Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

MultiStories: Real Estate – The Machesney Building

Visitors can still ogle the lavish marble and bronze interior crafted to appeal to the original owner's banker and stockbroker tenants.



The Machesney Building
Address: 221 Fourth Ave.
Stories: 19
Height: 210 feet
Built: 1906
Architect: Thomas H. Scott

→ Cast iron window bays between Corinthian columns
→ Glazed brick light wells to permit more sunlight
→ New cantilevered rooftop terrace invisible from the ground


 

Caroline Machesney wasn’t the first person to build a skyscraper in Pittsburgh, but she was the first person to sell one. In doing so, the celebrated society hostess forfeited her chance at lasting fame. When she died in 1952 at the age of 97, the obituary mentioned her club membership — but not the Machesney Building.

 


photos and vintage post card courtesy mark houser

 

The daughter of a local banker, Caroline “Oline” Jones spent much of her life entertaining. Former President Rutherford B. Hayes attended a fireworks party at the large house she shared for years with her widowed mother and two unmarried brothers. In 1899, Jones was 44, the sole inheritor of the family fortune and newly married to North Side attorney Haines Allen Machesney. They had a son, Haines Jr., a year later. In 1905, the year Caroline Jones Machesney turned 50, she commissioned a lavishly appointed skyscraper wedged between a bank and the city stock exchange on Fourth Avenue, Pittsburgh’s version of Wall Street. Visitors can still ogle the lavish marble and bronze interior crafted to appeal to her banker and stockbroker tenants.
 


The Machesney Building's Marble Lobby
 

Months after the opening, a passerby tripped and broke her foot on a freight elevator door jutting from the sidewalk out front. A jury awarded the victim $4,480 in damages; the Pennsylvania Supreme Court upheld the verdict in 1913. Later that year, Machesney sold her skyscraper for $1 million to two oil men who rechristened it the Benedum-Trees Building (after themselves). Machesney turned to social causes, including chairing the organizing committee of the Pittsburgh Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage. She also directed plays at the Twentieth Century Club, a private association for well-to-do ladies.
 

 
(left) Michael Benedum and Joe Trees
 

As for the oil men, Joe Trees didn’t need a skyscraper to be famous. A star football player at the University of Pittsburgh in the very earliest days of the sport (when touchdowns still counted for 4 points), he later met Michael Benedum in the West Virginia oil fields; they became lifelong business partners. Both lost sons during World War I, although not in combat; young Joe Trees fell out of a plane in England, while Claude Benedum died in the 1918 flu pandemic.
 


Architect Rob Pfaffman on the new rooftop deck with gambler and philanthropist Bill Benter.
 

In memory of their boy, the Benedums started a charitable foundation, which is based in the building to this day. Another foundation occupies opulent quarters on the top floors: Bill Benter, a math whiz from Pleasant Hills who made his fortune beating Las Vegas blackjack tables and Hong Kong horse racetracks, now gives back to Pittsburgh through his Benter Foundation.  
 

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow TagsEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

The Latest

Stop Using Uber and Lyft, Renting a Bike is Better

You'll save money and have an easier time hopping between neighborhoods on a Healthy Ride bicycle.

America’s “Gratest” Celebration of Cheese is Coming to Pittsburgh

Sample cheese of every rind during the American Cheese Society’s annual Festival of Cheese.

The 400-Word Review: Skyscraper

If you want "Die Hard" with half the brains but three times the building, the new Dwayne Johnson flick will do a passing job.

A Pop-Up Bar in Pittsburgh that Serves a Sober Alternative

Empath provides the vibe and social space of a bar, as well as stepped up beverage service ... without the alcohol.

Watch: 12 Questions with WTAE's Sally Wiggin

The WTAE anchor was voted Best Journalist by readers of Pittsburgh Magazine. She answers 12 random questions ranging from her most memorable vacation to who should portray her in a movie.

Tax Credit Brought Mister Rogers Flick to Pittsburgh

The granting of the credit means the majority, if not most of the movie starring Tom Hanks, will indeed be shot in the Pittsburgh area.

Compelling World Cup Worth a Periodic Embrace

The competition is as fierce as the fans are passionate and both can be appreciated without a firm grasp of the details.

Jeff Goldblum Day is Causing a Stir in the ’Burgh

Local venues will be celebrating the native actor Friday with Goldblum-themed merchandise and events.

Willow Restaurant in the North Hills Lands a New Chef

Aaron Allen comes to Willow by way of 2-star Daniel in New York City. Plus, Greta Harmon joins the staff of the Ohio Township hideaway as the restaurant's new bar manager.

Pittsburgh Developer Offers Location for Riverfront Swings

A developer in the South Side may fulfill KDKA anchor Ken Rice’s wish for shaded benches along the city’s riverfronts.

Head to the North Hills for Two Blooming Garden Tours

The Wexford Garden and Pond Tour and the Southern Butler County Garden Club tour both take place this weekend.

I Do, Now Let’s Have Some BBQ

A five-course meal doesn’t fit with every wedding. These laid-back couples opted for casual — and delicious — cuisine perfect for their outdoor and barn receptions.

Expert Opinions on How HQ2 Could Change Pittsburgh

From jobs to housing to technology, six areas which would be impacted if Amazon chose Pittsburgh for its HQ2.

The 400-Word Review: The Legacy of a Whitetail Deer Hunter

The Netflix exclusive Josh Brolin flick is pleasant enough, but light on laughs.

The 400-Word Review: The First Purge

The prequel to the horror series has plenty to say. It's just no good at saying it.
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags


America’s “Gratest” Celebration of Cheese is Coming to Pittsburgh

America’s “Gratest” Celebration of Cheese is Coming to Pittsburgh

Sample cheese of every rind during the American Cheese Society’s annual Festival of Cheese.

Comments

Watch: 12 Questions with WTAE's Sally Wiggin

Watch: 12 Questions with WTAE's Sally Wiggin

The WTAE anchor was voted Best Journalist by readers of Pittsburgh Magazine. She answers 12 random questions ranging from her most memorable vacation to who should portray her in a movie.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
A Pop-Up Bar in Pittsburgh that Serves a Sober Alternative

A Pop-Up Bar in Pittsburgh that Serves a Sober Alternative

Empath provides the vibe and social space of a bar, as well as stepped up beverage service ... without the alcohol.

Comments

Willow Restaurant in the North Hills Lands a New Chef

Willow Restaurant in the North Hills Lands a New Chef

Aaron Allen comes to Willow by way of 2-star Daniel in New York City. Plus, Greta Harmon joins the staff of the Ohio Township hideaway as the restaurant's new bar manager.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
Six Underrated Kennywood Rides You Need to Try Again

Six Underrated Kennywood Rides You Need to Try Again

Leave enough time in your next visit to Kennywood to revisit some old favorites and these underrated gems.

Comments

The Five Best Spots to Get Pittsburgh-Themed Merchandise

The Five Best Spots to Get Pittsburgh-Themed Merchandise

Looking to show off your Pittsburgh love? Get your favorite city printed on basically anything at these local shops.

Comments


Stop Using Uber and Lyft, Renting a Bike is Better

Stop Using Uber and Lyft, Renting a Bike is Better

You'll save money and have an easier time hopping between neighborhoods on a Healthy Ride bicycle.

Comments

Five Essential July Events in Pittsburgh

Five Essential July Events in Pittsburgh

Parking-lot punk, polished Potter and other July attractions.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Compelling World Cup Worth a Periodic Embrace

Compelling World Cup Worth a Periodic Embrace

The competition is as fierce as the fans are passionate and both can be appreciated without a firm grasp of the details.

Comments

Pirates Can Be Show Stoppers if They Follow Brault's Lead

Pirates Can Be Show Stoppers if They Follow Brault's Lead

A Broadway musical about the life and times of the Pittsburgh Pirates? The idea might not be as farfetched as you think.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
The 400-Word Review: Skyscraper

The 400-Word Review: Skyscraper

If you want "Die Hard" with half the brains but three times the building, the new Dwayne Johnson flick will do a passing job.

Comments

The 400-Word Review: The Legacy of a Whitetail Deer Hunter

The 400-Word Review: The Legacy of a Whitetail Deer Hunter

The Netflix exclusive Josh Brolin flick is pleasant enough, but light on laughs.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
I Do, Now Let’s Have Some BBQ

I Do, Now Let’s Have Some BBQ

A five-course meal doesn’t fit with every wedding. These laid-back couples opted for casual — and delicious — cuisine perfect for their outdoor and barn receptions.

Comments

Want Unique Wedding Photos? Track Down the Furries

Want Unique Wedding Photos? Track Down the Furries

Anthrocon returns this weekend for its 22nd annual convention. Here’s the story of one local couple who took advantage of the fact their wedding coincided with the annual gathering.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
Head to the North Hills for Two Blooming Garden Tours

Head to the North Hills for Two Blooming Garden Tours

The Wexford Garden and Pond Tour and the Southern Butler County Garden Club tour both take place this weekend.

Comments

Cocktails in the Garden: How to Plant a Happy Hour

Cocktails in the Garden: How to Plant a Happy Hour

Plant and grow the ingredients you need to make a fresh summer drink.

Comments