Syria Mosque

Coordinates: 40°26′44″N 79°57′19″W / 40.445477°N 79.955149°W / 40.445477; -79.955149
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Syria Mosque
Photo of Syria Mosque taken c. 1913-1920 by Edward J. Shourek.
General information
TypePerformance venue
Architectural styleExotic Revival architecture
Address4400 Bigelow Boulevard
Town or cityPittsburgh, PA
CountryUnited States of America
Coordinates40°26′44″N 79°57′23″W / 40.445557°N 79.956347°W / 40.445557; -79.956347
Design and construction
Architecture firmHuehl, Schmidt & Holmes
Known forBirthplace of network television
Other information
Seating capacity3,700

Syria Mosque was a 3,700-seat [1] performance venue located in the Oakland neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Constructed in 1911 and dedicated on October 26, 1916,[2] the building was originally built as a "mystical" shrine for the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine (the Shriners) and designed by Huehl, Schmidt & Holmes architectural firm of Chicago.[3] It was recognized as one of the best examples of Exotic Revival architecture.[4]

Despite the building being called a "mosque", and appropriating islamic design, it was never intended or used for islamic worship.[5]

Located at 4400 Bigelow Boulevard,[6] it held numerous events over the years, mainly highlighted by concerts of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and numerous internationally recognized music performers, as well as political rallies and speeches.

The Medinah Temple in Chicago (constructed one year after this building by the same firm) is a similar building still in existence (though now converted to retail space).

Despite community efforts to have Syria Mosque designated a historic landmark, the building was demolished August 27, 1991.[7]


Pakistani-Canadian architect Dr. Gulzar Haider[8][9] described the appearance of the building circa 1960:

As we turned onto a minor street on the University of Pittsburgh campus, [my host] pointed to a vertical neon sign that said in no uncertain terms “Syria Mosque.” Parking the car, we approached the building. I was fascinated, albeit with some premonition. I was riveted by the cursive Arabic calligraphy on the building: la ghalib il-Allah, “There is no victor but Allah,” the well-known refrain [inscribed on the walls of][10] Granada’s Alhambra. Horseshoe arches, horizontal bands of different colored bricks, decorative terra-cotta—all were devices to invoke a Moorish memory. Excitedly, I took a youthful step towards the lobby, when my host turned around and said, "This is not the kind of mosque in which you bend up and down facing Mecca. This is a meeting hall–theater built by Shriners, a nice bunch of people who build hospitals for [disabled] children and raise money through parades and circuses."[8]

Birthplace of network television[edit]

On January 11, 1949, from 8:30 pm to 11 pm EST, KDKA-TV (then WDTV and part of the DuMont Television Network) began its initial broadcast on its "network" centered in Pittsburgh. The program began with a one-hour local show broadcast from Syria Mosque, then finished with 90 minutes from ABC, CBS, NBC, and DuMont, featuring stars such as Arthur Godfrey, Milton Berle, DuMont host Ted Steele, and many other celebrities.[11] The station also represented a milestone in the television industry, providing the first "network" of a coaxial cable feed that included Pittsburgh and 13 other cities from Boston to St. Louis.[12]


Despite community efforts to have the building designated a historic landmark, the Syria Mosque was torn down on August 27, 1991.[7] The site serves as a parking lot for the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Plans were announced that University of Pittsburgh would acquire it from the medical center in 2016.[13]

A brick of the Syria Mosque building (center), exhibited in the Bayernhof Museum alongside an Edison cylinder phonograph (left) and Edison home phonograph (right)

List of concert events[edit]

Among the concert events:

List of political events[edit]

Among the political events:


  1. ^ "Syria Mosque". Retrieved March 22, 2018.
  2. ^ "Syria Mosque Lost". Retrieved March 22, 2018.
  3. ^ Internet Archive, Walter C. Kidney, Dressed for the Occasion: On Eclecticism, Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation, accessdate 2008-07-25
  4. ^ "Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - Google News Archive Search". Retrieved March 22, 2018.
  5. ^
  6. ^ ""Syria Mosque - Pittsburgh Music History"". Retrieved November 21, 2019.
  7. ^ a b "Historic Pittsburgh 1991". Retrieved March 22, 2018.
  8. ^ a b "Making Muslim Space in North America and Europe". Retrieved July 22, 2023.
  9. ^ "7 of Indiana's most interesting holy sites". USA TODAY. Retrieved July 22, 2023.
  10. ^ "Sleepy Hollow at the Mystical Ancient Palace of the Alhambra in Granada, Spain". K.L. Kranes. April 9, 2018. Retrieved July 22, 2023.
  11. ^ Clarke Ingram. "DuMont TV historical website". Retrieved March 22, 2018.
  12. ^ "Eyewitness: 1949 / TV makes Pittsburgh 'A New Promise'". May 16, 2010. Retrieved March 29, 2011.
  13. ^ Schackner, Bill (February 24, 2016). "Pitt to buy former Syria Mosque property from UPMC for $10 million". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved March 5, 2016.
  14. ^ "Coming to Mosque". The Pittsburgh Courier. January 26, 1946. p. 1. ProQuest 202189809. Miss Carol Brice, young contralto, will appear with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orhcestra at Syria Mosque on Friday and Sunday Nights. Miss Brice returns here by special request of Dr. Fritz Reiner, conductor of the orchestra.
  15. ^ "Coming to Mosque". The Pittsburgh Courier. September 9, 1950. p. 14. ProQuest 202256174. Billy Eckstine, Pittsburgh's own, will star in a concert at the Syria Mosque on Wednesday, Oct. 11. George Shearing and his combo will be featured along with Miles Davis' All-Stars. The concert is sponsored by the Guardsman of Pittsburgh.
  16. ^ "Coming Here". The Pittsburgh Courier. February 3, 1951. p. 22. ProQuest 202271687. Tommy Dorsey, his trombone and his orchestra, featuring Frances Irvin and Johnny Amoroso and vocalists, will step into Syria Mosque, Tuesday, Feb. 27, at 8:30 P.M., along with King Cole and his trio, to play for the Pittsburgh Guardsmen's Melodic Concert.
  17. ^ Jay Warner, On This Day in Black Music History (Hal Leonard Corporation, 2006):125.
  18. ^ a b c d e "Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - Google News Archive Search". Retrieved March 22, 2018.
  19. ^ "Joni Mitchell, A Chronology of Appearances". Retrieved March 25, 2023.
  20. ^ "Bruce Springsteen". Retrieved March 22, 2018.
  21. ^ "The Pittsburgh Press - Google News Archive Search". Retrieved March 22, 2018.
  22. ^ "Pittsburgh Post-Gazette from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on June 14, 1985 · Page 31". June 14, 1985. Retrieved March 22, 2018.
  23. ^ "Yngwie Malmsteen Setlist at Syria Mosque, Pittsburgh, PA, USA".
  24. ^ "Rock Tour Database: Syria Mosque".
  25. ^ edditude09 (May 24, 2011). "The Bangles Live in Pittsburgh MTV 1986 PAL version Part 1 of 5". Archived from the original on December 21, 2021. Retrieved March 22, 2018 – via YouTube.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  26. ^ Kirkwood, Hector. "Anthrax". Matallipromo. Archived from the original on October 2, 2013. Retrieved March 18, 2013.
  27. ^ Kirkwood, Hector. "Exodus". Metallipromo. Retrieved November 2, 2022.
  28. ^ Dressler, C. W. (November 3, 1944). "People Cannot Take Chance, Truman Says". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved January 29, 2016.
  29. ^ "The Pittsburgh Press - Google News Archive Search". Retrieved March 22, 2018.

External links[edit]

40°26′44″N 79°57′19″W / 40.445477°N 79.955149°W / 40.445477; -79.955149