Oakland District Walking Tour, Pittsburgh

Oakland District Walking Tour (Self Guided), Pittsburgh

Welcome to Oakland, an academic and cultural center of Pittsburgh! Representing a harmonious blend of intellectual prowess, cultural marvels, and natural splendor, this captivating neighborhood brims with attractions to overlook which would be a terrible miss!

As a manifestation of the transformative power of knowledge and creativity, Oakland, in large part, owes its status to the 19th-century Scottish-American industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie who once said: "Pittsburgh entered the core of my heart when I was a boy and cannot be torn out."

In the heart of this intellectual enclave, the illustrious Carnegie Museums hold court, gracing the landscape with their extensive collections. Immerse yourself in the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, where prehistoric relics and mesmerizing minerals transport you to ancient epochs. Meanwhile, the Carnegie Museum of Art beckons, unveiling a showcase of artistic expressions spanning eras and genres, from classical to contemporary, igniting the imagination.

Oakland's verdant jewel, Schenley Park is an oasis of tranquility amid the bustling city. The enchanting Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens inside the park delight visitors with the kaleidoscope of flora. Here, botanical artistry intertwines with environmental education, fostering a deeper connection to the world around us.

In the hallowed halls of academia, Oakland boasts the prestigious University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University, veritable pillars of intellectual enlightenment. Wandering through the sprawling main campus of the University of Pittsburgh, make sure to ascend the storied steps of the iconic Cathedral of Learning, an emblem of educational ambition, and traverse the international Nationality Rooms.

A testament to valor and sacrifice, Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Museum stands as a hallowed tribute to the brave men and women who served their country. The museum honors veterans and features exhibits highlighting the military history of the United States.

In Oakland, Pittsburgh, the pursuit of knowledge and artistic expression coalesce, leaving lasting memories and a profound appreciation for the wonders that surround us. No trip to the city is complete without a visit to this vibrant area. In addition to several universities and world-class museums, there's also an abundance of shopping, dining, and recreational facilities for your enjoyment. Feel free to take this self-guided tour and see for yourself!
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Oakland District Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Oakland District Walking Tour
Guide Location: USA » Pittsburgh (See other walking tours in Pittsburgh)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 8
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.8 Km or 1.7 Miles
Author: leticia
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Soldiers & Sailors National Military Museum Memorial
  • Nationality Rooms at the Cathedral of Learning
  • Carnegie Museum of Natural History
  • Heinz Memorial Chapel
  • Carnegie Museum of Art
  • Schenley Plaza and Mary Schenley Memorial Fountain
  • Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens
  • Carnegie Mellon University
Soldiers & Sailors National Military Museum Memorial

1) Soldiers & Sailors National Military Museum Memorial

Soldiers and Sailors National Military Museum and Memorial is the largest memorial in the United States dedicated solely to honoring all branches of military veterans and service personnel. It was conceived by the Grand Army of the Republic in the 1890s as a way for Pittsburgh and Allegheny County to honor the dwindling ranks of its American Civil War veterans.

Architect Henry Hornbostel designed the memorial in 1907. Dedicated in 1910, the building is in the Beaux-Arts style and is heroic in scale. The Memorial houses rare and one-of-a-kind exhibits that span the eras from the Civil War to the present day conflicts. Since 1963 it has operated the "Hall of Valor" to honor individual veterans from the region who went above and beyond the call of duty.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Nationality Rooms at the Cathedral of Learning

2) Nationality Rooms at the Cathedral of Learning (must see)

The University of Pittsburgh's Cathedral of Learning is a sight to behold all on its own. The Nationality Rooms are among the most fascinating. They pay homage to the ethnic groups that built the city and were founded by Ruth Crawford Mitchell and John Bowman.

The 31 Nationality Rooms are unique as they are designated as historic landmarks on their own within another historic landmark. The designation of a Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation landmark falls both to the Nationality Rooms and to the Cathedral itself.

Each of the Nationality Rooms have their own purpose and theme to reflect that of the cultural and national heritage it represents. The nationalities represented are Armenian, Austrian, Chinese, Czechoslovak, English, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Indian, Irish, Israeli, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Lithuanian, Norwegian, Phillipine, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Scottish, Swedish, Swiss, Syrian/Lebanese, Turkish, Ukrainian, Welsh and Yugoslav.

The African Heritage room was designed to reflect a temple in Ghana, but also contains artifacts from Egypt, Ethiopia, Benin, Angola, Mali and Zimbabwe. Also present within the Nationality Rooms is Early American, which is comprised of two rooms that the only ones not designed for classroom use.

The Cathedral of Learning is a Neo-Classical style building that was begun in 1921 and completed in 1926. Along with the Nationality Rooms, the Cathedral of Learning includes the Frick Auditorium, a number of university department offices and the Crogan-Schenley Ballroom. There is also a tunnel to the Stephen Foster Memorial in the subbasement.

The most stunning feature of the Cathedral of Learning is the Commons Room. The half-acre hall is four stories tall with 52-feet ceilings in a 15th century Gothic style.

Why You Should Visit
- To be inspired by cultures from around the world
- To be awed by the Gothic architecture of the Commons Room

The Nationality Rooms are only available for viewing during the regular school season. It is still worth visiting the Cathedral of Learning to see the grounds and the architecture if visiting Pittsburgh outside of the fall or spring semesters.
Carnegie Museum of Natural History

3) Carnegie Museum of Natural History (must see)

Carnegie Museum of Natural History, located at 4400 Forbes Avenue in the Oakland neighborhood, was founded by the Pittsburgh-based industrialist Andrew Carnegie in 1896. It maintains an international reputation for research and is ranked among the top five natural history museums in the United States.

The museum consists of 115,000 square feet (10,700 m2) organized into 20 galleries as well as research, library, and office space. It holds some 22 million specimens, of which about 10,000 are on view at any given time and about 1 million are cataloged in online databases.

The museum first made history in 1899 when its scientists unearthed the fossils of Diplodocus carnegii. Today its dinosaur collection includes the world's largest collection of Jurassic dinosaurs and its Dinosaurs in Their Time exhibition offers the third largest collection of mounted, displayed dinosaurs in the United States.

Other major exhibits include Hillman Hall of Minerals and Gems, Alcoa Foundation Hall of American Indians, Polar World: Wyckoff Hall of Arctic Life, Walton Hall of Ancient Egypt, Benedum Hall of Geology, Dinosaurs in Their Time, and Powdermill Nature Reserve, established by the museum in 1956 to serve as a field station for long-term studies of natural populations.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Heinz Memorial Chapel

4) Heinz Memorial Chapel (must see)

The Heinz Memorial Chapel is located on the University of Pittsburgh campus near the Cathedral of Learning. The chapel was built by Henry John Heinz, founder of the H.J. Heinz Company, in the memory of his mother Anna Margaretta Heinz. Construction began on the chapel in 1934 and was completed in 1938.

The building was designed in a Neo-Gothic style similar to that of the Cathedral of Learning and the Stephen Foster Memorial. The entirety of the building, both interior and exterior, is made from Indiana Limestone, acoustical tile, Numidian marble, crab orchard stone and Vermont green slate. The cathedral contains multiple arches, stone vaults and an external tympanum.

A number of figures and carvings are viewable from outside the Heinz Memorial Chapel. Carvings of Jesus, Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Abraham, Jacob, Aaron, King David and the Tree of Life are prevalent over the portal of the chapel.

The insignia of Europe's twelve oldest universities and all universities founded in the United States prior to 1820 are also carved on the chapel's facade.

The chapel has 23 stained glass windows that were designed by Charles Connick. These windows represent acts from both Old and New Testaments. Less commonly seen in chapels, there are also secular figures represented in the stained glass. Some of the figures that are represented in the 73 foot tall transept windows include Beethoven, Bach, Clara Barton, Da Vinci, Confucius, Ben Franklin, George Washington, Shakespeare, Pocahontas, Edgar Allan Poe and Johnny Appleseed.

The pipe organ has been renovated several times over the years. The original instrument had 3,770 individual pipes. The current organ has 4,272 pipes and three electronic pedal stops. It also has three manual keyboards.

Why You Should Visit
- To enjoy the beauty of the Neo-Gothic architectural style
- To witness the intricate details in the stained-glass windows

The non-sectarian chapel does not hold regular church services. The interior remains closed to outside visitors other than on special occasions.
Carnegie Museum of Art

5) Carnegie Museum of Art

The Carnegie Museum of Art was founded in 1895 by the Pittsburgh-based industrialist Andrew Carnegie. The museum collects contemporary art, including film and video works. It was the first museum in the United States with a primary focus on contemporary art.

As instructed by its founder Andrew Carnegie at the inception of the Carnegie International in 1896, the museum has been organizing many contemporary exhibitions that showcase the "Old Masters of tomorrow". The Carnegie Museum of Art became, arguably, the first museum of modern art in the United States.

The museum's curatorial departments include: Fine Arts (Contemporary Art, Works on Paper), Decorative Arts, Architecture, and Photography. The museum presents as many as 15 changing exhibitions annually. Its permanent collection comprises roughly 35,000 works and includes European and American decorative arts from the late seventeenth century to the present, works on paper, paintings, prints (notably Japanese prints), sculptures and installations. The museum has notably strong collections of both aluminum artifacts and chairs. Approximately 1,800 works are on view at any given time.

The museum has an array of programs that are specific to one's age group as well. There are some for children, teens, adults, and there are even some dedicated to school educators.

If you are interested in art, especially contemporary art, the Carnegie Museum of Art should be a stop on your itinerary to Pittsburgh.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Schenley Plaza and Mary Schenley Memorial Fountain

6) Schenley Plaza and Mary Schenley Memorial Fountain

Schenley Plaza is a public park serving as the grand entrance into Schenley Park in Pittsburgh. The 4.5-acre plaza includes multiple gardens, food kiosks, public meeting spaces, a carousel, and a prominent 1.0-acre "Emerald Lawn" with free wireless internet access. The plaza is also surrounded by many prominent landmarks, including the University of Pittsburgh's Cathedral of Learning, Stephen Foster Memorial, Hillman Library, and Posvar Hall as well as the Carnegie Institute and its Dippy sculpture.

The Mary Schenley Memorial Fountain, or A Song to Nature, is a 1918 landmark public sculpture in bronze and granite in honor of Mary Schenley. It sits in Schenley Plaza at the entrance to Schenley Park.

Mary Elizabeth Croghan Schenley (1826-1903) is best remembered as a major philanthropist to the city of Pittsburgh. Mary Schenley was born in a wealthy family. As the only child of her mother, she eventually inherited large tracts of land amassed by her maternal grandfather.

While in boarding school in Staten Island, New York, at the age of 15, she met and fell in love with 43-year-old Captain Edward Schenley of the British Army, and eloped to England. It was the captain's third elopement. The ensuing scandal sparked coverage in many American newspapers, and was referred to as "the greatest romance in Pittsburg's early history" in her New York Times obituary.

Mary and Capt. Schenley had eleven children. At the time of her death in 1903, she was the largest owner of real estate in Allegheny County. Throughout the late 1800s, Mary Schenley made many gifts of money and real estate to churches and public schools in Pittsburgh, and to the city of Pittsburgh. The land where Shenley Park sits on today was donated by Mary Schenley in 1889.

Much in the city of Pittsburgh still bears her name, including Schenley High School, Schenley Hotel, Schenley Bridge, Schenley Park, Schenley Plaza, Schenley Quadrangle, Schenley Tunnel, and the Mary Schenley Memorial Fountain.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens

7) Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens (must see)

The Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens is located outside of the downtown region of Pittsburgh in Schenley Park. It was founded in 1893 by entrepreneur and businessman Henry Phipps. It was originally a glass house with nine display rooms that contained plants from around the world.

Two aquatic gardens were added, the first in 1910 and the second in 1939. It wasn't until 2003 that another expansion project would be underway. A welcome center, production greenhouses and tropical forest conservatory were all added. Some of the features include two waterfalls, a stream and a number of bridges.

The conservatory and gardens include both indoor and outdoor plants. Indoor gardens are comprised of rooms that feature palm trees, ferns, orchids, tropical fruits and spices, desert plants and many others. The outdoor gardens include an edible garden that produces fruit and vegetables for the Welcome Center cafeteria. There is also a Japanese Courtyard, a Children's Discovery Garden, an Aquatic Garden and the Botany Hall, which was created to give space to local teachers for classroom-style study.

Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens offers special events that are popular among locals and visitors. Flower shows and symposiums are common on the grounds. Art collections in both permanent and roving exhibits are on display. The conservatory and gardens are open daily.

Schenley Park, the home of Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, has been named one of "America's Coolest City Parks." This is largely due to the combination of outdoor recreation opportunities, such as the 18-hole disc golf course, and historic relics. Tourists can visit the Westinghouse Memorial and the Neill Log House as part of their walking tour of the area.

Why You Should Visit
- To see the perfect marriage of plants from around the world in an artistic setting
Carnegie Mellon University

8) Carnegie Mellon University

Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) is a private research university based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Founded in 1900 by Andrew Carnegie as the Carnegie Technical Schools, the university became the Carnegie Institute of Technology in 1912 and began granting four-year degrees. In 1967, the Carnegie Institute of Technology merged with the Mellon Institute of Industrial Research, formerly a part of the University of Pittsburgh, to form Carnegie Mellon University. Over the next several decades, Carnegie Mellon has grown into an international university with over a dozen degree-granting locations in six continents, including campuses in Qatar and Silicon Valley, and more than 20 research partnerships.

The university has seven colleges and independent schools, all of which offer interdisciplinary programs. Past and present faculty and alumni include 20 Nobel Prize laureates, 13 Turing Award winners, 23 Members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 22 Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, 79 Members of the National Academies, 124 Emmy Award winners, 47 Tony Award laureates, and 10 Academy Award winners.

Carnegie Mellon University is routinely voted as as one of the top research universities in the US. Its science and engineering program is universally regarded as one of the finest in the world.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.

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