The 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.
Plans for the building were announced in November 1924 by University Chancellor John G. Bowman. The 52-story Gothic skyscraper was to be constructed at a cost of $10,000,000.
Ground was broken for the Cathedral of Learning in September 1926. Construction took ten years to complete.
While work progressed around them, the first class was held in 1931. 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 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 on the 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 upper floors.
The Nationality Rooms
Some of the Pittsburgh's hidden gems are the Nationality Rooms, located on the first and third floor of the Cathedral of Learning. These are a collection of thirty-one classrooms that ring the outside of the cathedral’s three-story Commons Room.
The Nationality Room Program was founded in 1926 at the request of Pitt Chancellor John Bowman in order promote community involvement in the construction of the cathedral. Invitations were extended to the various ethnic communities that made up the Pittsburgh area to provide a room that was representative of their heritage, depicting an era prior to 1787.
Each group was responsible for all fundraising, designing, materials, labor and construction. These efforts were often supported by foreign governments which providing financial assistance, architects, craftsmen and materials. Each room is authentically designed down to the switch plates, door handles, hinges, and wastebaskets.
Upon the completion of a room, a dedication ceremony is held and the University Chancellor is presented with a ceremonial key. Once the gift is accepted, the rooms are maintained in perpetuity by the University itself.
A typical room on the 1st floor (those built between 1938 and 1957) took between three and ten years to complete. The first four to be dedicated were the Scottish, Russian, German, and Swedish Rooms in 1938. The latest are the Korean room, dedicated in 2015, and the Philippine room, dedicated in 2019.
Although of museum caliber, all but two of the Nationality Rooms are regularly used as classrooms by faculty and students. The Early American and Syria/Lebanon Rooms are viewed through glass doors and used only for special events.
The Nationality Rooms, designated as Pittsburgh historic landmarks, are a few of the true hidden gems located here in our city of Pittsburgh and a must-see for those with a taste for classic architecture.
University Website - About the Nationality Rooms.
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.
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."
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.
For more information on The Cathedral of Learning:
Wikipedia - Cathedral of Learning.
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