. purchased the building.

In 2008, it was purchased by California investors Michael Kamen and Gerson Fox; by August 2012 the building was the subject of bankruptcy proceedings to avoid a sheriff's sale.[8]

In 2014 the property was sold at a foreclosure auction for $14 million to its current owner, an affiliate of Boston-based The Davis Companies. The Davis Companies' affiliate outbid lender SA Challenger.[9] Extensive restorations were completed in 2016 at a cost of $100 million, with two first-floor restaurants opening and restoration of the tenth-floor theater yet to be completed.[10]

Popular culture[edit]

The building is featured in the 2010 rap video "Black and Yellow" and is seen in the movie She's Out of My League.


  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2010-07-09.
  2. ^ "National Register: Union Trust Building". Philadelphia Architects and Buildings Project. Retrieved 2014-08-06.
  3. ^ Historic Landmark Plaques 1968–2009 (PDF). Pittsburgh, PA: Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation. 2010. p. 2. Retrieved 2010-07-10.
  4. ^ "Union Arcade – Union Trust Building". Retrieved 25 March 2016.
  5. ^ "Historic Pittsburgh – Image Collections – Union Arcade Building Photographs". Retrieved 25 March 2016.
  6. ^ a b Van Trump, James D. (1966), Legend in Modern Gothic: The Union Trust Building, Pittsburgh, The Stones of Pittsburgh (3), Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation
  7. ^ "City of Pittsburgh Historic Landmark Nomination: Former Croatian Fraternal Union" (PDF). Preservation Pittsburgh. October 2018. Retrieved October 13, 2018.
  8. ^ Belko, Mark (August 17, 2012). "Two Downtown Pittsburgh buildings face shaky fiscal future". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved August 17, 2012.
  9. ^ Belko, Mark (March 3, 2014). "Boston company buys Union Trust Building in Downtown Pittsburgh at sheriff's sale". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved July 6, 2014.
  10. ^ Pitz, Marylynne (June 22, 2016). "New Union Trust banks on demand for Downtown Pittsburgh office space". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved June 22, 2016.

External links[edit]

Media related to Union Trust Building (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) at Wikimedia Commons