Tag: University of Pittsburgh

  • The Acropolis Plan for Pitt

    Henry Hornbostel imagined filling the University of Pittsburgh’s hillside site with classical temples, making a new Pittsburgh Acropolis that would be the envy of the intellectual world. The plan was never completed, because classical architecture went out of fashion too soon, and because it was supplanted by the even madder plan of putting a university in a skyscraper. But several of the classical buildings that remain on Pitt’s campus were meant to be part of this Pittsburgh Acropolis.

    The image comes from an advertisement for Ruud water heaters, the amazing improvement in hot-water supplies that didn’t require servants to tend to a boiler.

  • Cathedral of Learning from Lytton Avenue

  • Litchfield Towers on a Rainy Day

    Litchfield Towers

    Ajax, Bab-O, and Comet looking a bit wet.

  • Chevron Science Center, Oakland

    For people who like this kind of building, it is just the kind of building such people like, as Artemus Ward might say. It was finished in 1974; the design was by Kuhn, Newcomer & Valentour, a firm whose successors, “DRAW Collective,” still specialize in educational buildings. This building replaced the embarrassingly classical State Hall, the first building Pitt put up when it moved to Oakland, thus sparing us the sight of all those columns and pediments.

  • Central Oakland

    Central Oakland

    The cluttered landscape of the central Oakland medical-intellectual district.


    Something is always under construction.

    Back streets

    Rowhouses huddle in the shadow of the university.

    Wide view
  • Cathedral of Learning

  • The Original Mellon Institute

    Allen Hall

    The Mellon Institute of Industrial Research was founded as part of the University of Pittsburgh, and this was its home for the first two decades of its life. When the Mellon Institute declared its independence, it moved to its palatial quarters out Fifth Avenue, and the old Mellon Institute building became Allen Hall at the University of Pittsburgh.

    The building, which opened in 1915, was designed by J. H. Giesy, and it was properly classical to match Henry Hornbostel’s slightly mad plan of making the University a new Athenian Acropolis in Pittsburgh. (The plan was later abandoned in favor of Charles Z. Klauder’̑s much madder plan of a skyscraper university.)

    Bronze door

    The richly detailed bronze doors are unique.

    View from Thackeray Street

    The building is precisely located for the best vista up Thackeray Street.

    Here is a picture of the building when it was new in 1915:

    Mellon Institute in 1915

    And old Pa Pitt has duplicated that picture for you in 2022, because that is the kind of effort he puts into serving his readers:

    Allen Hall today

    Nothing about the exterior has changed except the plantings, and even those have been reduced to show off the building: a few years ago much of the front was obscured by trees.

  • Old Engineering Hall, Oakland

    Old Engineering Hall

    Old Engineering Hall at the University of Pittsburgh is a fairly successful marriage of modernism and classicism. It is almost postmodern avant la lettre, with classically inspired details but a shape that owes nothing to the classical world. It was built in 1955, when it was still common for modernist buildings to apologize for themselves by including a few dentils and a suggestion of a Greek-key frieze. This was Engineering Hall for only about fifteen years; the School of Engineering moved out in 1971 (into the uncompromisingly modern Benedum Hall), and since then this building has been put to such miscellaneous uses that the university has never been able to come up with a better name for it than “that building that used to be Engineering Hall.”

    Old Engineering Hall
  • Litchfield Towers, Oakland

    Litchfield Towers

    These skyscraper dormitories were built in 1963 to designs by Dahlen Richey of Deeter & Richey. They were poetically named A, B, and C, but students immediately renamed them Ajax, Bab-O, and Comet.

    The restored entrance looks like a scene from the modernist paradise that existed mostly in architects’ imaginations. But the original architect certainly did not specify the weirdly incongruous faux-antique lanterns.

    Entrance with stairs
  • Holland Mansion, Oakland

    Music Building, University of Pittsburgh

    Now the Music Building of the University of Pittsburgh, this house (built in 1884) was a gift from his wife to the pastor of the Bellefield Presbyterian Church across the street. It is thus one of the few buildings in Oakland that predate Oakland (along with the tower of the church, which still stands beside a modern office building). It is also a lesson for clergy: if your particular sect permits marriage, it is a good idea to marry an heiress. You can see the advantages. Most pastors’ wives do not give their husbands a mansion designed by Longfellow, Alden & Harlow, and that is because most pastors do not sensibly marry heiresses as they ought to do.