The Cathedral of Learning

The Cathedral ground-level lobby.
The upper floors of the University of Pittsburgh's 42-story Cathedral of Learning.

The Cathedral of Learning is located on the campus of the University of Pittsburgh between Fifth and Forbes Avenues along Bigelow Boulevard. In November 1924 the University Chancellor John G. Bowman announced plans for a 52-story Gothic skyscraper to be built at a cost of $10,000,000. Ground was broken in September 1926.

The first class was held in 1931 and the exterior, overlaid with Indiana limestone, was completed in 1934. The building was officially dedicated in June 1937. Although the structure topped off at only 42-storys, it is still the tallest educational building in the Western Hemisphere.

The Cathedral of Learning under construction - 1930
The steel-framing shows in this construction photo from 1930.

The Cathedral of Learning contains over 2000 rooms. The first thirty-six floors are used for educational purposes and the top six floors house mechanical rooms. The main lobby of the Cathedral's ground floor is called the Commons Room, and is refered to as one of the "great architectural fantasies of the twentieth century".

The fifteenth-century English perpendicular hall covers half an acre and extends upwards four stories. The room was a gift from Andrew Mellon, and is a piece of true Gothic architecture. Each arch is a true arch, supporting it's own weight. The central piers act only as screens for the structural steel that support the buildings's upper floors.

The Cathedral ground-level lobby.    The Cathedral ground-level lobby.
The Gothic Commons Room one of the main highlights of the Cathedral of Learning.

Ringing the perimeter of the ground floor are several ethnic classrooms, known as the Nationality Rooms. Twenty-seven different nationalities are represented, and nine more are either in the planning or construction phases.

These classrooms are designed in true cultural fashion and often built by native craftsmen. The rooms are one of the educational highlights of the Cathedral of Learning, and a national tourist attraction.

Wikipedia - Cathedral of Learning Nationality Rooms.

The Nationality Rooms - The Greek Room    Tha Nationality Rooms
The world-renowned Nationality Rooms ring the first floor of the educational tower.

In addition to the Nationality Rooms, the Cathedral of Learning houses several other architecturally significant theme rooms, including the Babcock Room, Braun Room, Croghan-Schenley Ballroom, Frick Auditorium, Humanities Center, McCarl Center, Mulert Memorial Room, Studio Theatre and the University Honors College.

Named a Historic Landmark in 1973, the Cathedral of Learning is but one of several historic buildings dotting the University landscape, including Soldiers and Sailors National Military Museum and Memorial, the old Schenley Hotel (now the Student Union Hall) and the Cathedral of Saint Paul.

The Stephen C. Foster Memorial.
The Stephen C. Foster Memorial is located next to the Cathedral.

Adjoining the Cathedral of Learning is the Stephen C. Foster Memorial, dedicated in June of 1937. Stephen Foster was a famous composer from Pittsburgh who lived from 1826-1864. His songs were distinctly American and were adopted by the nation. His classic compositions included "Oh! Susannah" and "Old Folks At Home."

Heinz Chapel and the Cathedral of Learning
Heinz Chapel next to the Cathedral of Learning.

Another historic structure that occupies the same scenic block as the Cathedral of Learning and the Stephen Foster Memorial is the Cathedral of Saint Paul. The three buildings were designed by the same architect, Charles Klauder, and together form one of the most architecturally spectacular points of interest in the City of Pittsburgh.

The limestone surface outside of the Cathedral of Learning was cleaned in 2007, revealing the original luster of the structure. To highlight the masterpiece, the building was illuminated as part of the Pittsburgh 250 Festival of Lights celebration in 2008.

The Cathedral of Learning    Cathedral of Learning in 2008 during Festival of Lights
The Cathedral of Learning during the Pittsburgh 250 Festival of Lights.

For more information on The Cathedral of Learning:

Wikipedia - Cathedral of Learning.

The University of Pittsburgh campus in 1925, showing
the grounds where the Cathedral of Learning would rise.
The University of Pittsburgh campus in 1925, showing the grounds where the Cathedral of Learning would rise.

The University of Pittsburgh campus in the 1929,
showing the Cathedral of Learning under construction.
The University of Pittsburgh campus in 1929, during construction of the Cathedral of Learning.

The Cathedral of Learning under construction    The Cathedral of Learning under construction.
The Cathedral of Learning under construction in 1929 (left) and in 1930.

The University of Pittsburgh campus in 1930, showing
the Cathedral of Learning under construction.
Aerial view of the University of Pittsburgh campus showing the Cathedral of Learning under construction in 1930.

The Cathedral of Learning in 1949.
The Cathedral of Learning and Forbes Field in 1949.

The Cathedral of Learning in 2012.
The Cathedral of Learning, after a restoration and thorough cleaning of the limestone facade, in 2012.

The Cathedral of Learning towers over Oakland
and the surrounding area in 2013.
The Cathedral of Learning towers over the landscape of Oakland and the surrounding area in 2013.

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