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Fulton Building PA

Foundations of America

QU201 Prof. Scott Leone

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Fulton Building PA



    Fulton Building   

By: Aida Babic

 Stony Creek Granite strongly influenced the economic and social forces that shaped the Industrial Revolution Era. Many immigrated to the United States from European nations such as Ireland, Scotland, Poland, Italy, Germany etc. These groups immediately generated boundaries amongst each other and competed within the granite quarrying industry. Italians had centuries of experience in working with the stone and dominated the quarries. They were more inclined to receive a prominent, higher-wage job. This is simply one example of hierarchy that existed in the workforce during this era. Segregation, based on religion, developed in the communities. Those who were earlier settlers had established their own churches and congregations, excluding the newer settlers. However, one thing was true of all quarrymen: they worked long days in poor conditions for unreasonably low wages. Many acquired illnesses such as acute silicosis and tuberculosis due to the harmful work environment, oftentimes leading to fatality. On a brighter note, as population and technology grew, their hard work and self-determination helped to establish an industry that flourished.

I: An overview and history of the Fulton Building and the architects who contributed to its construction.

One of the buildings which contained stony creek granite was the Fulton Building which was constructed on 107 Sixth Street directly across from the Bessemer Building in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The two buildings were meant to complement one another, creating a seemingly ‘monumental entrance’ over the Allegheny River, overlooking the Roberto Clemente Bridge. The Bessemer Building was built in 1904 and finished in 1905. It instantly became a popular landmark that was constantly presented in photographs and on postcards. Eventually, this building was demolished in 1964, leaving the Fulton Building standing on its own. The building was covered with rough-cut stony creek granite, fused with a Renaissance pattern, on the first three floors of the façade. The stone, steel-framed building stood at thirteen stories (Flesh and Stone 153) like many of the skyscrapers of its time. The building was named after Robert Fulton, an engineer who designed the New Orleans steamboat in Pittsburgh in 1811. The steam power changed the business of quarrying by allowing the construction of large buildings through the use of powerful and efficient machinery.

Grosvenor Atterbury, the designer of the Fulton building (Flesh and Stone 154), believed that the architecture of buildings should be ‘unusual’ and be given ‘diversity and character’ (Pittsburgh Live). In 1909, Atterbury denied that the Fulton had been designed as a hotel. However, it is currently serving as the Renaissance Pittsburgh Hotel. He was born in Detroit, Michigan where he lived with his father who pursued a career in law. He spent most of his summers in Long Island, New York where his family owned a house. In 1891, he graduated from Yale University and after half of year of traveling Europe and Egypt, he enrolled at Columbia University to study architecture (Flesh and Stone 154). In 1896, he started his career in architecture by designing country and town houses, as well as social and cultural institutions such as the Parrish Art Museum, Southhampton Club and the Yale University Medical Library. Eventually, he began designing in New York City, where he experimented with prefabricated, reinforced concrete, allowing more standardized, low-priced housing to be available to the public. By all means, Atterbury had a successful career. His most prized characteristic was that he committed himself to providing affordable housing, something many had not taken into consideration during this time period. He also explored with innovative technologies but was criticized because many thought that architects who provide ‘affordable’ housing are rarely recognized. Only those who went above and beyond in the architectural endeavors were successful, according to those critics (Pittsburgh Live).

Atterbury’s partners were Henry Phipps, an investor, and Charles McKim. One of Phipps' developments was the Phipps Natatorium. The building was designed and built 1908. The Phipps Natatorium was a bathhouse and swimming pool. It was stylish and was inspired by the Romans, giving it a sense of royalty and divinity. The four-story structure was the first great swimming pool in Pittsburgh. The swimming pool was made with Guastavino tile which is lightweight and fireproof. It is primarily used in railroad stations and churches. In 1935, the Natatorium was demolished to reduce property taxes. Phipps also established the Phipps Model Tenement, later known as the Allegheny Apartments. The building was created in 1905, when Allegheny City was independent, and completed in 1908, when it had been annexed by Pittsburgh. It consisted of four room apartments with rent ranging from $4.25 to $5 a week to larger ones ranging from $3.25 to $4 per week. Each apartment had a bathroom, electric light, gas stove and a combined laundry facility, playground and gymnasium. The construction of this six-story brick structure cost Phipps $259,481.00. However, before all these architectural advancements began, Phipps lived next door to Andrew and Thomas Carnegie. They started as classmates and by the time they were adults, they established a partnership as business associates in the “Carnegie Corporation.” However, around 1901, when the Carnegie Corporation possessions were sold, Carnegie and Phipps claimed to be retiring. Phipps and his family moved to New York City. He gave his three sons his Pittsburgh properties (Phipps Pennsylvania Land Trust). Eventually, John, his oldest son, hired an architect to design a fashionable townhouse in Manhattan. Atterbury was the architect chosen for this assignment in 1904.

In his practice, Atterbury usually designed American Renaissance townhouses and commercial buildings. Most of his architecture was mainly ‘reflected asymmetrical Shingle Style.’ This style was a combination of contemporary British blend of medieval, Elizabethan designs adapted with American 17th and 18th century colonial forms (Pittsburgh Live).

Charles McKim, too, adopted the "Shingle Style." He also focused on medieval Romanesque architecture and became dedicated to the neoclassicism of the Renaissance which he believed provided the paramount model for contemporary American design. His work was generally examples of what came to be known as "American Renaissance" architecture (Pittsburgh Live).

In recent years, historians have focused on the considerable influence of Boston architects in Pittsburgh, due primarily to the stature of H.H. Richardson, whose most acclaimed work is Trinity Church in Copley Square, Boston. He designed many building in Pittsburgh's Allegheny County such as the Emmanuel Episcopal Church and the Allegheny County Courthouse. The style that Richardson favored was a medieval-inspired style (Wikipedia). This could be an explanation as to why his work was so inspirational and preferred among the architecture of Pittsburgh, such as Atterbury and McKim.

II: Details describing the renovation of the Fulton Building and the corporations and companies which participated in the reconstruction.

A fast-paced renovation schedule was instituted in order to have the Fulton building completed and open to the public prior to the initiation of baseball season in April of 2001. However, the building would first have to undergo an extensive restoration effort, interior and exterior, in order to open on time. Sage Hospitality, the developer from Denver, Colorado, purchased the property and two months later declared that it would build two new baseball and football stadiums for professional usage. Sage Hospitality continues involvement with the hotel. It has been in business for over twenty five years and has developed over four hundred hotels with many other subdivisions including, but not limited to, restaurants (www.sagehopsitality.com). The Renaissance Pittsburgh Hotel is promoted under the portfolio link on the Sage Hospitality website. The company employs professionals who record proving value for the owners and investors of premium-branded and independent hotels. Their hotels are worth more than $900 million (www.sagehospitality.com). Marriott Corporation purchased the property from Sage Hospitality in 1997 (www.marriott.com), and decided it would stick to the original deadline date, giving contractors less than a year to complete the project.

Damage from the previous reconstructions had to be fixed because the building was used as a nightclub called Heaven. Electricians put holes in the mosaic to provide light foundations. This phase of renovation would entail rewiring and fixing the mosaic. Moreover, ventilation was needed in the lobby area so a dome with windows was created to cool the lobby in the 1920’s. However, this tactic became outdated when it brought in pollutants from the atmosphere. To add to this trouble, acid rain had stained the walls of the building when the glass it was constructed with had shattered. During the renovation, the protective coatings were removed to provide a more natural light to the lobby which highlighted the marble.

Elimination of the stains produced by acid rain required re-honing of the marble panels. Nearly 200 lbs of coal dust and grime was removed from the lobby (www.suite101.com). Some of the most extensive reconstruction was necessary for the mosaic ceilings. 5,000 pieces of mosaic were necessary to repair the ceiling. However, people aiding in the reconstruction were careful not to make the building look new. They wanted to preserve the antique and relic appearance the building possessed. In addition to the walls and ceilings, the stone floor in the lobby had been eroded by generations of foot traffic. The floors were 1 1⁄4 inch thick, and in other places, the flooring was down to 1⁄8 inch thick. Additionally, new counters for the registration desk, wine bar, public restrooms and mini-bar counters were made of Absolute Black granite and Ubatuba granite. The Graciano Corporation, which completed the exterior restoration and provided the Stony Creek Granite, replaced old thresholds, surrounds and sills for the storefronts. Whatever stone was preserved was re-faced and reinstalled at the northwest corner of the building. In addition to taking some stone from the sidewalks that were dug up, new blocks of stone were purchased from Graciano, which is stationed in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  They claim they are ‘grown from a small, family-owned company to an acknowledged leader in masonry restoration, preservation of historic landmarks, restoration, beautification and repair’ (www.graciano.com), which related to Flesh and Stone, by  because many of the quarries started off in small villages and then escalated into successful, competitive corporations and companies. Columbia Marble completed the interior restoration. It is also located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The stone that these two stone contractors provided the Fulton building with were from Vernon, NY. The stony creek granite was from St. Augustin, Quebec, Canada. They cleaned the stone just enough to remove atmospheric pollution in order to avoid the risk of burning the stone with chemical cleaners. The exterior was cleaned to 90% of its original state, and the little blemishes were to remain in order to keep the ‘rustic’ undertones, as previously mentioned. There was also an endeavor made to restore the copper shield on the uppermost levels of the building. Architects claimed that they utilized 40,000 pounds of baking soda for the copper restoration process. This was the leading restoration done on the East Coast since the Statue of Liberty. The 14-story Renaissance Pittsburgh Hotel currently has 286 rooms and 14 suites to satisfy the ever-growing inhabitants that visit Pittsburgh’s famous downtown area.

III: Conclusion

It is evident that the Fulton Building, now Renaissance Pittsburgh Hotel, has journeyed a long distance through which different representatives and renovations took place. The history of the building is what makes it so special. The dedication and hard labor behind the creation of a building should always be appreciated and valued.  Acknowledging the history of the Fulton Building makes it more than just a building. Knowing the facts allows one to see that the building represents teamwork, a collection of ideas, physical activities in order to achieve these ideas and hundreds and thousands of people who carry out their part of the bargain. These participants will always have a piece of the building belonging to them, which is a rewarding feeling. All the work put into it, no matter how big or small, has made a significant impact on the development of the building. The immigrants in Flesh and Stone may have had jobs that were measured on a hierarchy scale, which created a constant competition in regard to who gets more wages and who has more responsibilities. However, if they had put aside their differences and worked together, development could have been a quicker process. In the given example, the Renaissance Pittsburgh Hotel was renovated in less than a year due to all the hard work and effort put into it. In the end, the quarrymen’s contributions added to the overall success of the quarries they worked at and wherever the stony creek granite (or any granite for that matter) ended up, hard work was put forth, blood was spilled and many lives were taken.

- Click here for Google Earth Placemark 

IIII: Works Cited/ References





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Last Updated on Saturday, 13 November 2010 08:00  


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Flesh and Stone

Flesh and Stone - Stony Creek and the Age of Granite - buy at Amazon.com
Available on Amazon

Uncirculated: Shrink wrapped in clear plastic from original Italian publisher, 1999. Ships with fresh samples of sparkling Stony Creek pink granite for historians, collectors, geologists and classrooms. Additional samples available upon request.