Three of the Region’s Oldest Cultural Organizations Commemorate the “Birth of the Arts in Pittsburgh” 125 Years Ago Today
Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra join together to celebrate the founding of Carnegie Institute on November 5, 1895.
Today, three of Pittsburgh’s oldest and most beloved cultural organizations are commemorating a 125-year anniversary: the day Andrew Carnegie dedicated “Carnegie Institute,” his gift of a library, an art and natural history museum, and a grand music hall (the first home of the Pittsburgh Symphony)—all in one building—to the people of Pittsburgh.
“Having the Library, the Museums and the Music Hall all under one roof makes Pittsburgh unlike any other city in the country,” said Mary Frances Cooper, president and director of Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. “It demonstrates that art, music, and literature are steadfast companions that lift the mind and nurture the soul. This is a tremendous gift we have been given. The words ‘Free to the People’ are etched above the doors to Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. These words are an important part of Pittsburgh’s heritage and are still significant to our community 125 years later.”
On November 5, 1895, more than 2,000 people attended the dedication of Carnegie Institute at an 8 p.m. ceremony held in Carnegie Music Hall. Carnegie’s dream of a cultural hub for Pittsburgh had sparked the largest architectural design competition held in America up to that time: 97 firms competed, and the winning group was Longfellow, Alden & Harlow. Years later, Carnegie would profess: “The success of Library, Art Gallery, Museum, and Music Hall—a noble quartet in an immense building—is one of the chief satisfactions of my life.”
“We are delighted and proud to share this very special anniversary with our friends at Carnegie Library and the Pittsburgh Symphony and to join them in celebrating the birth of the arts in Pittsburgh,” said Steven Knapp, president and CEO of Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh. “Before these institutions were founded, access to the joys and inspiration of art, music, literature, and science was largely a privilege of the wealthy. Carnegie Museums were founded to embody Andrew Carnegie’s vision of a collection of museum experiences where all people could explore the wonders of art and science by directly encountering fascinating objects and the stories that surround them. Now with four distinctive museums, we continue to fulfill that vision in ever-expanding ways.”
The first concert of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra took place in Carnegie Music Hall on February 27, 1896, in a program that began with Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 3 (the “Scotch” symphony, in honor of Andrew Carnegie). The 50-piece orchestra was led by Frederic Archer, the first conductor of the Pittsburgh Orchestra.
“In his vision of the Carnegie Music Hall, Andrew Carnegie was convinced that Pittsburgh ought to have an orchestra that would take a permanent place among the great symphonic organizations of the country when few American cities had one,” said Melia Tourangeau, president and CEO of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. “From its first concert at the Carnegie Music Hall to our home now at Heinz Hall, that vision has been realized and the joy of hearing the music of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra has enhanced the lives and been a source of pride for generations. We’re delighted to join our friends at Carnegie Library and the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh to celebrate this special birthday.”
Today, Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra reach more than 4.5 million people a year. To commemorate the opening of Carnegie’s cultural campus in Oakland, Cooper, Knapp, and Tourangeau can be heard in a 125th-anniversary video reciting excerpts from Carnegie’s dedication speech that he gave on November 5, 1895. The video includes music played by the Pittsburgh Symphony (Gustav Holst’s St. Paul’s Suite, I. Jig). (Watch the video.) Each organization plans to celebrate its 125-year anniversary in 2021 through public programming, exhibits, and community outreach.