Pittsburgh’s Best Kept Secret

The Cathedral of Learning is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and sits in the center of the University of Pittsburgh’s main campus.   This Late Gothic Revival Structure stands  535 feet with 42 stories making it the second tallest university building  in the world.  It is also the second tallest gothic-styled building in the world.  It was commissioned in 1921 and ground was broken in 1926.

A 42-story Gothic Revival skyscraper

It functions as a primary classroom and administrative center of the university but is also home to the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences.  There are also many specialty spaces including a studio theater, food court, study lounges, offices, computer and language labs.  The entrance contains a cavernous half acre four-story vaulted Gothic study and event hall. Throughout the building are noted examples of stained glass, stone, wood, and iron work and is often used by the University in photographs, postcards, and other advertisements.

But one of the best kept secrets in Pittsburgh are the 29 Nationality Rooms that embody the architecture and artifacts of the different nationalities that settled here.  The first four rooms reflect the Russian, German, Swedish and Scottish heritages. The amazing aspect of the project is that each ethnic group was asked to raise the funds to complete the room. Some cost as much as $300,000 but recent additions have upped the price to $500,000.

The rooms are used as classrooms but can be toured for $3.00 per person. The period depicted in each of the rooms including cultural artifacts and architectural design elements must be prior to 1787 – the year the US Constitution was adopted. The variety of styles and ingenious design concepts displayed are truly amazing. The Polish Room is themed to the Polish Renaissance and Wawel Castle during Poland’s Golden Agew during the reign of King Sigismund the First. What makes the tour even better is the fact that visitors can also take the elevator to the top floor of the towering building and take in a panoramic view of the city.  This site is a Pittsburgh “must-see.”


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