If you haven’t noticed, we love Pittsburgh. Thanks to local legends like Andrew Carnegie, Henry Clay Frick and the Mellon family, Pittsburgh has world-class cultural amenities just down the road from Grove City. Thanks to Carnegie, in particular, you can head to the Oakland neighborhood and enjoy everything from Claude Monet’s Water Lilies, to one of the largest collection of dinosaur bones in the world. Throw in some amazing architecture and you can easily spend an entire weekend just in Oakland.
The Carnegie Institute is a whole lot of magic rolled into one massive building. Built in 1895, the complex includes the Carnegie Museum of Art, the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Carnegie Music Hall, and the Carnegie Library. The Museum of Natural History is considered one of the top 5 natural history museums in the world and even includes the most complete Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton ever found. While the Carnegie Museum of Art is considered by many to be world’s first modern art museum. When Andrew Carnegie began planning the museum, he wanted to feature the “old masters of tomorrow”. His love of contemporary art is celebrated every few years with the Carnegie International, which is the oldest North American exhibition of contemporary art from around the world. To top it all off, the museum’s Hall of Architecture contains America’s largest collection of plaster casts of architectural masterpieces, and is the third largest collection in the world.
Just across the street from the museums is the Western Hemisphere’s tallest university building, and the second tallest Gothic-inspired building in the world. Pittsburgh University’s Cathedral of Learning is an architectural masterpiece. Walk through the main entrance and you’ll find yourself in Harry Potter’s Hogwarts (picture below is Pittsburgh, not Hogwarts). If you’re lucky enough, you can check out the building’s Nationality Rooms, which consist of 29 rooms donated by the ethnic groups that helped build the city, and decorated in their native decor. They are actual classrooms in constant use, but two of the rooms can be explored on a guided tour.
After exploring the Cathedral of Learning, head outside to enjoy Heinz Memorial Chapel (pictured below). The building was a gift from the founder of the H.J. Heinz Company and seems almost awkward in it’s proportions. The thin neo-Gothic chapel is located in the middle of a park. Walk around and get a side view of the chapel to fully appreciate the scale and masonry work. Inside isn’t bad either. Beautiful wood and stone work, along with massive stained glass windows, are comparable to the best chapels in Europe.
At this point, just walk around Oakland. The Schenley Farms Historic District is a prime example of proper city planning. You can’t help but think, these people did it right. The neighbor is a result of the City Beautiful movement that guided city planning from the 1890’s into the first quarter of the 20th century. One building you can’t miss is the Mellon Institute (pictured below), which you may recognize from the latest Batman film, The Dark Knight Rises. 154 buildings in all make up the Historic District, making it one of our favorite neighborhoods in Pittsburgh.
When you’re hungry, head over to Conflict Kitchen. The take-out only restaurant serves ethnic food from countries that the United States is in conflict with. The menu rotates to a different country throughout the year. Napkins and food wrappings list interesting facts and quotes, meant to teach us about the cultures and people that we are in conflict with. One door down is The Porch at Schenley, right on Schenley Plaza. The restaurant features farm to table favorites.
A day in Oakland is a day well spent.