Pittsburghers don’t need to be told that their city is filled with a rich history, or that the city’s architecture and buildings are among the most interesting in the country, but Doors Open Pittsburgh is going to try anyway.
Bonnie Baxter, founder and executive director of Doors Open Pittsburgh, and self-described “building junkie,” began the program that provides attendees with an opportunity to explore and appreciate many of the more historic and significant buildings in Pittsburgh in 2016 as a nonprofit with big ambition.
“Doors Open Pittsburgh gives residents a chance to get into these great buildings not only to see the aesthetics, but also to hear stories about their history or the characters that came through,” said Ms. Baxter. “The stories these buildings tell tell the past, present and future of the city.”
This year’s Doors Open Pittsburgh event features 47 locations in and around the city. Event dates are Saturday and Sunday, October 6 and 7. Each building’s administration determines the dates and times the building is open to visitors and event passes are required for entry. Details about ticket packages and the featured buildings are available at Doors Open Pittsburgh’s website.
Back to the building junkie – Baxter, a Pittsburgh native, moved to Chicago in 2011 and was moved by a similar program that told of the Windy City’s buildings and history, so when she returned to Pittsburgh, she returned with a passion to bring some of the most historic venues in the city to life.
And so began the program that takes visitors inside architectural wonders like First Presbyterian Church on Sixth Avenue, or the Koppers Building on Seventh, or Dollar Bank on Fourth – just three of the event’s 47 opportunities to view and appreciate Pittsburgh’s character.
Along with the chance to see the visual wonder of the buildings, attendees can choose to hear about the stories of many of the buildings’ histories. Baxter thinks this aspect of the event adds a significant element to the visual splendor of attending.
“We tried to create a warm an innovative way for people to visit these iconic buildings,” said Baxter. “We feel it is important that visitors have an opportunity to learn about the great history of Pittsburgh through the buildings.”
Doors Open Pittsburgh brings a formatted structure to visiting the buildings, but attendees who prefer a less formal and more personalized experience are free to view the buildings at their own pace and on their own terms.
“It’s really an opportunity to get into and appreciate these spaces,” said Baxter. “Each person can spend as little or as much time as they want exploring.”
While Doors Open Pittsburgh is focused on its primary mission of providing attendees with a behind-the-scenes view of historic Pittsburgh buildings, and telling the stories of those buildings to help increase local knowledge, a secondary mission, and benefit, of the organization is the feeling of civic pride that comes with learning more about the place Pittsburghers call home.
“More than 84 percent of attendees of past events who were polled said they had an improved perception of the city,” said Baxter. “It’s funny, but people have relationships with these buildings and it helps them feel better about living in Pittsburgh.”
Many Pittsburghers feel pride knowing that the city is one of the country’s hidden gems, like a special, yinzer-only secret, and Doors Open Pittsburgh is the perfect event to emphasize just how dynamic and diverse a city Pittsburgh was, is and always will be.
Over the coming weeks, Pittsburgh Beautiful will be highlighting 20 of the 47 buildings open for Doors Open Pittsburgh.