Pittsburgh 2018 Venues


Heinz Hall was originally the Loew’s Penn Theater, built in 1927 as an opulent movie house and regarded as the most magnificent theater between New York and Chicago. The Loew’s Penn Theater closed its doors for good in 1964, scheduled for demolition. John Heinz II and the Pittsburgh Symphony saw promise in the grand, but aging building, and undertook a 3-year, $10 million reconstruction. On September 10, 1971, the building reopened as the Heinz Hall for the Performing Arts.

Refurbishing an old movie palace was a more practical plan compared to the enormous cost of building a new performing arts complex. Although much of the grandeur of the Loew’s Penn still remains, the decor of the remodeled Heinz Hall is comparatively simple while retaining the elegant lines of the original theater. It took three years for the $10 million renovation to be completed, most of the work being done by local craftsmen and artisans. The 24-karat gold leafing alone took 18 months for two local craftsmen from the A. J. Vater Company to complete. The theater’s original chandeliers were rebuilt and redesigned with new crystals. Once a year, all of the chandeliers are lowered to be cleaned and re-lamped. The orchestra pit is powered by a hydraulic lift and is able to hold 80-85 musicians. A new five-story wing was also added in the back of the building. It added 25 feet to the stage and has a lot more dressing rooms and soundproof rehearsal rooms. 

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The First Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh is one of the oldest Protestant entities west of the Allegheny Mountains. Roots of Presbyterianism in Pittsburgh go back to 1758 when the British defeated the French at Fort Duquesne at the point of Pittsburgh’s three rivers. Upon this defeat, the name was changed to Fort Pitt, later to become “Pittsburg.” In thanksgiving to God, a small group of Presbyterians gathered with a young Presbyterian minister, Charles Beatty (Chaplain to General Forbes), for a service of praise. This group of believers continued meeting together in residents’ homes, and on April 14, 1773, their first “call” for a minister was delivered to Donegal Presbytery. Two young men, David McClure and Levi Frisbie, were supplied to serve the area and, thus, the First Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh was born.

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The current cathedral was completed in 1872. It was the tallest building in the city until the construction of the Allegheny County Courthouse in 1888.

The cathedral was designed by architect Gordon W. Lloyd in 1870-71 with an exterior featuring English Gothic Style that was favored by mid-Victorian Episcopalians including a single central steeple and side transepts. The interior features a tall nave flanked by aisles and lit by clerestory windows. The nave walls are supported by clustered stone columns, and the austere interior ornamentation, in which the pointed arch predominates, is reminiscent of the work of the American Gothicist Richard Upjohn. Some of the stained glass windows in the nave were destroyed in a fire in 1967 and were replaced by new ones in a medieval style. All other windows date from 1872. The carved stone pulpit was built in 1922 to the design of the renowned American architect Bertram G. Goodhue.

In 2007, the cathedral exterior was cleaned for the first time in preparation for the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh’s 250th anniversary. The cleaning removed remnants of industrial soot dating to Pittsburgh’s steel making days. The grime was causing acid runoff to deteriorate the exterior stonework.


Designed by renowned architects Benno Janssen, and Franklin Abbott, the hotel was the last building venture of Henry Clay Frick, one of Pittsburgh’s wealthiest industrialists, and completed at a cost of $6 million. Frick envisioned the William Penn as Pittsburgh’s showplace, designed to rival the great hotels of Europe in Old World style and enhanced with the sophisticated technology offered by the 20th century.

The initial phase of the hotel included 1,000 guest rooms, and an elegant two-tier Grand Ballroom located on the 17th floor. In 1928, construction of the Grant Street Annex addition commenced. Completed in 1929, it added an additional 600 guest rooms as well as the crowning jewel, the Urban Room, designed by Joseph Urban, a set designer for the Ziegfeld Follies. With this addition, the William Penn became the largest hotel between Pittsburgh and Chicago, and a major convention facility for Pittsburgh.

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Built from 1915 to 1916, the $6 million William Penn opened on March 11, 1916, in what newspapers hailed as the Grandest Hotel in the nation, its first night it hosted the annual Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce Gala and was recorded as the largest gala in city history up to that time with U.S. Secretary of State Philander Knox hosting the event. The original hotel covered the western half of the block, facing Mellon Square.

The Grand Ballroom, with its wrap-around balcony, is a stunning space with beautiful views of the city. 

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From the June 23rd, 1929 edition of the Pittsburgh Press:

Like a gem in the social sky, shines the newly opened Urban Room of the William Penn Hotel. There amid the gold and ebony splendor of Joseph Urban’s latest and most artistic work, in the topmost corner of the new addition, we are going to lunch, dine and dance this summer. It’s delightful how cool it is there and how little competition there is between the soft strains of the orchestra and the great outside. And it will be smarter than suntan this summer to be seen here with your friends, particularly your out-of-town friends, who demand the best in town. Now our hunger for a cosmopolitan touch to our city can be satisfied by this lovely place presented at just the right time to fill Pittsburgh’s needs.

The Urban Ballroom is named for its designer, Joseph Urban, who designed sets for the Metropolitan Opera in the 1920s.

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