Grant Street: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania


Concentrated along these 11 short blocks is Pittsburgh's finest collection of historic buildings and modern skyscrapers, buildings that tell the stories of 20th century aristocrats and architects who shaped the city into an industrial and banking empire. Subtle clues hint at the transformation from churches and a hilltop promenade to today's flat, landscaped boulevard of office towers. The street's most revered building is the Allegheny County Courthouse and Jail, built in 1886 by noted architect Henry Hobson Richardson. This cluster of buildings is perhaps his finest work and exemplifies the Richardson Romanesque style characterized by rough-hewn red granite, strong picturesque massing, and varied rustication.

Designated Area

Eleven blocks between Fort Pitt Boulevard and Liberty Avenue.

PNC Firstside Park along Grant Street, looking southwest towards the Monongahela River and the connection between Grant Street and Fort Pitt Boulevard. Photo courtesy City of Pittsburgh.

Planning Excellence

Until 1913, this complex sat atop Grant's Hill, named in recognition of British Major James Grant who was defeated by the French in this spot in 1758. A city planning project known as "Hump Cut" shaved 60 feet off the hill and allowed the street to be repaved and widened.

The U.S. Steel Tower, one of the first modern buildings on the street and the city's tallest building, was erected in 1970 to showcase Cor-Ten steel. Mellon Green, located across the street, provides a campus feeling and natural respite where office workers eat lunch and tourists rest their legs. In 1998 design guidelines were adopted to ensure that the street's architecture and integrity remain for years to come.

Mid-1980s downtown revitalization implemented brick paving, wide sidewalks, planters, and historical lighting, resulting in a pedestrian and bicycle-friendly corridor. Flickr photo by pghmtb (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

Defining Characteristics, Features


  • Key battles during the 1750s French and Indian War fought on hill were street would be sited
  • First attempt to re-grade Grant Street hill occurred 1836; approximately 10 feet removed
  • Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Chicago, and St. Louis railroad expand freight yard across Grant from Seventh Avenue to Liberty Avenue (1880s); traffic rerouted until yards dismantled (1929)
  • Olmsted report, Pittsburgh Main Thoroughfares and the Down Town District (1911), backed by city planners; calls for street widening, reducing hill grade, landscaped medians
  • Last of Olmsted recommendations — widening Grant Street — completed (1929)
  • Allegheny County Courthouse and Jail listed as National Historic Landmark (1973)
  • Union Trust Building, Pennsylvania Railroad Station, Frick Building, William Penn Hotel, Pittsburgh Central Downtown Historic District, and U.S. Post Office and Federal Courts Building added to National Register of Historic Places (1974-1995)
  • Port Authority of Allegheny County operates bus and light rail service along Grant Street;
    Union or Pennsylvania Station, 1100 Liberty (Liberty Avenue and Grant), served by Amtrak

20th Century Grandeur

  • First Lutheran Church at Grant and Strawberry (1888) in High Victorian Gothic style; only surviving cathedral on Grant Street; red mortar complements courthouse
  • Frick Building, Grant and Fifth, designed 1902 by Daniel Burnham for industrialist Henry Clay Frick; Neo-classical features include marble lobby, John LaFarge stained glass window
  • Union or Pennsylvania Station at Grant and Liberty (1903); designed by Daniel Burnham, uses terra-cotta and brick; stunning rotunda with four pavilions for taxis; served by Amtrak
  • City-County Building at Grant and 4th; Classical structure by Hornbostel and Lee (1915) features monumental entry arch, bronze columns, arched windows, catwalks
  • William Penn Hotel, Grant and Oliver, financed by Frick (1916); Old World elegance with Mansard roof, crystal chandeliers; guests include Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson
  • Union Trust Building at Grant and Fifth (1917); last surviving building funded by Frick. Designed by Frederick Osterling; noted for Flemish Gothic terra-cotta work and four floors of retail
  • Koppers Tower at Grant and Seventh commissioned by Andrew Mellon (1929); chateau-inspired copper roof, sumptuous Art Deco interior including colorful marble and bronze detailing
  • Gulf Tower at Grant and Seventh built 1932 by Trowbridge and Livingston, financed by Andrew Mellon; colored LED weather beacon spanning top six pyramidal floors can be seen for miles
  • U.S. Post Office and Federal Court Building, Grant and Seventh; Stripped Classical building features steel frame with rusticated granite and limestone, bronze and aluminum facade details

Avant-garde Enhancements

  • BNY Mellon Center at Grant and Oliver commissioned by U.S. Steel (1983); 54-story, steel plate skyscraper with corners cut off to allow for unobstructed views of adjacent courthouse
  • One Oxford Center (1983), Grant and Third; 46 stories, octagon shape maximizes corner offices
  • Eight planted medians, brick paving, and historical lighting part of mid-1980s revitalization
  • Urban Design Guidelines adopted 1998; govern infill, vistas, public spaces, street walls, parking
  • PNC Firstside Park at Grant and First; built in 2006 after completion of PNC's financial building; 1.5-acre parcel with more than 100 trees, sculptures, seating, paths for strolling

Urban design guidelines were adopted in 1998 to preserve the street's architectural integrity by governing infill development, vistas, street wall, and parking. Photo courtesy City of Pittsburgh.