The local college campus might not be the first place that comes to mind when planning a sightseeing trip, but the Nationality Rooms at the University of Pittsburgh are a notable exception. These 26 functional classrooms in the towering Cathedral of Learning display the rich ethnic heritage of the Pittsburgh area, each architected and decorated in a style that exemplifies the country they represent. Where else can you visit 26 countries in one day!
What to Expect:
The Nationality Rooms were designed as gifts to the University of Pittsburgh from the various ethnic groups that settled in Allegheny county. The period depicted in the architecture of each rooms is one important to the culture, and generally prior to 1787, the date of the U.S. Constitution. There are no political symbols inside the rooms except for the arch outside in the corridor and the rooms are not allowed to include representations of any people.
The Nationality Rooms include authentic examples of Classical, Byzantine, Romanesque, Renaissance, Tudor and Empire styles and architecture. Access to the rooms is by tour only. Both guided and recorded tours are available. Mid-November through mid-January is the best time to visit, when the nationality rooms are decorated in traditional holiday styles.
The Nationality Rooms:
The 26 Nationality Rooms at the Pittsburgh Cathedral of Learning include the Czechoslovak Room, the Italian Room, the German Classroom, the Hungarian Room, the Polish Room, the Irish Classroom, the Lithuanian Room, the Romanian Room, the Swedish Room, the Chinese Room, the Greek Room, the Scottish Classroom, the Yugoslav Classroom, the English Classroom, the French Classroom, the Norwegian Classroom, the Russian Classroom and the Syria-Lebanon Room on the first floor.
The third floor includes the Austrian Classroom, the Japanese Room, the Armenian Classroom, the Indian Room, the Early American Room, the African Heritage Classroom, the Israel Heritage Classroom and the Ukranian Classroom. Eight new Nationality Rooms are in the planning stages, including Danish, Finnish, Latin American, Philippine, Swiss, Thai, and Turkish.
The Cathedral of Learning:
Ground was broken in 1926 for the 42-story Cathedral of Learning, one of the tallest education buildings in the world. The 535 foot building was designed by Philadelphia architect John Gabbert Bowman. Most people consider the Gothic building to be beautiful, though it is said that Frank Lloyd Wright called the building "the world's largest keep off the grass sign." The building is part of the University of Pittsburgh campus, and used by thousands of students and faculty each day.
Hours & Admission:
Hours: Monday - Saturday, 9:00am - 2:30pm (last tour), Sunday, 11:00am - 2:30pm (last tour). Check the Web site for holiday hours. To accommodate the large number of visitors, self-guided recorded tours are available during operating hours when school is not in session; weekends only during school term. Guided tours for groups of 10 or more are available with special arrangement. Check the website for holiday hours.
Admission: Adults $4, Children 8-18 $2, Children 7 & under are free.
The Nationality Rooms at the Cathedral of Learning are located in Oakland, in the East End of Pittsburgh. The Cathedral is 42-stories tall, and the tallest building for miles. It's hard to miss!
From the North:
Take I-79 S to I-279S (Parkway North). Follow I-279S to exit 8A - I-579S / Veterans Bridge. Stay in the left lane across the bridge. At the end, exit on the right onto I-376 East / Boulevard of the Allies and follow for about a mile. As you pass the exit ramp to I-376 East and the road begins up a hill, take the Forbes Avenue exit on your right. Follow Forbes Ave. through several lights. The Cathedral of Learning will be on your left.
From the Northeast:
Take Route 28 South toward Pittsburgh. Exit at the Highland Park Bridge, staying in the left lane. Turn right at the first light onto Washington Blvd. Go straight through several lights, then up a long hill, under two railroad trestles. Near the top of the hill, Washington Blvd. becomes Fifth Ave. At the intersection with Penn Ave., Fifth curves to the right. Remain on Fifth Ave., past Mellon Park and through several lights. The Cathedral of Learning will be on your left.
From the East:
Take either Rt. 22 or the PA Turnpike to Monroeville. From there take I-376 west toward Pittsburgh, through the Squirrel Hill Tunnels to Exit 3B - Oakland. Continue straight on Bates St. up the steep hill until it ends at Bouquet St. Turn left onto Bouquet, then right onto Forbes Ave., which is a four-lane, one-way street at this point (except for the bus lane!). Follow Forbes Ave. through several lights. The Cathedral of Learning will be on your left.
From the South:
Take Route 51 North toward downtown Pittsburgh, through the Liberty Tunnels and across the Liberty Bridge. Stay in the right lane crossing the bridge and turn right on to the Boulevard of the Allies toward Oakland. As you pass the exit ramp to I-376 East, and the road begins up a hill, there will be a small sign and a quick turn to the right for the Forbes Ave. exit. Follow Forbes Ave. through several lights.
From the West:
Take Route 60 South toward Pittsburgh (the Parkway West). The road will become Routes 22/30 East. Exit onto I-279 toward Pittsburgh. Follow all the way to downtown, through the Fort Pitt Tunnels and across the Fort Pitt Bridge (staying in the right-hand lane). At the end of the bridge, exit to the right onto I-376E toward Monroeville. Take Exit 2A - Forbes Avenue / Oakland. Follow the ramp up the hill onto Forbes Ave. which is one-way.
There is no parking at the Cathedral of Learning, but there are several public parking lots and some street parking on both Forbes and Fifth Ave. near the Cathedral. The entrance to the Nationality Rooms at the Cathedral of Learning is on the Fifth Ave. side.
The Nationality Rooms at the Cathedral of Learning
Fifth Ave. and Bigelow Blvd.
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15260