The Highland Park community comes together at the beautiful restored Entry Garden on Highland Avenue. Visitors enter through majestic granite columns featuring bronze sculptures of allegorical figures of the Harvest that were created by Giuseppe Moretti during his five hugely productive years as the commissioned sculptor for the Pittsburgh park system. Formal gardens laid out in the style of the original Victorian entry surround the fountain and reflecting pool at the center of the space. Steps behind the fountain lead up to Reservoir No. 1 and its popular walking path.
The garden is composed largely of perennial plants. Much of the initial planting of the renovated garden was done by the Rosedale Block Cluster, a non-profit organization dedicated to enhancing the beauty of the community. They made agricultural improvements and planted nearly 40,000 tulips and other plants to make the garden's debut a stunning success. Today, the garden is maintained through a partnership between the City, the Parks Conservancy, and the volunteers of the Men’s Garden Club of Pittsburgh, who weed the beds on a regular basis.
Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium
Opened in 1898, the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium started as an animal menagerie for the display of exotic plants and animals. Outdoor exhibits began in 1937 when bear habitats were created, and in the 1980s a master plan transformed the Zoo into a much less confining experience for its animals and visitors. Naturalistic habitats were added that allowed the animals to roam much more freely in environments typical of those they would experience in the wild. In 1994, the zoo was transferred from City ownership to the private non-profit Zoological Society of Pittsburgh.
At 77 acres, the Zoo is home to Pennsylvania's only major aquarium, and its Kids Kingdom is ranked as one of the top three children's zoos in the nation. Visitors can explore the mysteries of wildlife and see thousands of animals, including more than 20 endangered or threatened species. Naturalistic exhibits such as the Tropical Forest Complex and the new Water’s Edge exhibit allows visitors to see animals in environments designed to replicate their natural habitats.
The Zoo is open every day except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. For more info, call 1-800-474-4966 or visit www.pittsburghzoo.com.
Reservoir and PWSA Plant
Reservoir No. 1 is an iconic feature of Highland Park, and it also provided an impetus for the park’s creation. When the reservoir opened in 1879 as a means to provide drinking water to city residents, people began to flock there to enjoy the scenery and have been doing so ever since.
In the 1990s, state regulations threatened to diminish the reservoir’s beauty. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s Clean Water Act requires that open-water reservoirs must either be fitted with a cover or their water must be treated to remove waterborne parasites. In 1999, the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority agreed to build a microfiltration plant to treat the water, preserving the reservoir as a park amenity. The state-of-the-art plant, which treats 20 million gallons of water a day, opened in 2002.
Farmhouse Road houses a nearly 200-year-old farmhouse that was part of Alexander Negley’s original 300-acre tract. The house’s original resident was Negley’s wife, Mary Berkstresser Negley, who had it built after her husband’s death so she wouldn’t have to live in their original home (on the site of present-day Reservoir No. 1) without him. The property was operated as a dairy farm by a subsequent owner. In the late 1800s, the farmhouse was used as the clubhouse for the nine-hole golf course at the Highland Park Country Club. Today, the farmhouse hosts occasional events and the playground built in 2002 makes it a popular family gathering spot.
Animal Adventure Mural
In 2007, a mural was installed on the retaining wall on One Wild Place leading from the Zoo into the rest of the park. The “Animal Adventure” mural was designed by artists Laura Jean McLaughlin and Bob Ziller and depicts animals journeying through the city. Highland Park landmarks from the entry fountain to the Super Playground make appearances on the wall. Throughout the summer of 2007, children across the city participated in the mural’s creation by gluing colorful mosaic tiles to pre-cut concrete boards as part of Citiparks’ Roving Art Cart program. The mural was a project of Citiparks, the office of Senator Jim Ferlo, the Pittsburgh Zoo, the Highland Park Community Development Corporation, and the Highland Park Community Council.
Since their creation in 2006, the seasonal pools have become an invaluable wetland habitat. A lawn area along Washington Boulevard near the bike track was a constant problem due to frequent flooding. The Parks Conservancy and the City of Pittsburgh’s Department of Public Works teamed up to dig several large pools that would collect storm water. Meadow plants were seeded into the area, creating shelter for animals and birds. Ongoing removal of invasive species and planting of new trees continues to enhance the area's biological diversity.
Once a deteriorating set of historic steps, now the Babbling Brook is a beautiful attraction for visitors from across the city. This rocky watercourse was created along with the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority’s microfiltration plant as part of the project to keep Reservoir No. 1 uncovered. After the plant was built, PWSA needed to build a system that would expel and clean the waste water from the plant, but was not permitted to spend money on “aesthetic” improvements. Instead of building a concrete chute to transport water as originally planned, the PWSA partnered with the Parks Conservancy to go a step further and create the Babbling Brook to naturally dechlorinate and clean the waste water by aerating the water over rocks, boulders, and organic material. A streamside trail and overlook were also created for park users to enjoy.
In the 1870s, philanthropist Andrew Carnegie partially financed the creation of Lake Carnegie to be used as a halfway station for water being pumped from the Allegheny River to the Highland Park reservoir. Originally called the Brilliant Reservoir due to its proximity to the Brilliant Oil Company, the lake was intended to be part of Pittsburgh’s municipal water system. However, around the time that the lake was completed, a pump came on the market that eliminated the need for an intermediate reservoir, so it became a recreational lake instead with a handsome boathouse. Boating, fishing, and swimming sports were all popular activities at Lake Carnegie. As aquatic sports became more popular, more than half of the lake was converted into the present-day swimming pool in 1932. Today the lake is stagnant and is seldom used, but it is still a pleasant place to stroll.
A natural feature of Highland Park’s landscape, Mount Bigelow (located at the northwest corner of Reservoir No. 1) provides a hilltop vantage point that is perfect for picnics, socializing, or just watching the world go by. When the park was first created, Mount Bigelow housed a music pavilion, indicating that it has been a popular gathering spot for over 100 years.
Pittsburgh’s original parks champion, Edward M. Bigelow, had a home on Highland Avenue. He envisioned a huge bronze statue of the Indian Guyusuta (sculpted by his friend Giuseppe Moretti) sitting atop Mount Bigelow overlooking his residence. Bigelow died during Moretti’s construction of the model, so the full sculpture was never built.