Among the mortgages issued by Dollar Bank in 1921 was a loan for $300,000 to the Benedum-Trees Oil Company on the company's headquarters building on Fourth Avenue.

The iconic building at 223 Fourth Avenue in Downtown Pittsburgh has been known as the Benedum-Trees Building for more than a century. When it was completed in the spring of 1906, however, it was known as the Machesney Building and at 19 stories was one of the city's earliest skyscrapers. Among its first tenants were mining companies, brokers and bond traders, indicating the closely allied fortunes of industry and finance in early 1900s Pittsburgh.

The unusual origins of the Machesney Building were that it was owned by a woman, Mrs. Caroline Machesney, wife of attorney Allen Machesney. Mrs. Machesney, reported the Pittsburgh Daily Post on July 27, 1905, "was compelled yesterday to take out a building permit to shore up the walls of the stock exchange which adjoins her property."

In 1913, Mrs. Machesney was faced with the need to raise a large sum of cash to settle a legal dispute. She put the Machesney Building up for sale. In one of the biggest Pittsburgh real estate deals of the year, the property was bought by the Benedum-Trees Oil Company for $1,000,000, constituted in part by cash and in part by 1,000 acres of West Virginia coal land. This was the first skyscraper in Pittsburgh to change hands in a real estate purchase.

The partners behind the Benedum-Trees Oil Company name were Michael L. Benedum and Joe Clifton Trees. Benedum was a Bridgeport, West Virginia native without much formal schooling, while Trees, born in Delmont in Westmoreland County, got a football scholarship to Western University of Pennsylvania (University of Pittsburgh) and graduated with an engineering degree in 1895.

The storied wildcatting partnership between Benedum and Trees started in Pleasants County, West Virginia in 1896. The partners set up offices in Wheeling in 1904 and established a Pittsburgh presence in 1906 at 335 Fifth Avenue. The following year they moved their company into the then-new Union Bank Building at the corner of Fourth and Wood. With success came growth, and the Benedum-Trees Oil Company's purchase of the Machesney Building in 1913.

Regarding Dollar Bank's $300,000 mortgage loan to Benedum-Trees in May 1921, it's unclear what specific purpose the funds were put to, since the company already owned the building. It's conceivable that the money was used to make improvements to the 15-year-old property, although the Pittsburgh papers at the time made no mention of such. Around 1914, shortly after they purchased their new headquarters, Benedum and Trees entertained plans to add stories to the building, due to the demand for office space at the prestigious address. However, it appears an actual expansion was never performed.

Mike Benedum and Joe Trees remained business partners for nearly half a century, until the latter's death in 1943. Both acquired massive fortunes in the oil business, becoming multimillionaires in less than 10 years. They made oil discoveries throughout the United States and in countries all over the world.

Both men donated generously to philanthropic causes. Trees became a major benefactor of the University of Pittsburgh and its athletics programs, as well as the Boys Club of Pittsburgh and National Park Seminary at Forest Glen, Maryland. Trees opened his personal home in Pine Township to Boys Club members every summer.

Benedum and his wife Sarah started the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation in 1944, in honor of their only son, who had died in 1918. True to his roots, Benedum focused the Foundation's charitable efforts on his home state of West Virginia, and his adopted home of Pittsburgh. To date, the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation has authorized more than $400 million in grants to education, economic and community development, and health and human services programs in those regions.

Need Help?

Need Help?

Contact Us Today:
Dollar Bank representatives are available Monday - Friday from 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM and Saturday from 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM.

E-mail Us »

Schedule a Branch Appointment »