By Madison Pastrick | Staff Writer
Pittsburgh is a city famous for its unique architecture and history; however, many of its own residents are not aware of the unusual features within the buildings they pass everyday. This realization is what prompted the Doors Open Pittsburgh event that took place this past weekend, allowing the public to visit some of the city’s most extraordinary sites.
This free event included 40 different buildings downtown, providing information and an inside-look not typically offered to the public. These locations included a variety of churches, offices, galleries, hotels, theaters and more.
Duquesne students took advantage of this opportunity by both attending and working at this event. Junior Kayla O’Donnell explored several venues this past Saturday and said that the event helped her to “rediscover Pittsburgh.”
“It was an excellent way to spend an afternoon for free,” O’Donnell said. “The open buildings satisfied many of my long-held curiosities and made me feel like a tourist in my own city.”
One of the popular stops was the William Penn Hotel, opened in 1916 and financed by Pittsburgh’s famous industrialist, Henry Clay Frick. This first-class hotel is one of Pittsburgh’s most popular (and expensive) places to stay, with a history as large as the city it resides in. Many notable figures have stayed at this hotel, including several U.S. presidents and celebrities such as Michael Jackson.
Those who toured were able to explore the hotel’s many exquisite features, including its two-tier grand ballroom, the Urban Room, named after its designer and world-renowned architect Joseph Urban, and the 1920s-style Speakeasy Lounge, a popular Pittsburgh bar to this day.
Another event location was the Allegheny HYP Club. This Georgian-style building is a hidden treasure in downtown Pittsburgh that’s placed intentionally within the quieter section of the city on William Penn Place. Built in 1894, the building was originally used for apartments until it was repurposed in 1929 as a private club for Harvard, Princeton and Yale alumni. The club is still up-and-running today, inviting the public in this past weekend to show them a very enjoyable setting for drinks, food and conversation.
The David L. Lawrence Convention Center not only opened up its doors to the public, but its roof as well. Allowing guests to take the glass elevator up to the beautiful lookout along the Allegheny River made for a fantastic photo opportunity. Along with the view, the Convention Center’s roof also holds a garden, ripe with a variety of fruits, vegetables and flowers and even some hidden art along the railings.
There were three churches available for touring, including the Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, The First Presbyterian Church and the First Lutheran Church. All three have a wonderful variety of character and history, from stained-glass windows to intricately painted murals on the ceiling of the chapels. The Trinity Cathedral offered one interesting feature outside of its big red doors — a burial ground including some of the oldest tombstones in America. These plaques read names of Native American leaders and French, English and American colonists. Tourists were allowed to walk among this historic landmark and learn about the church’s history, dating all the way back to 1787.
Art galleries, such as the Wood Street Galleries and 707-709 Penn, also participated in this event, displaying a variety of exhibits. All three of these galleries regularly showcase local artists’ work and are run by The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, a nonprofit organization meant to celebrate and support local artists. Recently, these venues featured artists such as Brandon Boan, Jacqueline Matheny, Sean Derry and Don Dugal at the 707-709 Penn and Ryoji Ikeda at the Wood Street gallery.
Sophomores Lexi Cersosimo and Kelly Burton decided to volunteer as greeters after hearing about Doors Open Pittsburgh through their sorority. Their duties were to greet guests and ask for their email and zip code in order to keep track of how many people attended, in hopes the event was popular enough for the city to host it again next year.
Pittsburgh is a city of great diversity when it comes to the numerous buildings and establishments that line its streets. It is, however, easy to look past this luxury when living amongst it everyday. Doors Open Pittsburgh did a fantastic job at getting people to stop and appreciate the diversity and history that makes this city so unique and discover that so much of Pittsburgh’s past is written in the skyline.