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Pittsburgh Sites to See

November 12, 2007

PITTSBURGH — While many people today see the Steel City only as a place to be entertained, Pittsburgh does have an intellectual and historical side that can be equally enjoyable.

The University of Pittsburgh features two distinct buildings: Heinz Chapel and the Cathedral of Learning.

Founder of the H.J. Heinz Co., Henry John Heinz, was looking for a way to honor his mother, Anna Margaretta Heinz, through a new building on the grounds of the University of Pittsburgh.

Even though Heinz died in 1919, his children carried out his will. Anna’s teaching helped them decide that a family memorial involving religion and education would be appropriate. The cornerstone was placed in 1934 and the Heinz Chapel was dedicated in 1938.

This neo-gothic structure was designed by Charles Z. Klauder of Philadelphia. Klauder also designed the Cathedral of Learning.

At 73 feet, the transept windows are among the tallest in the world. Men and women are equally represented in the chapel’s artwork, which was highly unusual for 1928 — the year it was planned. If you view nothing else in the chapel, take a few moments to look at these.

Stained glass windows line the spiral staircase to the balcony. All of the visible wood in the chapel, including the 800-pound entrance doors, is oak.

This includes the pulpit, the reredos, chancel rails and choir stalls. The lectern and narthex screen are composed of English pollard oak. The narthex ceiling and pews are crafted from Appalachian Mountain oak.

Worship services at the chapel are nondenominational. Eucharist is held Sunday at 10:45 a.m. and a Compline Service is held Sunday at 8:30 p.m.

Nationally known vocalists and local college students perform at the chapel. The next scheduled performance is the Organ Concert Series on Nov. 25. Heinz Chapel is located at the corner of Fifth and Bellefield avenues.

There is no charge to tour the chapel.

Directly across from Heinz Chapel is the Cathedral of Learning. At 535 feet tall and 42 stories, it is the second tallest education building in the world. Only the main building of Moscow State University in Russia is taller, according to information from the university.

A view from the chapel can offer someone an appreciation of how massive the Gothic-style cathedral truly is. The Cathedral of Learning has 2,529 windows. Pitt’s administrative offices, libraries, offices and classrooms for various liberal arts departments, a restaurant and a computer center are located within.

Chancellor John Bowman began construction of the cathedral in 1926, and it was dedicated in 1937. Men, women and children throughout the region and the world contributed to the construction. When finances for the building were scarce during the height of the Great Depression, school children were asked to “buy a brick” for 10 cents. 

On the ground level is a three-story “Commons Room,” but it is the Nationality Classrooms that are most unique. Nations from around the world are represented through art, furniture and other sentiment specific to a respective country.

Throughout the week, class may be in session in many of these rooms, but there are small holes in each door that visitors may look through to see if a class is in session.

While the nationality rooms are specific to their respective country, all American citizens can appreciate the Early American Room, which can be found on the Cathedral’s third floor. Presented in 1938, a kitchen-living room of colonial America is replicated to give Americans an appreciation for how our forefathers lived in the 1600s. 

A 9-foot fireplace is featured in the room adorned with heavy iron kettles, a log hook, a long-handled waffle iron, a bread shovel, ladles, forks and skewers, which were necessary instruments for preparing a meal.

Bread would be baked in a small recess in the brick wall. Between the fireplace and the blackboard is a small closet with a hidden panel. A concealed latch will make the wall swing open and a staircase to the upperloft, which is a furnished 19th century bedroom, will be revealed. 

Within walking distance of the Heinz Chapel and the Cathedral of Learning is the Soldiers and Sailors National Military Museum and Memorial, located at 4141 Fifth Ave.

The architecture of the building itself is impressive. Its creator, Henry Hornbostel, was influenced by the mausoleum of Halicarnassus, one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

Uniforms, artifacts and memorabilia from the Civil War through current conflicts are on display.

A display case commemorating the musical contribution of World War II Big Band leader Glenn Miller shows how music can be an important aspect of culture, especially during a war. Miller was the leader of a swing band from 1939 until 1942. He then began a new venture: the Army Air Force Band. They boosted troop morale at home and abroad.

A children’s section shows that children have taken part in an adult’s job, and their service should not be forgotten. During the American Civil War, boys as young as 10 carried gun powder or served as drummer boys. Many boys under the age of 18 carried and used a musket.

Most recently, “Lincoln’s Pittsburgh Address” was added to the museum’s collection. President Abraham Lincoln had just defeated Stephen Douglas in the 1860 presidential election. Lincoln then began a journey across the Midwest, giving impromptu speeches. On Feb. 14, 1861, he arrived in Pittsburgh. A military escort took him to the Monongahela House on the corner of Smithfield and First streets. According to local newspapers, up to 10,000 people stood on the street in front of the Monongahela House to hear Lincoln’s presentation from the hotel balcony located on the Smithfield side. Lincoln then prepared to attend his inauguration. Furniture from the room Lincoln stayed in is on display on the second floor of the museum.

The above attractions are located in Oakland.

Point State Park is currently undergoing renovations that are scheduled to be completed in late spring or early summer. However, the Fort Pitt Museum at the park is still open and available for tours. This museum depicts how life at the current Point State Park was when British, Colonial, French and Native American armies fought for control of North America.

Among the most impressive exhibits in the museum is a model of Fort Pitt in the early 1760s. This exhibit, located at the front of the museum, provides visitors with a realistic depiction of how life was when the fort was being used. The military lived inside the fort, which was 475 feet long and 20 feet wide, and civilians lived outside.

A fur trader’s log cabin, similar to one that would have been located outside the fort, has been constructed within the museum. A museum worker is  on duty inside the cabin to provide lectures about a fur trader’ life.

 Fur trade was encouraged as a means of keeping good relations with the Indians.

The second floor of the museum features historical videos and artifacts, some on loan and some permanent. Artifacts include a walking stick made from the wood of Fort Duquesne circa 1855, pottery and an English Pip Tomahawk Head from the late 18th century.

To commemorate Pittsburgh’s 250th anniversary next year, a battle re-enactment has been planned in the park.

Just outside of the museum is the “blockhouse.” Not only is this structure the oldest authenticated structure west of the Allegheny Mountains, it also is the last surviving building of the original fort and Pittsburgh’s earliest building.

Built in 1764, it was a solid defensive structure. The Daughters of the American Revolution are responsible for the restored blockhouse. There is no charge to visit the blockhouse.

Article Photos

The Cathedral of Learning at the University
of Pittsburgh is an awesome site. Photo by William Daniel

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