Butler Building

After accepting faculty jobs at CMU, Amy and I began searching for a new home in Pittsburgh. With Stephen, Jason and Elaine a year or two from graduating, there was no rush to move, allowing us to undertake a project needing renovation. At roughly the same time, due to Qeexo’s growth, we began looking at commercial properties that might also house the startup. This led us to the Butler Building, a three story commercial row house along Penn Avenue.

We acquired the building as a shell in September 2013. It had been vacant for over a decade and had no electrical, plumbing, heating or interior walls. As you can see from the ‘before’ photos below, the space was rough! It was also a blank canvas, and so Amy crafted a new floor plan, including removing part of a floor to create a two-story area. Dan Essig, our contractor, and his awesome crew got to work reconnecting utilities, fixing the roof and shoring up the structure. I worked on grittier details, like light switch placement and HVAC vents, and also welded a 16’ railing for the loft area. Nine months later, the interior was practically unrecognizable. Jason documented the process - I’ve included a bunch of before-and-after photo pairs.

Like many older structures in Pittsburgh, a good bit of history can be found online and in city records. The building was constructed in 1904 for Pierce H. Butler, who ran one of the earliest grocery store chains in Pittsburgh. The building is an example of Dutch Revival architecture, with its parapeted front gables, windows with prominent keyed surrounds, brick quoins, and a third story belt course. This style enjoyed popularity in East Coast commercial centers at the turn of the 19th century (see 13-15 South William Street in New York City for a notable example).

© Chris Harrison