Photo courtesy of John Graf
A rendering of the Workingman’s Savings Bank upon completion in 2018.

By Nick Eustis

The Priory Hotel has been a fixture of the Northside’s Deutschtown neighborhood for decades. Built in 1888 as part of St. Mary’s Church, the building was bought by the state of Pennsylvania in the early 1970s, set to be demolished and paved over with a new highway.

The building was saved from this fate by historical preservationists Edward and Mary Ann Graf, who bought the property in 1984. Two years later, the building took on its new life as The Priory Hotel.

Now, Edward and Mary Ann’s son, John Graf, is working to continue this tradition of historical preservation. The former Workingman’s Savings Bank on East Ohio Street is slated to be converted into an event space and rooftop restaurant as part of the Priory Hospitality Group.

Built in 1901, the building was designed by architect Daniel Burnham, who also designed world-famous structures such as the Flatiron Building in New York City, the Wanamaker Building in Philadelphia, and Union Station in Washington D.C.

The building was used as a bank until it was bought by the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh in 1971. After unsuccessfully attempting to renovate, the Diocese donated the structure to the ARC House network of rehabilitation centers. It served as ARC’s headquarters from 1976 to 2006 before being vacated.

The Priory took an interest in this historic building after beginning work on a separate hotel on East Ohio Street.

“Having this historic building rehabbed would tie in well to our new hotel,” said John Graf, president and CEO of The Priory.

Partnering with Pittsburgh companies October Development and Senko Construction for this project, Graf has big plans for the space.

“We decided that creating an event space in the back-trading area would be a good use for that part of the building,” Graf said.

This event space will be able to accommodate 200 people, which is large enough for wedding receptions, corporate events, and community meetings. The lower level of the building will also be converted into an event space that can be used in conjunction with the main level.

It is the rooftop, however, that will hold the most ambitious design elements. The roof will be converted into a restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating, providing guests with an unrivaled view of the downtown Pittsburgh skyline. On top of that, the outdoor portion of the restaurant will be engineered so that it can be used all year round.

The plans for the rooftop restaurant do not stop there.

“We’ve been kicking around the idea of partnering with a local microbrewery,” Graf said. While he did not disclose who, Graf said he’s received “lots of interest” from local beer brewers that are eager to partner with The Priory.

Construction is slated to begin in August of this year. The renovated space, along with the new hotel, are scheduled to open in the spring of 2018.