From Historic Hotel to More Perfect Union
Once a luxurious hotel, the William Pitt Union is today the epicenter of Pitt student life outside the classroom and home to more than 300 student organizations.
Opened as the Hotel Schenley in 1898, the beaux-arts building hosted every U.S. president from Theodore Roosevelt to Dwight Eisenhower as well as such cultural luminaries as American singer-actress Lillian Russell (who married there), Italian tragedian Eleonora Duse (who, tragically, died there), and Neapolitan-born tenor Enrico Caruso.
Visiting ballplayers, professors, and students joined the Schenley’s clientele in 1909 when Forbes Field (home to baseball’s Pittsburgh Pirates) opened nearby and when Pitt relocated to Oakland from Pittsburgh’s North Side.
In 1956, Pitt bought the building to serve, among other things, as the University’s student union. Following an 18-month renovation that restored much of its original belle époque charm, it was renamed the William Pitt Union in 1983.