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Wednesday Scotch Tasting
22
Feb

Enjoy an evening single malt scotches from Campbelltown Single Malts courtesy of Barsotti Wines. For $15.00 per person, each guest will receive 3 whiskey pours ...

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The Music of Clinton Clegg
23
Feb

The soulful stylings of Clinton Clegg, whose band is heading to SXSW in March.

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Priory Hospitality purchases Mansions on Fifth
Sunday, October 09, 2016

The Priory Hospitality Group's purchase of The Mansions on Fifth in Shadyside last week represents a major expansion of the North Side company's real estate empire, and its first attempt to operate ...

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History of the Mansions on Fifth Hotel


Willis McCook

The McCook Estate

The late 1890’s and early 1900’s were in many ways Pittsburgh’s golden age, measured by prosperity and economic might, if not by a clean environment. Pittsburgh was a financial and industrial powerhouse as well as a center of river and rail transportation. In 1900, Pittsburgh produced more than half of the crucible steel in the nation, and by 1910, it was the eighth most populous city in the country.

It was also a time where giants of the business world traversed Shadyside’s Fifth Avenue – “Millionaire’s Row” – on a daily basis. Names such as Carnegie, Mellon, Frick, Westinghouse and Heinz were among the leading citizens of the day.

At home with this august set was Willis F. McCook, a prosperous attorney and legal counsel to steel and coke magnate Henry Clay Frick. Although his fame derives from whom he represented, McCook was highly accomplished in his own right. A groundbreaker in modern day corporate law, McCook studied law at Columbia University following his graduation from Yale in 1873. He was also a pioneering athlete, serving as captain of Yale’s first football team and playing in the first intercollegiate football game in the nation. Later in life, he served as president and director of the Pittsburgh Steel Company, and was a partner in the law firm McCook & Jarrett. He died in 1923 at the age of 72.

In the early 1900’s, McCook commissioned the construction of a 20,000 square foot mansion for himself, his wife Mary, and his ten children on Fifth Avenue in Pittsburgh’s Shadyside neighborhood

In the early 1900’s, McCook commissioned the construction of a 20,000 square foot mansion for himself, his wife Mary, and his ten children on Fifth Avenue in Pittsburgh’s Shadyside neighborhood, which was also home to many of the city’s leading industrialists, innovators and bankers of the city, including George Westinghouse, Frick, Andrew Mellon, Andrew Carnegie and many lesser known but exceptionally wealthy families of the era.

In time, McCook’s daughter Bessie became engaged, and while construction of the McCook manse was still underway, the lawyer commenced building a more modest (but still spacious at 8,000 square feet) home adjacent to his own. The smaller mansion (now the Mansions on Fifth Hotel’s Amberson House) was completed first, and the main house (now called the Fifth Avenue House), was finished in 1906.

The two mansions were designed in the Elizabethan Revivalist and Tudor styles by the architectural firm Carpenter & Crocker, also of Pittsburgh’s East End. Many of the firm’s other projects, which range from Florida to Washington state, exist today, including the iconic Trinity Cathedral Parish House in downtown Pittsburgh. The contractor on the McCook estate was Thomas Reilly, who also built the massive and magnificent St. Paul’s Cathedral just down Fifth Avenue from the estate. Reilly also worked with Carpenter & Crocker on the Parish House at Trinity Cathedral.

McCook and his designers and builders spared no expense, using some of the finest craftsmen of the era, including master ironworker Cyril Colnik (fixtures and decorative items), Rudy Brothers Art Glass (leaded and stained glass installations), and Rookwood Ceramic Tile (for the decorative tile around the fireplaces in the houses). The stunning carved wood in the Grand Hall of the Fifth Avenue House was produced by Woolaeger Manufacturing of Milwaukee. The total cost of the project was $300,000 in 1906.

Next: The Bonavita Family Era