Henry Hornbostel: Pittsburgh’s Most Flamboyant Architect

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By: Janice Lane Palko

While some may argue that Frank Lloyd Wright is the architect most associated with Pittsburgh because of his design of the celebrated Fallingwater and others may cite Daniel Burnham because of the numerous buildings he designed for Pittsburgh, none would argue that Henry Hornbostel was the architect who not only created masterpieces in Pittsburgh but did it with unsurpassed style.

Hornbostel was born in 1867 in Brooklyn and graduated in 1891 from Columbia University with a degree in architecture. While there, he distinguished himself as a gifted student, and he astonished his classmates and professors alike with his gift for perspective drawing. His considerable talent landed him a spot at the vaunted Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Paris, France, where he studied from 1894-1897.

When Hornbostel returned to the United States, America was experiencing a period of great prosperity. The Civil War was in the past, and America was growing and establishing itself as a world power. Industrialists like Andrew Carnegie, Henry Clay Frick, and Henry W. Oliver were changing Pittsburgh into an economic powerhouse. Flush with cash, these industrialists dreamed big and looked to construct buildings that would reflect their vision. If ever a man was made for his time, Hornbostel certainly was. He was a devotee of the Beaux Arts architectural style that he studied in France. The style recalled Greek and Roman temples and featured heavy ornamentation, columns, and arches. These captains of industry were larger than life and that architectural style appealed to them.

In 1904, he and partner, John Mead Howells, won the design competition for the new school, Carnegie Technical Schools, that Industrialist Andrew Carnegie planned to build in Pittsburgh. It would eventually become Carnegie Mellon University. Hornbostel applied that grand Beaux Arts architectural style to Carnegie Tech, designing the original buildings.   For more, see original post…

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