I read the article in the Spring 2013 issue of The Point magazine, as well as articles in the Pittsburgh newspapers, about plans to relocate the Pittsburgh Playhouse to the 300 block of Forbes Avenue now owned by the University. I am concerned about what will be the use of the former Industrial Bank Building at 333 Fourth Avenue as part of this project. I feel that the interior should also be preserved as well as its impressive exterior on Fourth Avenue.
The building was built between 1903-1904 and was designed by the prominent Pittsburgh architect, Charles M. Bartberger (1850-1939) It is one of two remaining buildings that Mr. Bartberger designed in Downtown Pittsburgh (the other is the 100 Ross Building facing First Avenue.) It was used as a bank up to 1959, then as the Pittsburgh Stock Exchange from 1962 to 1974. Then it had various uses, including a jazz club, a disco and a dance club. It has been vacant since 2006. I have done extensive research on the building, including photographs of the original interior when it was a bank and [later] the Stock Exchange.
Except for the addition of a stairway and boardroom in 1911 (designed by architect Charles Bickel), the extension of the third floor, and the removal of some mural paintings approximately 1940, the interior is largely intact. It is one of the few classical-Beaux Arts buildings left downtown and should be preserved. It was lit with stained glass skylights, now covered by a third floor extension, designed by famed stained glass artists, the Rudy Brothers. These originally lit the interior and were visible from the main floor. The third floor could removed and the skylights returned to their original purpose.
The basement safe deposit vault was converted into a dining room and the nearby counter was used as a bar. There is a kitchen in the building as well as an elevator that runs from the basement to the third floor...[which could] could be modernized, as well as [other accommodations made] to increase accessibility to persons with disabilities….the building could be connected to the theater and used the same way that the Lillian Russell Room was used in the present Playhouse. It also has the advantage of having an entrance on Fourth Avenue.
In the past, the University has shown its concern towards historic preservation in its restorations of Lawrence Hall and the University Center. I [hope] that the University and its architects include not just preservation of the exterior of the Industrial Bank Building but a restoration of its interior to a sensitive adaptable use. It is part of the Fourth Avenue Historic District and is worthy of preservation inside as well as outside. Let us hope it will be done.
Thomas A. Josephi (A&S 1973)
Editor’s note: Read about Point Park’s plans to preserve and reuse the Stock Exchange building in the development of the new Pittsburgh Playhouse complex in Downtown Pittsburgh.
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