Ace Hotel Pittsburgh (Temporarily Closed)
A historic former YMCA in East Liberty is now a hip hotel — with nods to the past.
Editor’s Note: Ace Hotel Pittsburgh closed in March 2020 at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
There are pet-friendly hotels, and then there is the Ace Hotel Pittsburgh, the local outpost of the hip Ace Hotel brand headquartered in Los Angeles and New York, housed in a century-old former YMCA in East Liberty.
Dogs (and we’re talking of all shapes and sizes here, not just pups that fit in a purse) are embraced from the moment they enter the double doors of the structure’s ornate, original facade on South Whitfield Street. To the right is the cozy lobby bar — where pets are welcome — strewn with comfortable, mid-century-modern-style furniture (among them, wooden pieces locally designed and made by Bones and All).
With the warm honey-toned wood of the bar, the soft neutrals of the paint palette and the enchanting smell of Stumptown Coffee wafting from the adjoining coffee bar, it almost feels like being in someone’s living room — if said room had oversized windows, wainscotted walls and elaborative crown molding on impossibly high ceilings. To the left is Whitfield, the in-house “neighborhood tavern” (the only no-go zone for dogs). Situated in between is an unassuming reservation desk, where the casual, friendly staff is armed with dog treats.
Just past the wrought-iron and marble staircase that climbs throughout the brick building is the entrance to the original, 4,500-square-foot gym, where two elevated walking tracks still circle the space. The paint — including a retro blue-and-red striped “Champ” mural — is cracked and looks as if it’s peeling. The skinny wood floors are old and worn. It shouldn’t work, but it does. The gym is undeniably one of the coolest spots in the building.
If fancy is what you’re after for an event space, the building’s second-floor ballroom is a 1920s-era architectural dream, with original, ornate light fixtures, tall windows and a black-and-red checkered floor.
Out of the hotel’s 63 rooms, only one contains more than one bed. The rest of the rooms — divided into small, medium, large and suite spaces — contain either queen- or king-sized beds. For an extra fee, the staff will wheel a rollaway to your room. There’s also a fully stocked minibar and soft pearl-gray bathrobes. The black-and-yellow-tiled bathrooms — perhaps a nod to Pittsburgh’s sports teams? — are equipped with complimentary Rudy’s toiletries. Room service is available.
The Gym is a hub of activity. On any given night, there might be a wedding reception, a gallery show, a DIY craft workshop or a dodgeball game. If no event is underway, kids staying at the hotel are welcome to run around or toss beanbags at cornhole boards. Located within walking distance are a number of trendy restaurants and bars; the hotel also is located just across the street from the striking, gothic East Liberty Presbyterian Church. Take a peek inside — you won’t regret it.
Shot by the late, great Charles “Teenie” Harris, black-and-white photos documenting life in East Liberty line the main staircase. The terrazzo floors are original to the building. The cool lighting found throughout the hotel is by Schoolhouse Electric, which has a retail store in the neighborhood.
Built in 1909 when East Liberty was known as Pittsburgh’s “second downtown,” the former YMCA sat vacant for years. It underwent a $23 million makeover before opening as an outpost of the Ace Hotel brand near the end of 2015.
120 S. Whitfield St., East Liberty | 412/361-3300 | acehotel.com/pittsburgh
Valet parking is available for $28/night