Archive: Jan 2019
Ten stories high with many more to tell, the Washington Trust Building continues to stand tall. It is the highest vertical structure in the city of Washington, 154 feet, a yard higher than Washington County Courthouse – and equally distinctive.
The exterior of the venerable structure is weather-beaten, betraying its age. The first-floor façade is in need of a makeover, which is planned, but only after funding can be secured. Yet it stands with broad shoulders, not stooped, a testament to its durability. The place remains a comfortable home to a number of established business tenants.
Yet if you stepped inside right now, you wouldn’t believe the building is nearly a century old. Many of the former offices have been converted into spiffy apartments, six weeks or so from occupancy, and other work spaces have been renovated as well, for office or retail use. The tower has a new roof.
Thanks to an ongoing redo, Washington Trust Building is increasingly looking as if it were 97 years young, not old. The complex sits regally at the corner of South Main and East Beau streets, across from the courthouse, and renovations began in October 2017. While more work is ahead, the project is much closer to the wire than the starting gate.
“More than $10 million has been invested to reposition this important architectural building. We hope to bring it back to some semblance of its former glory,” said Bill Gatti, president of Trek Development Group, a Pittsburgh-based developer that has owned the Trust Building since 2013.
Patricia Sheahan is often on the hunt, at antique shops, estate sales, flea markets — even roadsides — in a quest for old furnishings and fixtures that she can repurpose into rustic hutches, art décor and household items.
“My challenge is that it has to fit inside a Mini Cooper,” she says with a laugh. “Otherwise, I have to rent a truck.”
Sheahan started collecting odd furniture pieces and antique throwaways about 50 years ago, when she and her husband, Jim Sheahan, moved to Pittsburgh. He was an adamant sports enthusiast — she doesn’t appreciate sports — so she found an activity of her own to do while he was engaged in his hobby.
She resumed “trocking” — her term for antiquing — a pastime she enjoyed while living in Europe. “Every time I’m out and about, I look for the unusual, unique, eye-catching, story-riveting item to bring home,” she says.
Sheahan, 73, essentially lives in her own, ever-changing art installation. On an upper floor of the Brew House Art Lofts, natural light floods through tall windows overlooking a sea of rooftops and narrow streets; the high ceilings lend themselves to what Sheahan calls her “lofty ideas for living.”
The newly renovated Brew House Lofts building is located in the heart of the South Side and has its own distinctive history that dates back to the late 1800s, when it opened as a brewery under the Duquesne Brewing Co. There is an urban grittiness to living in the loft, which has a mix of affordable and market-rate apartments for the artist community and also includes a gallery and several studio spaces.
Sheahan happens to be a featured artist in the downstairs vitrion, where her installation, “Pop Des Tartes” sits in the large window display at the entrance. The installation features the re-use of materials as a metaphor for the years Sheahan spent as a self-described “Army brat.”