Cathedral of Learning

Cathedral of Learning

Infobox_nrhp | name =Cathedral of Learning
nrhp_type =

imagesize = 350px
caption =The Cathedral of Learning at the University of Pittsburgh
location= Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
area =
built =1926
architect= Charles Klauder
architecture= Late Gothic Revival
added = November 3, 1975
governing_body = University of Pittsburgh
refnum=75001608cite web|url=|title=National Register Information System|date=2006-03-15|work=National Register of Historic Places|publisher=National Park Service]

The Cathedral of Learning, a local and national landmark, [ [ National Registry of Historial Places] ] [cite web | url = | title = Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation: Local Historic Designations| date 2002-05-01 | accessdate = 2008-02-25 ] is the centerpiece of the University of Pittsburgh's main campus in the Oakland neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States. Standing at 535 feet (>163 m) [ Cathedral of Learning, Pittsburgh ] ] , the 42-story Late Gothic Revival Cathedral is the tallest educational building in the western hemisphere and the second tallest educational building in the world. (Moscow State University's main building in Russia, while only 36 stories, has very tall floors and stands at 240 m, including a 57 m spire). [ Moscow State University, Moscow ] ] The Cathedral of Learning was commissioned in 1921 and ground was broken in 1926. The first class was held in the building in 1931 prior to its final completion in 1937. The Cathedral is steel frame structure overlaid with Indiana limestone and contains more than 2,000 rooms and 2,529 windows. An impressive scenic building, it is often used by the University in photographs, postcards, and other advertisements.


The basement through floor forty are used for educational purposes, although most floors above 36 house the building's mechanical equipment. These floors include theaters, computer laboratories, classrooms, and departmental offices. The basement contains a black box theater and the ground floor contains computer labs, classrooms, and the Cathedral Café food court. [ [ Campus Dining Locations, University of Pittsburgh, 2008-08-08, accessdate=2008-08-11] ] [ [ Computer Services and Systems Development: Computing Labs: Cathedral of Learning, 2006, accessdate=2008-08-11] ] The "lobby" comprising the first through third floors contains a massive gothic "Commons Room" that is used as a general study area and for special events and is ringed by three floors of classrooms including, on the first and third floors, the 27 Nationality Rooms designed by members of the Pittsburgh community in the styles of different nations and ethnic groups. 25 of these serve as functional classrooms while more conventional classrooms are located on the second floor and elsewhere throughout the building. The fourth floor, previously home to the main stacks of the University's Library, is now occupied by the McCarl Center for Nontraditional Student Success. [ College Planning & Management, 2006-01, accessdate=2008-08-11] ] The Darlington Memorial Library on the sixth floor houses a special collection on American history and literature as well as rare documents. Additionally, the University Honors College is located on the 35th and 36th floors.

The Cathedral of Learning houses the Department of Philosophy, [ [ Pitt Philosophy] ] considered one of the top five in the United States, [ [] Dead link|date=August 2008] and the Department of History and Philosophy of Science, [ [ Department of History and Philosophy of Science ] ] consistently ranked at the top of the field. [cite web | url = | title = Internet Archive: The Philosophical Gourmet Report 2004-2006: Philosophy of the Sciences and Mathematics | date=2008 | accessdate = 2008-03-26 ] [cite web | url = | title = The Philosophical Gourmet Report 2006-2008:Breakdown:Philosophy of Science | date=2008 | accessdate = 2008-03-26 ] [ [ Graduate Programs in History and Philosophy of Science ] ] Other departments in the Cathedral include English, Religious Studies, and the School of Social Work which maintains the highest classrooms in the building located on the 23rd floor. [ [ Classrooms on 23rd floor of Cathedral of Learning, Center for Instructional Development & Distance Education, 2008-07-15, accessdate=2008-08-11] ] Floors 38-40 are closed to the general public, as they contain electrical wiring for the building, as well as the Babcock Room, a large conference room on the 40th floor utilized for meetings, seminars, and special events and which provides a panoramic view of downtown Pittsburgh, the rest of the University, and Carnegie Mellon University. The 40th floor balcony also houses a nesting pair of Peregrine Falcons. A view from the top is available via a webcam. [ [ University of Pittsburgh ] ] Golden lights, dubbed victory lights, surround the outside of the highest floors and are lit following all Pitt football wins and other notable victories, giving the upper part of the Cathedral an amber glow. [ [ University of Pittsburgh ] ]


In 1921, John Gabbert Bowman traveled to the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to become the tenth chancellor of the University. At that time, the school consisted of a series of buildings constructed along Henry Hornbostel's plan for the campus and included "temporary" wooden structures built during World War I. He then began to envision a "tall building", that would be later termed the Cathedral of Learning, to provide a dramatic symbol of education for the city and elevate overcrowding by adding much needed more space in order to meet present and future needs of the University.

His reasoning is summarized in this quote:

In attempting to find a suitable place for this building, Bowman's eyes were drawn to a 14-acre (57,000 m²) plot of land named Frick Acres. In November 1921, with aid from the Mellon family, the University bought the plot, and began plans for a proper university building on the site. One of the foremost Gothic architects of the time, Philadelphian Charles Klauder, was hired to design the tower. The design took two years to finish, with the final plan attempting to fuse the idea of a modern skyscraper with the tradition and ideals of Gothic architecture. The plans received strong resistance from the community and from some University officials, who felt it was too tall for the city.

Local legend states that to counteract this resistance Bowman ordered that the construction of the walls would start at the top floor and work their way down, so the project could not be canceled. This has been traced to an account in the November 21, 1943 issue of "At Ease", a tabloid related to local military personnel on campus, which stated that "the masonry was started from the top downward." Construction photographs show that this was not the case, and that some stonework was done on the first floor before any other stonework was begun. One engineer with the company working on the Cathedral explained that the exterior walls of the Cathedral are not load-bearing. Because of this, many similar buildings would start construction at the third or fourth floors. Practically, this makes sense, as it allows easy movement of building materials and equipment into and out of the building. Instead, in the Cathedral's case, the issue was one of the stone that would be used in lower stories. In fact, the quarry was not prepared to deliver the stone on schedule, so construction was delayed, and work begun on the higher stories.


Fundraising for this project came in many forms, including donations from industries, corporations, individuals and foreign governments. To raise public views of the Cathedral, and at the same time finance the construction, Bowman started a fundraising campaign in 1925.

An important part of this campaign was a project reaching out to the children of the city entitled "Buy a Brick for Pitt". Each schoolchild sent a dime ($0.10) and a letter to the University, explaining how they earned the dime for the building. In exchange, the child received a certificate for one brick contained in the Cathedral. A total of 97,000 certificates were issued to children.

Commons Room

The main part of the Cathedral's first floor is the Commons room, a Gothic-style hall that covers half an acre (2,000 m²) and extends upwards four stories, reaching 52 ft (16 m) tall. The room was a gift of Andrew Mellon. It is a piece of true Gothic architecture; no steel supports were used in the construction of its arches. Each arch is a true arch, and they support their own weight. Each base for the arches weighs five tons, and it is said that they are so firmly placed that each could hold a large truck.

This perfection was insisted upon by Chancellor Bowman. The architect, Klauder, objected due to the increased costs of this construction method. Bowman responded with the comment: "You cannot build a great University with fraud in it."

Joseph Gattoni designed the stonework, much of which depicts western Pennsylvania plant life. The walls are made of Indiana limestone and the floor is green Vermont slate.

The wrought iron in the room, including the large gates leading to the elevators, were a gift from George Hubbard Clapp, and were designed by the ironworker Samuel Yellin. Over the gates are two lines from an untitled poem by Robert Bridges:

: “Here is eternal spring; for you the very stars of heaven are new.” [cite book |last= Bridges|first=Robert |authorlink= Robert Bridges|coauthors= |title= "Poetical Works of Robert Bridges Excluding the Eight Dramas"|year= |publisher= Kessinger |location= Whitefish, MT|isbn= 1417998008|pages= page 314]

During finals in the winter, fires in the enormous fireplace are lit, to promote a comforting and pleasant atmosphere for the dozens of students typically found studying into the late hours.

Nationality Rooms

The Cathedral is home to 27 Nationality Rooms, twenty-five working classrooms and two display rooms, on the first and third floors. Each nationality room is designed to celebrate a different culture that had an influence on Pittsburgh's growth, depicting an era prior to (or in the singular case of the French Classroom, just after) 1787 which is year the University's founding and the signing of the US Constitution.

The Nationality Room programs began in 1926 when Bowman decided that he wanted to involve the community as much as he could in constructing the Cathedral, so he proposed that each nationality that had a significant number of people in Pittsburgh would be allowed to design their nationality's room for the Cathedral. Each group had to form a Room Committee, which would be responsible for all fundraising, designing, and acquisition. The University provided only the room and, upon completion, upkeep for perpetuity. All other materials, labor, and design were provided by the individual committees. These were sometimes aided by foreign governments and the rooms contain many authentic artifacts and materials from the country represented. [] A typical room on the 1st floor (those built between 1938 and the 1957) took between three and ten years to complete, and cost the equivalent of $300,000 USD in 2006 dollars. More recent rooms have cost in the range of $500,000 and up. [cite book |last= Alberts|first=Robert C.|authorlink= Robert C. Alberts|coauthors= |title= "Pitt: the Story of the University of Pittsburgh, 1787-1987"|year= |publisher= University of Pittsburgh Press |location= Pittsburgh, PA|isbn= 0822911507|pages= page 135]


Proposed rooms

There are eight nationality rooms currently being planned to add to the current 27. []

Croghan-Schenley Ballroom

The Croghan-Schenley room, situated on the first floor of the Cathedral in room 156, is actually two adjoining rooms, the Ballroom and the Oval Room, connected by a hidden passageway in the Ballroom's fireplace. The rooms were originally part of William Croghan Jr.'s mansion built in 1830 in the area known as Stanton Heights, in Pittsburgh. The Greek Revival rooms themselves were created in 1835 by the Philadelphia carver Mordecai Van Horn. [cite book | last = Toker | first = Franklin | title = Pittsburgh: an urban portrait | publisher = Pennsylvania State University Press | date = 1986 | location = University Park | pages = 86 | isbn = 0-271-00415-0]

His daughter, Mary Elizabeth, went to boarding school in New York, but in 1842 at the age of fifteen she eloped with 43-year-old Edward Wyndham Harrington Schenley, a captain in the British military. The elopement caused a family schism. Mary would not visit often, and in an effort to convince her to move back to Pittsburgh, the new rooms were commissioned. Following the death of William Croghan in 1850, the mansion was run by caretakers with no permanent residents for some 60 years. William S. Miller, then president of Steelwood Corp., purchased the Croghan mansion following World War II and it was soon leveled for a new housing development, but the Croghan-Schenley rooms were spared.

In 1955, the rooms, donated by Miller, were dismantled and rebuilt in the Cathedral, except that the original ceilings had to be lowered about 8 inches to accommodate the available space.

In 1982, the rooms were refurbished to their 19th century glory. Highlighting the ballroom are the hand-cut glass chandelier and four wooden, hand-carved Greek columns, surviving examples of western Pennsylvania’s Greek classical revival period popular with those of means in the 1830s.

The Croghan-Schenley rooms are the last extant vestiges of the estate of Mary Schenley, who before she died gave much of her holdings and property to the city of Pittsburgh — including Schenley farms, where the Cathedral sits, and Schenley Park. []

Darlington Memorial Library

The Darlington Memorial Library on the sixth floor of the Cathedral of Learning was given to the University of Pittsburgh by the daughters of William McCullough Darlington and Mary Carson Darlington. The initial gift of eleven thousand volumes was made in 1918 by Mary O'Hara Darlington and Edith Darlington Ammon. This was followed by Mary O'Hara Darlington's bequest in 1925 of the remainder of the family's library and a large part of the family estate. The Darlington family's tremendous interest in historical research was the force behind the creation of what was said to be the largest private library west of the Alleghenies. The collection is particularly rich in material pertaining to the French and Indian War and to the history of Western Pennsylvania and the Ohio Valley. Both William and Mary Darlington researched and published in these areas.

While the main focus of the collection is American history and literature, other highlights of the collection include rare maps and atlases, works on ornithology and natural history, and early travel narratives. The Darlington's son, O'Hara Darlington, amassed fine collections of Victorian literature, sporting books and works of illustrators and caricaturists. Over the years the collection has been enriched through the generosity of many individuals and organizations, enabling the library to fill in gaps, particularly those relating to the history of this region. []

A virtual tour of the Darlington Memorial Library is available for the [ entrance] and the [ main room] .

Braun Room

Following the opening of the Cathedral of Learning, the offices of the Dean of Women moved to the twelfth floor of the Cathedral in 1938. The interior was unfinished but Dean Amos envisioned a dignified and beautiful space for women to meet.

When Dean Amos died in 1941, the new quarters were still unfinished. The Alumnae Association created the Thyrsa W. Amos Fund to plaster the walls and to furnish Room 1217 in her name. Room 1217 was never finished, but after World War II the other rooms on the twelfth floor were completed. Mrs. A.E. Braun, along with her daughter and son-in-law, donated the furnishings and wood paneling in 1946.

Dean Helen Pool Rush and her successor, Dean Savina Skewis, carried on the traditions of Dean Amos until the Dean of Women's Office was closed in 1969, and its functions and quarters were assumed by other departments. []

University Honors College

The University Honors College, dedicated in 1986, is housed in a 2002-2003 renovated space on the 35th and 36th floors of the Cathedral. The Honors College provides support and enriched opportunities for scholarship among the University's undergraduates and offers a Bachelor of Philosophy (BPhil) degree. []

The 2002-2003 renovation, by Rothschild Doyno Collaborative of Pittsburgh's Strip District, created a two-story arched window that is visible at night for miles around. The four-leaf medieval quatrefoil medallion at the top of the Cathedral is a central motif in the design of Honors College. Stained glass behind the reception desk at the center of the space was design by Glenn Greene Glass of Regent Square and centers on a design representing the four seasons, done in polished agate. Wrought ironwork was produced by Vic Reynaud of Technique Manufacturing in the spirit of Samuel Yellin who did the Commons Room ironwork. []

Babcock Room

The E.V. Babcock Memorial Room was constructed on the fortieth floor for use as the University trustees' boardroom and was funded by a Babcock family grant of $327,000 and dedicated in November 1958. [ [;cc=pittmiscpubs;g=documentingpitt;xc=1;xg=1;q1=babcock;rgn=full%20text;idno=00c50130m;didno=00c50130m;view=image;seq=0284 Alberts, Robert C. Pitt: the story of the University of Pittsburgh, 1787-1987, pg. 264, University of Pittsburgh Press, 1986, accessdate=2008-08-12] ] The room is a plush, carpeted, wood-paneled conference room with an adjoining kitchen and boasts a spectacular view of the surrounding area. [ [ Secrets of the Cathedral: Starting at the top, University Times, 2003-09-11, accessdate=2008-08-12] ] During the early 1970s at the height of student activism, a group of protesting students attempted to barricade the room during a trustees meeting. [ [, William H., Remembering Wes: Friends, family, former colleagues reminisce, University Times, 2001-08-30, accessdate=2008-08-11] ] [ [;cc=pittmiscpubs;g=documentingpitt;xc=1;xg=1;q1=babcock;rgn=full%20text;idno=00c50130m;didno=00c50130m;view=image;seq=0418 Alberts, Robert C. Pitt: the story of the University of Pittsburgh, 1787-1987, pg. 398, 1986, University of Pittsburgh Press, accessdate=2008-08-12] ] Today, the trustees have out grown the room and generally meet in the Assembly Room of the William Pitt Union. The Babcock room now serves as a seminar and meeting room and is used for special events. A pair of endangered peregrine falcons nests on the balcony outside the room. [ [ For the birds, University Times, 2008-05-29, accessdate=2008-08-12] ]

tudio Theater

The Studio Theater, a facility utilized by the Department of Theater Arts, is located in the basement of the Cathedral. The Studio Theater is a black box space that can be configured for almost any set requirements. It is home to student-directed laboratory productions, play readings, Dark Night Caberet, and plays host to Pittsburgh's longest-running theater show, Friday Nite Improvs, started in 1989 by graduate theatre students. []

McCarl Center for Nontraditional Student Success

Located on the fourth floor of the Cathedral of Learning, the convert|2500|sqft|m2|sing=on $537,000 McCarl Center was opened in 2002 [ [ Pennsylvania Young Professionals: 2007 ImPAct Conference, 2007, pg. 19, accessdate=2008-08-11] ] and occupies space that once housed two levels of the main stacks of the University's library. [ [ STRADA, LLC - McCarl Center for Nontraditional Student Success,, accessdate=2008-08-11] ] Made possible by a gift from F. James and Foster J.J. McCarl, it serves as resource center for non-traditional students and hosts seminars and events. [ [ Continuing Education - McCarl Center Events, University of Pittsburgh College of General Studies, accessdate=2008-08-11] ] The space was designed by Alan J. Cueri and his architectural firm Strada, LLC, and includes wood finishes, double-height spaces with high ceilings and windows, a main corridor conceived as an interior street, and many elements that refer to the Cathedral of Learning's Gothic architecture including decorative painted metal columns with contemporary buttress-style arches. The center includes a resource library, meeting rooms, and a student lounge, and is staffed with academic advisors and has contains a reception area for the College of General Studies. [ [ Continuing Education - McCarl Center, University of Pittsburgh College of General Studies, accessdate=2008-08-11] ] Three unsigned and undated convert|7|ft|m by convert|3|ft|m glass-encased murals that depict Renaissance painting styles and which have long belonged to the University but are of unknown origin hang in a hallway outside the Center. [ [ Secrets of the Cathedral: From 38 on down, University Times, 2003-09-11, accessdate=2008-08-11] ]

Recent proposed changes to the Cathedral

In the early 2000s, there was some controversy over whether University funds should be used to illuminate the Cathedral at night, or to clean the building's façade. The cleaning was abandoned because it was too costly. Some Oakland residents spoke out against the cleaning, stating that the years of soot should stay as an homage to Pittsburgh's industrial past. However, the University approved nearly $5 million for cleaning and restoration of stonework on February 28, 2007. The work was completed at the end of 2007, restoring the exterior of the building to its original condition.

In the wake of September 11 the Cathedral was deemed "at risk" because terrorists could easily drive a vehicle into the ground floor. To address this concern, the University has since installed bollards that rise out of the sidewalk. Also, the University is currently working toward air-conditioning the first four floors, which contain many classrooms. [] They plan to complete the effort to centrally cool the entire Cathedral by the end of the decade. Around 200 window air conditioners operate in the building.


*cite book | author=Alberts, Robert C. | title=Pitt: The Story of the University of Pittsburgh 1787-1987 | location=Pittsburgh | publisher=University of Pittsburgh Press | year=1987 | id=ISBN 0-8229-1150-7
* Brown, Mark. "The Cathedral of Learning: Concept, Design, Construction", University of Pittsburgh Nationality Rooms Program
* Bowman, John G. "Unofficial Notes"
* Nationality Rooms Guide Training Material
* [ University of Pittsburgh Website] [ The Nationality Rooms: about nationality rooms ] ]
*cite book | author=Starrett, Agnes Lynch | title=The Darlington Memorial Library | location=Pittsburgh | publisher=University of Pittsburgh Press | year=1938


External links

* [ Pitt Cathedral of Learning]
* [ Nationality Rooms Virtual Tour]
* [ History of the Cathedral]
* [ 360° panorama of the Cathedral]
* [ Gigapan of the Cathedral's Commons Room]
* [ Gigapan of the Austrian Nationality Room]
* [ Gigapan from the 36th floor of the Cathedral]
* [ Gigapan of a somewhat squished front of the Cathedral of Learning]
* [ University of Pittsburgh]

* [ WQED onQ: Pitt Preservation Project: Cathedral of Learning]
* [ Nature Footage: Aerial Of University Of Pittsburgh, Cathedral Of Learning]


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