Panther Hollow the 1920s

February 18, 2010 by Melissa McMasters

One of the fun parts about working at the Parks Conservancy is occasionally stumbling across some cool old photos of the parks while looking for something in your office. When we uncover some buried treasure, we pass it among our co-workers and marvel, "I can't believe it used to look like that!"

Yesterday we discovered some wonderful old photos of Schenley Park that had been sent to us by Ms. Jean Chess. She was gracious enough to allow us to use them, so we thought we'd share some with you.

From the looks of it, these photos are from the 1920s/1930s. The telltale clue is the footbridge in the Panther Hollow Lake photos, which was replaced by one of the signature Works Progress Administration stone bridges in 1939.

First up is a photo of the Neill Log House, looking rather solitary on a snowy day. (You can click on this and all the photos to see a larger version.)

Neill Log House, 1920s

Next we move out of winter for a minute to check out the area along the Phipps Run Trail. Here's a place that looks totally different now, and the flatness of the trail and the adjacent grass gives you a good idea of why. You can see where the trail would easily wash out in large rain events, flooding the lawn area to the left. Because of the Parks Conservancy's restoration of this area in 2003, that lawn area is now a pool into which the Phipps Run Stream can safely overflow.

Phipps Run, 1920s

This photo continues on the Phipps Run Trail, but now the photographer has turned around and is facing the Panther Hollow Bridge. The inscription on the back of this one is "Leah - Panther Hollow."

Panther Hollow, 1920s

Schenley Park Trail, 1920s I'm not 100% sure, but I think the photo at left must be the same trail, looking down from the Panther Hollow Bridge. In any case, it's interesting to see the landscaping of the trails. Everything was much more formal--I imagine back in those days people went for "promenades" in the park moreso than a strenuous jog. Just look how nicely the ladies are dressed! Fun fact: Schenley Park's original superintendent, William Falconer, planted evergreens in the center of the park because they fared poorly in smoky conditions, and that part of the park was furthest from Pittsburgh's industrial pollution.

Panther Hollow Lake, 1920s

The photo at right is the one that sparked the most discussion. From the looks of it, the footbridge is actually in the middle of Panther Hollow Lake with trees planted around it, which seems to make very little sense! But because everything around it is frozen, maybe this photo is just an optical illusion of sorts.

The next one gives us a little more clarity. The rocks over which the water is cascading are still there today, and from this angle the footbridge looks to be in the exact same place as the WPA footbridge we see today.

Panther Hollow Lake Close-up, 1920s

This final shot may have been taken from the footbridge, looking back towards the tufa bridge. This makes it look like there was a small lagoon where we have a meadow today.

Panther Hollow Frozen, 1920s

Looking at these makes me realize that while there's a lot we do know about the parks' past, there's a lot of mystery there also. It's fun to find a new piece of the puzzle every now and then.

Parks History, Photography, Panther Hollow Watershed, Schenley Park