Chronicling: An ongoing series highlighting University of Pittsburgh history

Issue Date: 
October 22, 2007

Oct. 28, 1962—Circular buildings were becoming the rage “around” the world, reported The New York Times. “The Greeks had their temples and the Italians the Tower of Pisa. The North American continent was the birthplace of one of the oldest of all circular structures, the (igloo).” Across the United States, airport terminals, office buildings, and museums were being built “in the round,” and another set of structures attracting national attention were the University of Pittsburgh’s circular residence halls, then under construction.

“The round dorms, designed by Deeter & Ritchey (a Pittsburgh-based architectural firm), make all rooms equally desirable to students and provide a ready access from centrally-located baths and other facilities to each bedroom,” the Times said. But waggish students thought the Towers A, B, and C, which opened in 1963, resembled cans of cleanser, so they nicknamed them “Ajax,” “Bab-O,” and “Comet.” They were officially renamed in honor of former Chancellor Edward Litchfield in 1968, following his death in an airplane crash.

Deeter & Ritchey went on to design several other prominent Pittsburgh landmarks, while Litchfield Towers—still Pitt’s largest residential facility—have been treated to extensive renovations since 2002. The most recent project, completed in August, gave the complex’s dining facilities a $12.5 million makeover.