Skip to Navigation
University of Pittsburgh
Print This Page Print this pages

June 26, 2003

Pitt's signature building may be getting a good scrubbing

Pitt’s signature building may be getting a good scrubbing.

With 65-plus years of accumulated Pittsburgh soot coloring its mammoth exterior, the Cathedral of Learning is ripe for a bath, and University officials are looking into creating a special fund-raising project to raise money for its cleaning.

According to Albert Novak Jr., interim vice chancellor for Institutional Advancement, the issue was broached at the June 11 meeting of the Capital Campaign steering committee, which meets three times a year.

“Although cleaning the Cathedral has been talked about for many, many years, there was clear support among the committee for exploring this project. I believe that this time we’re serious about it,” Novak said. “We have a broad-based capital campaign that includes campus improvements as a goal. At this point, however, nothing has been finalized. It’s true we’ve brainstormed about it, but it is not yet a campaign featured project.”

Novak said his office has been discussing ideas to raise funds to clean the educational landmark. Among the ideas floated in Institutional Advancement so far, he said, are to pay symbolic tribute to part of the original 1925 fund-raising campaign, where some 97,000 Pittsburgh-area schoolchildren gave a dime each to the “Buy a Brick” promotion. Donors were given certificates welcoming them into the “fellowship of the builders of the Cathedral of Learning.”

While the $9,700 was a small portion of the campaign’s $10 million goal, the support of Pittsburgh’s younger population inspired corporate and other local support, according to Robert C. Albert’s institutional history book, “Pitt: The Story of the University of Pittsburgh, 1787 – 1987.”

Novak said, “We’ve also thought about having a virtual Cathedral [on-line] where you could see the progress of the cleaning project as it is ongoing and to tie that into a formula for giving: ‘If you give so much, you can help clean this much of the Cathedral.’”

None of those details has been worked out yet, he said.

Unlike many capital campaign featured projects where there is a silent phase while 50 percent or more of the goal is raised before going public, or projects that are launched with a large designated individual gift, Novak thinks this project likely will be public from the start with appeals to Pitt’s 200,000 alumni. “Of course, we would accept a large targeted gift to get this going,” he said.

He also doesn’t expect a designated timeframe for completion, nor does he have a cost estimate at this point. “As far as I know, this project has not been costed out. At least I haven’t seen a figure,” Novak said.

Recent reports in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and other publications quote Ana Guzman, Pitt associate vice chancellor for Facilities Management, as saying that the cost of the project would be $3.5 million. Guzman could not be reached for comment.

The 42-story (535 ft.) Indiana limestone building, the brainchild of then-Pitt Chancellor John G. Bowman, includes more than 2,000 rooms and 2,500 windows. Ground was broken on Sept. 21, 1926, and the Commons Room cornerstone was laid on June 4, 1937, marking the end of the major construction.

Pitt recently cleaned the exteriors of several buildings, including Alumni Hall and the buildings in Schenley Quadrangle.

—Peter Hart

Leave a Reply