Buildings and Structures
Frick Fine Arts Building
The Frick Fine Arts Building, which sits behind the Mary E. Schenley Memorial Fountain on the former site of the Schenley Casino, opened in 1965. A gift of Henry Clay Frick's daughter Helen, the building houses the University of Pittsburgh's History of Art and Architecture Department, Studio Art Department, and Frick Fine Arts Library. A defining feature of the building is the art of Nicholas Lochoff, who was well-known for his reproductions of famous Renaissance images. Helen Clay Frick purchased 23 of these copies in 1959, and today they hang in the Frick Fine Arts Building's Renaissance cloister.
For more information, visit the University of Pittsburgh History of Art & Architecture Department website.
Schenley Plaza’s lawn, gardens and landscape are designed to withstand Pittsburgh’s city conditions, complement our regional ecology, and suit the needs of park users. Various “green” design techniques helps the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy reduce landscape maintenance costs so that more of our time and funds can go back into the parks.
- Gardens feature abundant native plants and flowers that peak at various times of the growing season.
- Schenley Plaza’s soil was custom-designed for maximum absorption of storm water to prevent pooling and erosion.
- The Emerald Lawn measures more than an acre and is composed of blue-grass sports turf, which tolerates frequent use. An irrigation system and specially designed soil helps keep maintenance to a minimum.
- Schenley Plaza’s London plane trees are part of a groundbreaking tree genetic study in collaboration with the City of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Museum of Natural History. This study, which is receiving attention from the national horticultural community, is the first step in establishing an insect- and disease-resistant population of London plane trees. Local nurseries have begun propagating new trees from the genetically diverse population of London plane trees found at Schenley Plaza.
What’s growing in Schenley Plaza:
- 470 perennials in 5 varieties
- 300 shrubs
- 320 ornamental grasses in 3 varieties
- 22,000 groundcover plants in 3 varieties
- 14,500 flower bulbs
- 450 annuals planted each summer
Schenley Plaza's Forbes Avenue gardens feature plantings that are rotated several times a year to provide vibrant seasonal displays. Many of the gardens, as well as the Spanish cedar benches that adorn them, are sponsored by community members who are recognized with plaques.
London Plane Trees
As part of the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy’s ongoing efforts to improve our local urban environment, a groundbreaking study on the genetic diversity of Schenley Plaza’s London plane tree population was conducted in collaboration with the City of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Museum of Natural History.
This study, which has received attention from the national horticultural community, is the first step in establishing an insect- and disease-resistant population of London plane trees. The study was generously funded by The Garden Club of Allegheny County.
London plane trees are widely planted throughout Pittsburgh as shade trees because of their tolerance to urban soil and drought. In 2005 and 2006, many of the plane trees at Schenley Plaza began to die from disease and decay, in part resulting from their age, and were subsequently removed.
The study, which is unique to Pittsburgh, analyzed the DNA of the remaining healthy trees in Schenley Plaza, as well as the DNA of trees from local nurseries and national distributors. The results revealed that the Plaza's tree population was very genetically diverse--much more so than the London plane cultivar "Bloodgood" that is widely sold by nurseries. Local nurseries have begun propagating trees using the DNA of the Plaza's trees as an alternative to "Bloodgood." The new London plane trees that have been planted at Schenley Plaza since its restoration are contributing to an insect- and disease-resistant population, serving as a model that other cities can use in tree selection.
Statues and Monuments
Mary E. Schenley Memorial Fountain
Created to honor Mary Schenley's gift of land in 1889 to create Schenley Park, the sculpture and fountain called A Song to Nature was described after its dedication in 1918 as "a happy combination of poetry and passion." Sculpted by Victor David Brenner, perhaps best known as the designer of the Lincoln penny, the fountain depicts the figures of Pan the earth god and a nymph, Sweet Harmony, who serenades him. The sculpture was seen at the time of its dedication as illustrative of culture's power to tame nature.
Restoration of the fountain took place in summer 2008. Cracks, staining, plumbing problems, and missing sculptural elements were preventing the fountain from being appreciated as the valuable piece of public art that it is. A respectful analysis of the history and evolution of the landscape led to subtle changes that have a big effect. Enlarged green space around the fountain and nighttime illumination set off the burnished bronze and granite basin. A reduced amount of impervious pavement improves storm water absorption. Intelligently aligned paths enhance the approaches to the Frick Fine Arts Building, while improving ease of access in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Christopher Lyman Magee Memorial
One of Schenley Plaza's lesser-known treasures is the Christopher Lyman Magee Memorial Fountain in the Library Bosque near the entrance to the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. Created by one of America's greatest sculptors, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, the memorial is dedicated to Christopher Lyman Magee, who was one of America's most powerful political bosses. In the late 19th century, he essentially ran Pittsburgh and Allegheny County, although he eventually made his way to Harrisburg as a state senator. History alternately portrays him as greedy and calculating or as charming and generous. He is credited with helping to develop the infrastructure of the city, and his name is most recognized today because of Magee Women's Hospital, which he founded in honor of his mother.
Saint-Gaudens is best known for sculpting the Shaw Memorial in Boston, and the Magee memorial was one of his last works. He died during its production, and it was completed by one of his assistants. The bas-relief fountain features a robed woman with a cornucopia along with the famous "The quality of mercy is not strained" passage from Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice." A lion's head at the bottom of the memorial once spouted water, but the fountain has been out of operation for several years. The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy is currently seeking funding to restore the sculpture, which exhibits cracks and corrosion, and return the fountain to use.