The Legacy of Pittsburgh’s Kaufmann Clock

Nestled at the bustling intersection of Fifth Avenue and Smithfield Street in downtown Pittsburgh, the Kaufmann Clock is more than just a timepiece; it’s a storied landmark deeply woven into the city’s urban tapestry. This iconic clock, often referred to as “the clock,” has been a staple of Pittsburgh’s downtown scene since 1913, functioning as a method to check the time and as a popular meeting spot for generations of Pittsburghers.

Historical Significance

The Kaufmann Clock was originally installed as part of the Kaufmann’s department store, a local business that would eventually become a beloved retail giant in the region. The store was founded in 1871, but the clock’s installation at the corner of its flagship building marked a new era. Designed in an ornate style, the clock quickly became a symbol of reliability and community in the heart of Pittsburgh.

Throughout the 20th century, Kaufmann’s department store thrived, and the clock witnessed the city’s numerous transformations, from the industrial boom to its eventual renaissance as a hub of technology and education. The Kaufmann Clock has been a silent observer to parades, protests, and everyday life, remaining a constant in a city of change.

Cultural Impact

“Meet me under Kaufmann’s Clock” became a familiar phrase in Pittsburgh, echoing through the ages as a rendezvous point for friends, families, and even first dates. This saying reflects the clock’s role as a physical structure and a cultural icon, embodying a sense of belonging and homecoming. It’s a testament to how a simple piece of urban furniture can gain emotional significance and play a central role in a city’s social life.

Architectural Details

The clock itself is an example of early 20th-century design, featuring elegant Roman numerals and ornate ironwork that complements the architectural elements of the building it adorns. Standing over the entrance of the former Kaufmann’s department store, now a part of the Macy’s chain, the clock extends outward on ornamental brackets, allowing it to be seen from various angles down the busy streets.

Present-Day Relevance

In 2017, the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation designated the clock a historic landmark, ensuring its preservation for future generations. This designation acknowledges the physical clock and its role in the community’s collective memory.

Today, as new skyscrapers reshape the downtown skyline, the Kaufmann Clock remains a steadfast landmark. Whether it’s serving as a meeting point for a lunch date or a reference point on a historic tour, the clock continues to be an integral part of Pittsburgh’s urban identity.


The Kaufmann Clock is more than a timekeeper; it is a beloved relic and a living piece of history. As Pittsburgh continues to evolve, the clock stands as a reminder of the city’s past, present, and future, symbolizing community and continuity in an ever-changing urban landscape. It invites residents and visitors alike to pause momentarily, look up from their daily rush, and reflect on the time-honored tradition of simply meeting under the clock.