Built in 1895, this is one of several magnificent private houses that have come into the possession of Chatham University without drastic architectural modification. The exterior is in an exceptionally accurate Georgian style that would be right at home in Annapolis or Williamsburg.
Addendum: We find from the June 1911 issue of The Builder that this was built as the President’s Home for the Pennsylvania College for Women. The architect was Thomas Hannah. Here are two pictures from the magazine:
A window by Louis Comfort Tiffany, donated to the Pennsylvania Female College (now Chatham) in 1888. The figure is taken from Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling: the Erythraean Sibyl, “here transformed into a symbol for women’s education,” as a plaque nearby says. This was an early work of Tiffany’s, believed to be his earliest in the Pittsburgh area. It was put away in about 1930 and sat in storage for seventy years, because who needed a window by Tiffany? In 2000 it was finally brought out of storage—old Pa Pitt imagines a janitor starting the ball rolling by saying, “Hey, can we get this thing out of the way?”—and restored for a place in the science building.
Note that Shakespeare’s name appears twice in the pantheon of great figures every young lady should know. No one else gets that honor, and—though Shakespeare certainly is worth twice as much as any of the others to an English-speaking college student—one wonders who specified the duplication, or even whether it was intentional.
Another of the millionaires’ mansions that have become part of Chatham University. Built in 1911 or 1912 for steel executive James C. Rea, the Julia and James Rea House is now a student dormitory. Students tell us the rooms are “quirky” in a good way, with high ceilings and odd protrusions, because the house was divided with minimal disruption to the original architecture.
A very short video on the Chatham Undergraduate Housing page shows us some of the interior.
Andrew Mellon’s summer home is now one of several millionaires’ mansions that belong to Chatham University. It is open for students who want a quiet place to study. Mr. Mellon, in addition to being absurdly rich himself, was also Secretary of the Treasury in the 1920s, and widely considered the most powerful man in Washington: they used to say that three presidents served under him (Harding, Coolidge, Hoover). He was one of the few competent and relatively honest members of Warren G. Harding’s administration, and for most of the 1920s he was often called the greatest Secretary of the Treasury since Alexander Hamilton. Then came the Great Depression, and he was not as popular as he had been.
The house was built in 1897 for the Laughlins of Jones and Laughlin; Mellon bought it in 1917 and set about remaking it to his tastes, adding, among other things, an indoor swimming pool, supposedly the first private one in Pittsburgh.
A mantel decoration.
The sun room.
The back of the house.
The swimming pool was adapted in 2008 for use as the Board Room, with a new handicap-accessible entrance that combined new construction with as much of the existing architecture as could be reused. The architects of the project were Rothschild Doyno Collaborative.
Old Pa Pitt happened to notice that there were very few pictures in Wikimedia Commons of Chatham University, one of the most beautiful college campuses in Pittsburgh or anywhere. That omission had to be rectified. There are now thirty-two more good pictures in the Chatham University category, and we’ll be seeing many of them in the coming days. This is the chapel, a fine Colonial-revival building from 1940.
On city planning maps, Chatham is in Squirrel Hill. The University calls this the Shadyside campus. We put it in both categories.