Doors Open Pittsburgh Pennsylvanian

Ever dreamed of standing on the stage at Heinz Hall, peeking inside a private bank vault or hanging out in the mayor’s office?

You’ll be able to do all that and more at Doors Open Pittsburgh next Saturday and Sunday, October 1 and 2, when 39 sites in Downtown Pittsburgh will be open free to the public. It’s like a house tour of Pittsburgh’s most interesting and historic buildings.

A meeting room inside an old vault at the Engineers’ Society of Western PA. Photo courtesy PHLF.
A meeting room inside an old vault at the Engineers’ Society of Western PA. Photo courtesy PHLF.

Participants can explore buildings like the beautiful and historic Union Trust Building, the executive floors of BNY Mellon, the Museum Conservation Center at the Senator John Heinz History Center, and the Engineers’ Society of Western PA with its massive and impressive vault (pictured left).

Volunteer docents and building staff will be on hand to share the rich histories of the buildings with some interesting stories along the way.

Doors Open Pittsburgh was started by Bonnie Baxter who experienced the event when she and her partner were living in Chicago. Baxter was so struck by spending two days in buildings she otherwise would not have had access to that she vowed to bring the event to Pittsburgh.

“I made a commitment that I would bring this back to our city. So I reached out to people and organizations and before you know it we had this wonderful group of partners,” says Baxter. Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation, AIA Pittsburgh, Design Center, Green Buildng Alliance and the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership all signed on to help with the initial planning.

“I showed up for the first meeting with a list of Pittsburgh’s top 100 historical buildings from Wikipedia,” says Baxter. But it was input from the partners that helped with the selection of the final sites and got her the contacts needed for them to sign on.

Doors Open Days, as it is also known, started in Glasgow in 1990. It now covers all of Scotland with over 800 buildings expected to open this month to more than 200,000 visitors. There are iterations in places such as Milwaukee, Baltimore, Madison, and Denver. Open House New York and Open House London are popular events that are similarly structured.

Hours vary per site, and some sites are not open Sunday. Check out the Doors Open Pittsburgh website for a full list of sites, location and hours.

Maya Haptas

Maya Haptas has an M.A. in Historic Preservation Planning from Cornell University and is a freelance writer covering various topics from architecture and urban design to wellness and skateboarding. She...