Before & After: Schoolhouse Revitalizes a Former Police Building in Pittsburgh
In 2003, Brian Faherty discovered cast-iron glass shade molds in an old storage warehouse and refurbished them back to working condition, giving rise to the Schoolhouse brand. The lighting and homeware brand has grown exponentially since then, amassing a cult following.
Today, Schoolhouse is headquartered in a repurposed, century-old brick factory in the industrial district of NW Portland with brick-and-mortar outposts in New York City and, as of 2018, Pittsburgh. Its latest location was inspired by Faherty’s love for the city’s revitalization and spirit—and his serendipitous discovery of a 1970s-era structure in the city’s East Liberty neighborhood.
Before: The Exterior and Entrance
Faherty, who has an innate ability to sniff out and reimagine historic objects and spaces, first happened upon what is now called The Detective Building on a business trip in 2015. En route to the Ace Hotel, which had recently been outfitted with products from Schoolhouse, his Uber made a wrong turn, presenting him with the unique, 1970s-era New Formalist structure. Faherty felt an instant connection with the building. The company purchased it in 2015—and transformed it, over the course of three years, into their latest super-stylish retail venture.
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Located in a transitional neighborhood, the building had originally been built in 1972 as the headquarters of AAA before housing the investigative branch of Pittsburgh's Police Bureau. However, it had been abandoned for almost a decade, and the entire property had fallen into a serious state of disarray.
After: The Exterior and Entrance
Inside, Faherty found stories that spoke to him in the form of a wood-paneled boardroom and dust-covered tanker desks strewn with criminal mugshots from the building’s previous occupants. Many objects discovered on-site, such as beautiful, old tanker desks, were salvaged and restored, with Faherty repurposing as much material as possible—an element of reuse that aligns with the spirit of the brand.
Before: The Elevator
After: The Elevator
Before: The Interiors
The interior was completely redone, keeping original details throughout. Drop ceilings were removed, and the bones of the space—including the original steel beams—were highlighted. Schoolhouse worked with the Pittsburgh firm Moss Architects for the renovation, with the Portland–based Owen Gabbert serving as the principal contractor on the project.
After: The Interiors
"The whole project was a brand expression—but it’s also a personal expression. A love letter to a past era."
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"The whole project was a brand expression—but it’s also a personal expression. A love letter to a past era," says Faherty. "In the ’70s, that type of building was the newest thing, but then it was left to rot. If they were to tear that building down as the city had planned to, they’re not going to build it again or make anything else like it. This type of architecture has a special timestamp on it, that I’m proud to have had a hand in its preservation."
Visit Schoolhouse in the Detective Building located at 5811 Broad Street, Pittsburgh.
Builder/General Contractor: Owen Gabbert, LLC
Interior Design: Schoolhouse