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Series XIV. Highland Building, 1909-1922

Historical Background

In the early part of the twentieth century, Henry Clay Frick financed many Pittsburgh building projects. One such project was the Highland Building located on South Highland Avenue in the East Liberty neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. As a resident of East End neighborhood of Point Breeze, Frick sensed an opportunity for speculative office development in East Liberty. Frick had purchased the lot for the building in 1890s with plans to build office space outside of Pittsburgh’s downtown triangle. The Highland Building was commissioned in 1909 by Frick as a speculative office building with the ground floor open for commercial space. Frick enlisted the help of famed architectural firm D.H. Burnham & Company, who previously designed the Frick Building in downtown Pittsburgh.

Costing $500,000, construction only lasted a year and by 1910 the new East Liberty office skyscraper was open to the public. The Highland Building is a thirteen story steel-framed building with an exterior clad in brushed brick and granite with terra cotta accents. The building represents the classical revival concept of early skyscrapers with a tripartite vertical division noted in the base-shaft-capital treatment common to the Chicago Style Architectural movement of which Burnham was a part. The building’s plan is U-shaped and defined by the boundaries of the lot.

The building was built in a period of rapid growth in East Liberty that was experienced in the early twenty century. The building measured 100,000 square feet of office space and was well equipped with elevators, electricity, and gas heating. The building was later sold in 1914 to a coal capitalist and banker from Uniontown, Pennsylvania named Josiah Vankirk Thompson for $600,000. However, due to financial problems, Thompson filed for bankruptcy and a creditor committee took possession of his properties, including the Highland Building. The creditor later sold off the building and his remaining properties.

Unfortunately, the Highland Building lay vacant for nearly two decades beginning in the early 1980s until the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) acquired the building from the City of Pittsburgh in 2004 when it was awarded a $976,000 Industrial Sites Reuse Program grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) for the environmental remediation. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1991.The building was then sold to Terminus Real Estate, Inc. of Knoxville, Tennessee for $1,000. As a condition of the sale, Terminus had to invest an estimated $14,000,000 to complete the renovation of the building. Terminus originally planned to convert the building into upscale loft style condominiums; however there was more interest in the building as developmental office space and a shopping center. In 2009 the building is still awaiting renovation and revitalization.

Scope and Content Notes:

This series contains the construction, mortgage, and business records of the Highland Building located in Pittsburgh, Pa. The records contain bids, contracts, correspondence, statements, receipts, plans, estimates, taxes, and schedules. Materials relating to the building construction consist of daily work reports, drawings, floor plans, and correspondence. The daily reports are from E.C. Leonard, the superintendent of the building’s construction. Each report provides the date, weather condition, number of workmen, and the work that was being completed. There is also a newspaper clipping scrapbook and architectural drawings that document building construction, elevation and floor plans. The majority of the correspondence consists of incoming letters to D.B. Kinch, superintendent of Frick Building, from the architects of D.H. Burnham & Company and attorneys of Gordon & Smith. Other correspondence are written to Charles F. Chubb, Frick’s representative in Pittsburgh.

Materials that pertain to the building mortgage include building altercations, statements, proof of claims, rent costs and building recapitulation. The letterpress copybook consists of outgoing letter copies from William Carr, a representative of Frick. The copybook states that there was no general contractor and that Kinch dealt with the contractors. The record books that primarily relate to rental matters including information on tenants, rooms occupied, and rent amount. The Superintendent Statement of Labor and Material Bills contain monthly statements for electrical wiring and supplies. The materials in this subseries date from 1909 to 1922, but the majority is from 1909 to 1915.


Box 540
Folder 1 Agreements, February 10, 1910, June 12, 1911
Folder 2 Back Taxes, January 30, 1919-August 29, 1920
Folder 3 Bids and Contracts, undated
Folder 4 Blank Leases, undated
Folder 5 Clippings, October 30, 1912, November 16, 1924
Folder 6 Construction Account, January 24, 1910, December 26, 1910
Folder 7 Contract Index book, 1909
Folder 8 Contracts, June 15, 1910
Folder 9 Correspondence, June 7-November 4, 1909
Folder 10 Correspondence, November 22-December 8, 1909
Folder 11 Correspondence, December 22, 1909-February 24, 1910
Folder 12 Correspondence, March 5-June 23, 1910
Folder 13 Correspondence, September 22, 1915-October 18, 1918
Folder 14 Correspondence, January 24-October 28, 1919
Folder 15 Court Proceedings, May 11-12, 1917
Folder 16 Employees, May 1, 1914
Folder 17 Floor Plans, November 6, 1909
Folder 18 Inspection Reports, March 30, 1914, April 10, 1914
Folder 19 Insurance, Ledger Page, undated
Folder 20 Josiah V. Thompson Account, May 28-July 14, 1914
Folder 21 Lists of Tenants, February 26, 1910-May 7, 1914
Folder 22 Memoranda, January 12, 1910-June 19, 1914
Folder 23 Memoranda and Notes, 1910, 1915, undated
Folder 24 Mortgage, Authorization for alterations, March 14, 1916-July 30, 1918
Folder 25 Mortgage, Proof of Claim, April 27, 1916-September 4, 1918
Folder 26 Mortgage, Statements, October 1, 1914-February 1, 1920
Folder 27 Payroll, June 15, 1910

Box 541
Folder 1 Photographs, Highland Building, undated
Folder 2 Receipts, November 30, 1909-October 8, 1919
Folder 3 Rent Matters, Rent Schedules, December 17, 1909-May 1, 1914, undated
Folder 4 Rent Matters, Tenants and Annual Rents, May 1, 1910-May 1, 1914
Folder 5 Rent Matters, Misc., October 25, 1909-May 1, 1922
Folder 6 Reports, October 18-November 3, 1909
Folder 7 Reports, November 4-20, 1909
Folder 8 Reports, November 22-December 7, 1909
Folder 9 Reports, December 9-21, 1909
Folder 10 Reports, December 22, 1909-January 7, 1910
Folder 11 Reports, January 8-24, 1910
Folder 12 Reports, January 25-February 10, 1910
Folder 13 Reports, February 12-March 1, 1910
Folder 14 Reports, March 2-19, 1910
Folder 15 Reports, March 21-April 1, 1910
Folder 16 Reports, April 2-18, 1910
Folder 17 Reports, April 19-29, 1910
Folder 18 Specification, August 11, 1909
Folder 19 State Steam Boiler Inspection, April 4, 1912, April 4, 1913
Folder 20 Statements, February 3, 1910-December 31, 1918
Folder 21 Scrapbook, June 4, 1909-October 28, 1912
Folder 22 Scrapbook Notes, June 3-December 27, 1909
Folder 23 Wrecking and Excavation Specification, June 9, 1909
Folder 24 Tenant Accounts, Unpaid Balances, May 7-July 14, 1914, August 25, 1916
Folder 25 Letterpress Book, June 5, 1909-December 26, 1910

Box 542
Folder 1 Steel Purchase Statements and Bills, August 14, 1909, September 1909
Folder 2 Steel Purchase Statements and Bills, October 1909
Folder 3 Steel Purchase Statements and Bills, November 1909-January 18, 1910

Box 543
Folder 1 Agreements, Highland Building Recapitulation, January 12, 1923, November 10, 1924
Folder 2 Correspondence, Highland Building Recapitulation, March 19, 1920 January 29, 1921
Folder 3 Correspondence, Highland Building Recapitulation, February 7, 1921-February 6, 1922
Folder 4 Correspondence, Highland Building Recapitulation, February 14, 1922-January 19, 1923
Folder 5 Correspondence, Highland Building Recapitulation, April 6-July 10, 1923
Folder 6 Correspondence, Highland Building Recapitulation, October 10, 1923-July 11, 1924
Folder 7 Correspondence, Highland Building Recapitulation, September 9-November 29, 1924
Folder 8 Correspondence, Highland Building Recapitulation, December 1, 1924-April 7, 1925
Folder 9 Floor Plans, Highland Building Recapitulation, September 13, 1922
Folder 10 Leases, Highland Building Recapitulation, September 1, 1922, June 4, 1923, May 21, 1924
Folder 11 Misc. Notes, Highland Building Recapitulation, 1909-1924, undated
Folder 12 Rentals, Highland Building Recapitulation, May 1, 1922, May 1, 1924
Folder 13 Receipts, Highland Building Recapitulation, October 24, 1918-January 22, 1925
Folder 14 Statements, Highland Building Recapitulation, 1922
Folder 15 Statements, Highland Building Recapitulation, 1923
Folder 16 Statements, Highland Building Recapitulation, 1924
Box 544 Reports of Rent Collections No. 1, Highland Building, May 7, 1910-January 31, 1914

Box 545
Volume 1 Reports of Rent Collections No. 2, Highland Building, February 7, 1914-November 12, 1915
Volume 2 Superintendent Statement of Labor and Materials Bills, Highland Building, May 1, 1910-April 1914

Box 546
Volume 1 Rent Register No. 1, Highland Building, May 1910-May 1914
Volume 2 Cash Book, Highland Building, May 2, 1910-November 12, 1914

Box 547
Volume 1 Highland Building Rent Schedules with Floor Plans, 1910-1915
Volume 2 Highland Building Rent Schedules with Floor Plans, 1910-1915