An Historical overview of The Heinz Complex in Pittsburgh

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Timeline of Heinz Factory complex.

Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

This article is an overview of the history of Heinz Complex along with brief description about the historical importance it holds in the city of Pittsburgh. A young German immigrant Henry John Heinz, the founder of Heinz Food company grew his Pittsburgh headquarters in 4 major stages over a period of 120 years, expanding the brand at an international level. The Heinz food processing plant was initially founded in 1890 in Romanesque Revival Style with rusticated red sandstone and decorative peaked towers. The Heinz Complex is a collection of buildings built between 1912 and 1931. Each building was named for its primary use; Shipping, Meat, Bean, Cereal and Reservoir, they now serve as alternative, modern urban living space. Situated right in the middle of Downtown, Pittsburgh, boasting great views of the Allegheny river, the strip district & Downtown, the complex which formerly housed manufacturing rooms, shipping docks & test kitchens is now a town within a town including apartments, cafe, convenience store, community room & fitness center.

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History:

H.J. Heinz supervised the construction of the factory himself using bricks from his father’s brickyard. By 1906 over 20 buildings were used in production of “57 varieties” of different Heinz products. The buildings were built in Romanesque Revival style, all in timber post & beam construction sheathed in red brick. Albert Kahn, an influential Architect at that time started a new era in 1906 for designing a new administration building. He used steel frames, but made a Romanesque exterior to match the other buildings.

  1. Shipping Building:-   

– Designed under the supervision of H.J. Heinz, utilizing bricks from Heinz brickyard in 1915.

– 5-story steel frame structure faced in heavy masonry.

– The south & North west corner originally featured decorative peaked towers.

– Originally used for shipping by rail & trucks.

 

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Shipping building, 1915

 

  1. Meat Building:

– Designed by Ar. Robert Maurice Trimble in 1920-23.

– 7 stories high built in rusticated red sandstone with a 4-story Arcade.

– 2-story pedestrian bridge connecting to service & Auditorium building.

-Originally processed spaghetti & meat sauce and baby products.

 

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Meat building
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Bean building

 

  1. Cereal Building:

– Designed by Albert Kahn in 1926.

– Romanesque Revival style with steel frame structure.- Features the name “Heinz” spelled out in brickwork which was also removed in 1950 and re-constructed in 2003 renovation.

– Originally processed dried breakfast cereal.

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Cereal Building, 1926
  1. Reservoir Building:

-Designed in 1926.

– Rusticated sandstone base with brick rectangular window openings but lacks an arcade, arches , recessed bays & cor-belling like other 3 buildings in the complex.

– Originally served as a water reservoir.

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Reservoir Building, 1926
  1. Service Building:

– Designed in 1930 by Albert Kahn.

– The service building had a  large Heinz signage faced the long elevation which was removed in 1950. For years, the giant ketchup bottle now at the Heinz History Center was mounted on one side. The structure at one time contained testing labs, offices and an auditorium.

– Built for employee services for signing in & out along with storage lockers & changing rooms in 1950.
– Connected to the Meat building by a 2-story bridge.

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Service Building, 1930

1947 was the 3rd era of modernization which called for replacing & updating existing buildings and constructing new ones in a comparatively modern style. This resulted in replacing existing windows with glass block & interiors to modern steel concrete finishes. In 1990, Heinz expanded to east with construction of 1,38,000 sqft. of Soup & baby food processing plant. A shipping warehouse was also added in 1999 with a total area of 70,000 sqft.

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The Auditorium, Entrance Lobby and the Hall of Nations were very famous part of the building used by all the Employees on a daily basis. The Ornate Theater in the Auditorium building was used as a medium of providing free entertainment to all the employees during their lunch breaks. The lobby had decorative paintings and murals depicting world history which underwent a great change in 1950 to stainless steel panels, wood frames and frosted glass railings to a mid-century modern design. Another interesting feature of the complex were the 6 bridges connecting each building together in one way or the other, forming an efficient circulation system for its users.

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This building like any other historical building has faced various restoration & design challenges and critical discourse about which era of the project holds more significance than the other and what needs to be preserved.

Look for a project update discussing preservation challenges and the current transformation updates of the project in our next article.

To be continued…

 

Best,

Sandvick Architect’s Team


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