It is rare when visitors can stay in a historic mansion in the heart of the downtown district of a major American city. Yet that is the treat in store for guests at Mansions on Fifth, the refurbished stately home of one of the pioneering industrialists who built Pittsburgh into a world powerhouse of steel manufacturing. The magnificent homes that graced Pittsburgh’s Fifth Avenue had not always been adequately protected as a part of the city’s historical heritage; now, however, thanks to the actions of the entrepreneurs who have resurrected the McCook family compound, we can all enjoy — if only for night or two — the opulent surroundings of a legendary industrial baron.
The meticulous restoration of the mansion took five years to complete; but when the work was finished in 2010, the result was approved for listing with the National Register of Historic Places. As a further consequence, Mansions on Fifth is one of only two properties in Pittsburgh to be affiliated with the prestigious Historic Hotels of America — and the only one to have earned association’s Gold Level of luxury classification.
With just 13 rooms in the main mansion — plus another nine in the adjacent brick residence that completes the impressive compound — Mansions on Fifth is also the city’s only boutique property on the Historic Hotels of America roster. All together, the property comprises seven Deluxe rooms, four Premium rooms, three Elite rooms, two Deluxe King suites, and four Premium King suites, as well as three larger Premium King Loft suites and the apartment-sized McCook Suite — an exclusive domain that boasts a large HDTV with surround sound enveloping the king-size bed; an oversized bathroom with jetted tub in a quiet nook plus a walk-in shower; a sitting room with a wet bar, a meeting-size dining table, a queen-sized sofa bed and a private bath; and a separate guest room with gas fireplace, bay windows, art glass cupboards, and a second sofa bed.
In addition to the luxurious amenities, like omnipresent HD televisions, Virtually every room in the hotel can lay claim to a distinctive architectural feature, such as a fireplace, expansive windows and/or a window seat, a hand-painted or soaring cathedral ceiling, art glass windows, or a claw foot soaking tub. No wonder, then, that Mansions on Fifth is a favorite choice for the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University when these and other institutions are looking for housing for VIPs or a site for corporate retreats.
Another reason for preferring Mansions on Fifth for special events is the hotel’s full-time executive chef, not usually a norm for a boutique property. Unfortunately, there is no restaurant on site that serves full meals, and room service leaves a bit to be desired; but the complimentary breakfast — a continental-plus repast with a European flair — is sure to please.
The staff is young, helpful and extremely friendly — particularly good attributes since, in the absence of guest directories in the rooms, they may be called on a lot for assistance. Even considering this oversight, which is in the process of being addressed, Mansions on Fifth is an obvious choice in Pittsburgh for a stay with a touch of class.
Number of rooms: 22
Published rates: $195-$650. You can also compare rates at Expedia or other online booking sites.
Text and photos by Buzzy Gordon, who was a guest of Mansions on Fifth for purposes of review.