The U.S. Steel Tower Is the tallest building in Pittsburgh, fourth tallest in Pennsylvania, the 41st tallest in the United States, and 212th tallest in the world. At its time of construction, the architects considered making it the tallest building in the world. Nonetheless, on sunny days (rare in Pittsburgh), the building can be spotted from a little over 50 miles away. Begun in 1967 and completed in 1970 as the U.S. Steel Tower, the name changed to the USX Tower in 1988 and then changed back to the U.S. Steel Tower in 2002. U.S. Steel is still the largest tenant of the Steel Tower (occupying over 500,000 square feet of space), and the building is currently owned and managed by Winthrop Management, a commercial real estate developer.
There are 18 hollow columns in the building filled with a water/antifreeze/rust inhibitor mixture that is meant to stop the spread of a fire and slow the rusting process. It was the first building in the world to use this unique design to inhibit the spread of fires. The distinctive (and massive) steel columns were placed externally rather than internally to exhibit the new Cor-ten steel—manufactured in Pittsburgh—which was resistant to the corrosive effects of rain, snow, and ice. Cor-ten steel resists corrosion by forming a dark brown coat of oxidation over the metal. Unique in its composition, the steel has cut costs by eliminating the need to paint the building or invest in rust prevention maintenance.
Containing over 44,000 tons of steel, the structure creates a striking view first impression with its triangularly indented sides. The roof is said to be the largest in the world at its height or above (it is close to an acre in size). The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) has been a major tenant since 2007, and had its name placed at the top by helicopter in mid-2008. Each Christmas, the U.S. Steel Tower displays a large nativity scene designed by the Pittsburgh architecture firm, L.D. Astorino Companies. It is said to be the only nativity scene in the United States to be directly sanctioned by the Vatican and is the world’s only known replica of the Vatican’s own nativity scene. The display is sponsored by Pittsburgh’s Christian Leaders Fellowship. Noted for its “green” design, the building has received recognition for it low-flow sinks and toilets and low-emitting carpet, furniture, and paint.
At the time of its completion, the U.S. Steel Building was the tallest structure in the world outside of buildings in New York City and Philadelphia (it was quickly overtaken by the newly constructed Sears Tower in Chicago). It dwarfs its neighbor and the second tallest building in Pittsburgh, the Mellon Building, by 116 feet. Though it still dominates the Pittsburgh skyline, the U.S. Steel Building falls short of the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa of Dubai, by 1,876 feet! The building—even more imposing when it was first constructed—stands as a monument to the steel city. Though perhaps many would consider the building stark, harsh, and utilitarian, its steel columns convey a simple beauty. Its drab brown exterior is a reminder of the city’s recent past—a time when the entire downtown area was caked in layers of soot from the nearby steel mills. Even though there are many skyscrapers today which are taller, the width and angular design of the U.S. Steel Tower make it an imposing building that immediately catches and holds the eye. To get a full view of the building, it’s best to stand back a few blocks—or perhaps even better to view it from a nearby skyscraper such as the Mellon Building.
The building is 64 total stories and contains 58 elevators. Visitors to the site would do best to park at the Consol Energy Center, and take the free shuttle which has a stop at the U.S. Steel Tower. In order to see more than simply the building itself, visitors might go during the Christmas season (November 21-January 5) to visit the impressive nativity scene. The stable is 64 feet wide, 42 feet high, and 36 feet deep, and weighs around 66,000 pounds. Inside the building, there are several options for dining, including Au bon Pain and the Pittsburgh Grille. Through the lobby, visitors also have access to the metro station, which they can take for free. The building provides services such as a gym to employees of its respective tenants.
By Caleb Fuller