At the end of 19th century, Pittsburgh had a national reputation for corruption, dirt and greed.
Oakland was selected to be carved as a dreamlike center of culture, education and architecture, or
Pittsburgh’s "shimmering alter ego" .
Dreams keep going, some fulfilled, some became ill-fated and vanished from the air.
In 1908, New York architect Henry Hornbostel, who designed CMU’s campus for Carnegie and founded
the architecture department there, proposed a campus of 60 Greco-Roman style buildings, all of
them climbing Oakland’s northern slope. That's the dream of University of Pittsburgh campus.
Under Hornbostel’s plan, escalators would have been used to take students several hundred feet in
the air. Hornbostel wanted a replica of The Forum in Rome at the top. Hornbostel’s design had
several European influences. The project’s nickname, "Acropolis," was a nod to the site in Athens
where the Parthenon was built.
But few buildings from the Acropolis ever made it out of the dirt.
The university tossed much of the plan aside in favor of the Cathedral of Learning.
University of Pittsburgh Chancellor John Bowman began his pursuit of the gothic Cathedral in the
1920s by persuading financiers Andrew and Richard Mellon to buy the land for their alma matter,
at a cost of $1.5 million. As it was originally conceived, the Cathedral was to be the second
tallest skyscraper in the world after the Woolworth Building in New York. Its original name was
the Tower of Learning.
Once completed, the building rose 42 stories and it took a slightly different name. It also took
11 years to build, needing a Civil Works Administration grant to finish the work and survive the
The Cathedral opened in 1937 as the world’s tallest schoolhouse.
Extracted from Pittsburgh Post-gazette
"Oakland: An elusive dream"
By Dan Fitzpatrick