Chronicling/An ongoing series highlighting University of Pittsburgh history

Issue Date: 
January 22, 2008

On Jan. 26, 1920, ground was broken on what would become the University of Pittsburgh’s Eberly Hall.

With more than 150 faculty members and 900 students returning from World War One military service, Pitt faced a dire shortage of space, according to Robert C. Albert’s Pitt: The Story of the University of Pittsburgh 1787-1987. The sudden growth in the student body forced Pitt administrators to convert army barracks and other facilities into make-shift classrooms.

The University’s alumni proposed a remedy to the tremendous congestion: construct a large hall that would have 36 classrooms, four lecture halls, and 16 faculty offices. Accordingly, they began a fundraising campaign, set a $600,000 goal, and agreed to limit financial solicitations to Pitt graduates. At the time, the goal and approach were viewed as almost undoable. A high percentage of Pitt’s 8,000 alumni were under 30 years of age or had recently returned from combat, and the general feeling was that their contributions would most likely be low. Still, the campaign raised more than $670,000.

Completed in the spring of 1921, the building was named Alumni Hall, and it provided recitation and lecture space for as many as 2,500 students at a time. For 15 years, it remained Pitt’s only major teaching facility. In 1998, the structure was renamed Eberly Hall, in recognition of the Robert E. Eberly family’s support of the University.