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Top 10 Famous Buildings in Pittsburgh

There was only going to be one place where initial British settlers were going to establish a city in this part of Pennsylvania.

Pittsburgh was founded on the confluence of the Allegheny River and the Monongahela River, two rivers that merge to become the Ohio River.

Fort Pitt was the stronghold constructed by British forces between 1759 and 1761 and it marks the oldest feat of architecture in the modern-day city.

Pittsburgh is known as both the City of Steel referring to its once powerful steel industry and the City of Bridges” for its estimated 446 bridges.

It has grown to become the second-largest city in Pennsylvania after Philadelphia. Even more remarkable is the fact that only Chicago and New York City featured more corporate headquarters employees for most parts of the 20th century.

Today, the metropolitan area of Pittsburgh is home to over 2.37 million people and the city is ranked among the top 20 best cities in the world to live in.

In this article, you’ll discover some of the most famous buildings in Pittsburgh, ranging from historic buildings to famous skyscrapers.

1. Fort Pitt Block House

The Fort Pitt Block House is also known as “Bouquet’s Blockhouse” and is the oldest building in Pittsburgh. It was part of the original Fort Pitt that was constructed by the British between 1759 and 1761, although this particular bock house was completed in 1764.

The only reason why it still stands today is that it was transformed into a private residence in 1785. If this hadn’t happened, the building would have been demolished just like Fort Pitt in 1792. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1966 and is a popular attraction in Point State Park in downtown Pittsburgh.

Famous buildings in Pittsburgh Fort Pitt Block House
Fort Pitt Block House / Kevin Myers / Wiki Commons

2. Cathedral of Learning

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The Cathedral of Learning is the main building of the University of Pennsylvania. It’s located in the Oakland district just east of downtown Pittsburgh and is the tallest structure in this area. The Gothic Revival building was constructed between 1926 and 1934 and serves as a classroom and administrative building for the university.

This stunning Gothic-style skyscraper stands 163 meters (535 feet) tall, a height that briefly made it the tallest building in Pittsburgh when it topped out. Commonly known as the “Cath,” it features 42 floors and over 2,000 rooms, including the 31 popular “Nationality Rooms” that celebrate the cultures that helped to grow the city.

Cathedral of Learning in Pittsburgh
Cathedral of Learning in Pittsburgh / Real Nordy Ned / Wiki Commons

3. PPG Place

PPG Place is the most stunning Gothic Revival building complex in downtown Pittsburgh. It was commissioned by PPG Industries to serve as their corporate headquarters and features 6 buildings, including a distinctive skyscraper that stands 193.55 meters (635 feet).

Completed between 1981 and 1984, this Postmodern building complex cost $200 million to build which is the equivalent of well over $560 million today. The most prominent features of the structures are the 231 glass spires, the tallest one reaching a height of 25 meters (82 feet).

PPG Place Pittsburgh Buildings
PPG Place / Dllu / Wiki Commons

4. Saint Paul Cathedral

Saint Paul Cathedral is the mother church of the Diocese of Pittsburgh and has served this purpose since it was completed in 1906. This famous church was preceded by two former churches bearing the same name. These were constructed in 1831 and 1855 respectively.

This magnificent Gothic Revival church is dominated by two large spires that were inspired by those of Cologne Cathedral in Germany. These marvelous feats of architecture stand 75 meters (247 feet) tall and dominate the area just northeast of the Cathedral of Learning.

Saint Paul Cathedral in Pittsburgh
Saint Paul Cathedral in Pittsburgh / Wiki Commons

5. Phipps Conservatory

Phipps Conservatory is one of the main attractions of Shenley Park, a huge urban park located just east of downtown Pittsburgh. This amazing greenhouse also features a botanical garden that was first established in 1893 by real-estate magnate Henry Phipps Jr.

It was a gift to the City of Pittsburgh with the noble goal of informing and educating its citizens about exotic plants. The interior of the greenhouse features a large number of rooms that replicate different environments, ranging from humid tropical forests to arid deserts. The building features Victorian architecture typical of 19th-century European greenhouses.

Phipps Conservatory Pittsburgh
Phipps Conservatory / Dllu / Wiki Commons

6. Gulf Tower

The Gulf Tower is one of the most famous Art Deco buildings in the United States. It was completed between 1930 and 1932, right at the start f the Great Depression, and was the tallest building in Pittsburgh upon completion with a height of 177.4 meters (582 feet).

Named after the Gulf oil company, the tower cost $10.05 million to build in the early 1930s which is the equivalent of over $163 million today. The most distinctive feature of the building is the stepped pyramid on top of it. This architectural element was modeled after the ancient Mausoleum at Halicarnassus.

Gulf Tower in PIttsburgh
Gulf Tower in Pittsburgh / Derek Jensen / Wiki Commons

7. Duquesne Incline

The Duquesne Incline is a funicular that was constructed on the slopes of Mount Washington in the South Side neighborhood, right across downtown Pittsburgh. You can enter the funicular train in a building constructed in the Second Empire Style architectural style.

Completed in 1877, the track has a length of 244 meters (800 feet) and it rises at an angle of 30 degrees to a height of 122 meters (400 feet). Together with the Monongahela Incline, it’s one of just two historic inclines that still operate in this part of the city and it definitely provides some of the most stunning views of downtown Pittsburgh imaginable.

Duquesne Incline
Duquesne Incline / Preisendanz / Wiki Commons

8. Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall and Museum

The Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall and Museum is another fascinating building in Pittsburgh that is located just west of the Cathedral of Learning in the Oakland district of the city. This Beaux-Arts building was completed between 1908 and 1910 and is the largest memorial dedicated to the military in the United States.

Apart from the museum and memorial dedicated to the military, this huge building also houses a banquet hall, meeting rooms, and an auditorium that can seat 2,500 people. It’s one of several monuments in this area that was added to the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Schenley Farms Historic District.

Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall and Museum
Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall and Museum / Will Jay / Wiki Commons

9. Fort Pitt Bridge

Fort Pitt Bridge is one of the dozens of famous bridges that could have made it to this list of famous buildings in Pittsburgh. That’s because these bridges are the most important structures in a city that is located in a landscape that is dominated by hills, valleys, and rivers.

This distinctively yellow structure is a double-decked bowstring arch bridge and connects the Fort Pitt Tunnel, which was carved into Mount Washington, with downtown Pittsburgh. It’s far from being the oldest bridge as it opened to traffic in 1959. It still holds the record of being the first double-decked bowstring arch bridge in the United States and the first that was computer-designed.

Fort Pitt Bridge in Pittsbugh
Fort Pitt Bridge in Pittsburgh / Fen Labalme / Wiki Commons

10. Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh

The Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh is the name of 4 different museums and a library in the city that are operated by the Carnegie Institute. This organization is also headquartered in the monumental complex of Beaux-Arts buildings that were constructed in the late 19th century.

Steel tycoon Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919) initiated the project and he commissioned the Carnegie Museum of Natural History and the Carnegie Museum of Art. Today, the museums also feature the Andy Warhol Museum and the Carnegie Science Center which are located in the North Shore District. The words “Free to the People” define Carnegie’s vision of this project.

Carnegie Museums in Pittsburgh
Carnegie Museums in Pittsburgh / Andre Carrotflower / Wiki Commons