The Oakland neighborhood is home to three historic districts: The Schenley Farms National Historic District, the Oakland Civic Center Historic District and the Oakland Square Historic District.
The Schenley Farms National Historic District comprises two separately designated City of Pittsburgh historic districts: the Oakland Civic Center Historic District, consisting of publicly and privately owned institutional buildings, and the adjacent Schenley Farms Historic District, consisting mainly of a planned residential development of the early 20th Century.
In 1905, Franklin Nicola put forth a development plan in the City Beautiful style for Oakland, which included civic, social, residential and educational zones along Bigelow Boulevard, which ran through the heart of the neighborhood. The proposal centered on a series of monumental buildings created in styles evoking ancient Greece and the Italian Renaissance. Although Nicola’s plan was not fully implemented, including a never-constructed Oakland town hall, it produced such landmarks as the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall, the Masonic Temple (now the University of Pittsburgh’s Alumni Hall), and the Pittsburgh Athletic Association. Other major landmark buildings were added to the historic district after the pursuit of Nicola’s designs had ended, including the landmark Cathedral of Learning and Heinz Memorial Chapel of the University of Pittsburgh and Mellon Institute. Contributing buildings in the historic district date from 1880 to 1979.Noted for its late 19th and 20th Century Revivals architecture, it is home to a large portion of the campus of the University of Pittsburgh. The district comprises 155 contributing buildings, 32 of which are cultural or institutional buildings and 123 of which are residences in the northwest portion of the district. The historic district is a noted example of community planning and development following the City Beautiful movement that guided city planning and urban design in the United States from the mid-1890s through the first decade of the 20th century. The City Beautiful movement favored boulevards, parks and formal civic buildings in the beaux-arts style.
Oakland includes a third designated City of Pittsburgh historic district: Oakland Square, located in the heart of the South Oakland community. The district covers Oakland Square, Parkview Avenue and part of Dawson Street. The neighborhood, which is perched several hundred feet above Panther Hollow, was conceived in the 1890s by developer Eugene O’Neill to mimic the streets of Victorian England. Oakland Square consists of 67 houses built in four phases in a seven-year time period, from 1889 to 1896. Originally each three-story house was built in a Victorian style, either of brick or stone, with a decorative wooden porch, and a slate mansard roof. It has believed that these houses and the urban design of the square were inspired by the early Victorian squares of London and Dublin, with the American addition of the porch. The woodwork was some of the first to be mass-produced rather than hand-made. Phase one consisted of the 26 houses surrounding the park known as Oakland Square. These 26 consisted of 12 residences in a duplex configuration and 14 detached residences.
The open green space of Oakland Square originally had lush decorative gardens. Over time, the space became a large area of lawn. In the 40’s and 50’s the lawn was used for recreational sports by the children of the neighborhood. Today among the other trees, there are many mature Lindens. This is appropriate, as the area was called Linden Grove before Oakland Square was developed.