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Omni William Penn Hotel

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1914–1916, Janssen and Abbott; 1928–1929, Janssen and Cocken, and Joseph Urban. 530 William Penn Pl.
  • Lobby

Henry Clay Frick conceived of this structure (though he later withdrew from its group of promoters) as the third of three in his private row along Grant Street, which at the time was a much less elegant thorough-fare than it is today. The first part of the hotel to open was the half that overlooks what is now Mellon Square (AL28.1); a decade would pass before Benno Janssen returned to add the Grant Street facade. Frick intended the William Penn Hotel to compete with the Plaza in New York City, which it does in technology if not in grandeur. The exterior cladding is brick (a colonial reference to William Penn, perhaps), while Renaissance Revival prevails inside in three handsome public spaces: the Terrace restaurant, Palm Court Lobby, and Grand Ballroom.

The lobby, a multitiered space with conversational seating groups enclosed in a deep arcade, is especially satisfying. The star of the Grant Street annex is the Urban Room, whose punning name recalls its author, renowned Art Deco theater and set designer Joseph Urban. The sole survivor of a series of Urban Rooms that existed in the Congress Hotel in Chicago and the Bossert Hotel in Brooklyn, Pittsburgh's Urban Room is starkly different from the rest of the hotel. Its walls are paneled in strips of brass-bound black glass, leading upward to an elliptical pseudo-Persian ceiling mural of Urban's own design. Urban called the design “modernistic but gay,” an apt summation for this Art Deco masterpiece.

Writing Credits

Author: 
Lu Donnelly et al.
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Data

Timeline

  • 1914

    Built
  • 1928

    Addition

What's Nearby

Citation

Lu Donnelly et al., "Omni William Penn Hotel", [Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—, http://sah-archipedia.org/buildings/PA-01-AL20.

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of PA vol 1

Buildings of Pennsylvania: Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania, Lu Donnelly, H. David Brumble IV, and Franklin Toker. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2010, 54-55.

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