Spring Happiness in the Neighborhood

It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood,
A beautiful day for a neighbor.

It’s a neighborly day in this beauty wood,
A neighborly day for a beauty.

Please won’t you be my neighbor?

-Mister Rogers

Neighbor, could you use some happy in your life? Today is the most delightful junction of three mood-lifting occasions: The first day of Spring, Mister Rogers’ birthday, and the International Day of Happiness! To celebrate, here are some parks photos that are sure to put a smile on your face:

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The Pirate Parrot goes for a ride on the Blue Slide in Frick Park during a volunteer day. Photo: John Altdorfer.

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Spring buds finally surfacing. Photo: Melissa McMasters.

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Spring crocuses burst through the leaves with style. Photo: Chandler Sims via Instagram.

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Professional puddle jumper in Frick Park. Photo: @Autumn928 via Instagram.

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One of our all-time favorite photos, a happy little turtle out for a walk with his pet balloon in Schenley Plaza. Photo: Scott Roller.

Grin by Teri Clark

Cloudy grin. Photo: Teri Clark via our 2014 photo contest.

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Paper flowers spring up outside of Carnegie Library — South Side. Photo: Lauryn Stalter. 

Spread the happiness! Share your smile-inducing photos on our Facebook and Twitter pages, or email them to media@pittsburghparks.org. And keep the happy going by signing up here to be a great neighbor as a parks volunteer.

Here’s hoping that your Spring is as happy as a crayfish high five!

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Crayfish high five! Photo: Renee Rosensteel.

Action Alert: Make a Difference in Less Than 30 Seconds

This week on the blog, we’re asking you to take an extra simple, super important action:

Voice your support for the Frick Environmental Center.

In 20 to 24 seconds (based off of our somewhat scientific time trials), you can lend your name in support of significant state funding for the new Frick Environmental Center. Every voice counts, as demonstrating strong community support helps strengthen applications.

If you’re looking forward to a cutting-edge, ultra-sustainable Center where Pittsburghers of all ages can have access to environmental programming, please take a few moments to help bring these important state funds to our region.

Click here to sign the pledge to support the Frick Environmental Center.

 

Many thanks,
The Folks at the Parks Conservancy

What’s the Word in Homewood? Buzzword!

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Heron perched in Panther Hollow Lake.

Let’s imagine for a moment that we’re reading a children’s book all about our city’s parks. The colorful pictures on each page would illustrate and introduce you to trees and plants in our parks: sycamores and horse chestnuts, beeches and ferns. You would probably also meet some of the local residents: wrens, thrushes, maybe some larks. Perhaps a kingfisher or heron, if the book visits Panther Hollow Lake or Nine Mile Run.

Now, grab a giant imaginary eraser. Erase those plants and birds. And half of the words. Erase all of the letters, except for one or two. And really, anything about those pictures that seems familiar. What do you think of this book now? How does this change your understanding of the parks?

This storybook scenario isn’t fiction for many kids. Today’s youngest generation experiences what has been called nature deficit disorder, a disconnect from the natural world around them. Many find themselves on the wrong side of the reading gap when they start school. Studies have shown that children from lower-income homes may know only one or two letters of the alphabet when entering kindergarten, compared to children in middle-class households who will know all 26. And when they do learn to read, they may find that words like ‘attachment,’ ‘blog,’ and ‘broadband’ are deemed more relevant than ‘acorn,’ ‘beech,’ and ‘chestnut.’ (Not to mention all of those other nature words mentioned above: sycamore, horse chestnut, fern, wren, thrush, lark, kingfisher, and heron.)

Here in Pittsburgh, we’re changing the story. We’re looking for a happily ever after.

One word at a time, we’re working with Buzzword Pittsburgh and the Homewood community to bring the outdoors and all of the wonderful words that describe it to area youth. By exciting children and families to discover the world and words that are all around them, Buzzword is expanding children’s vocabulary and conversation skills. With the support of PNC Grow Up Great and alongside Carnegie Science Center, Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, Opera Theater of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh Ballet Theater, and Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, Buzzword engages families and community organizations in Pittsburgh’s Homewood neighborhood and the greater community.

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Homewood Nature in Your Neighborhood hike.

Starting this month, our Homewood Nature Educator Will is tag-teaming with Pittsburgh Ballet Theater for six weeks of free family sessions at Homewood-Brushton YMCA to learn words like ‘habitat,’ ‘observe,’ ‘senses,’ ‘garden,’ and many more. Additionally, we’ll be out and about on Nature in Your Neighborhood hikes showcasing the nature that’s all around us — wherever we live and play!

We hope that you’ll take part in these free and fun family programs. These programs are particularly designed for children younger than 10, but all ages are welcome. Find the full listing of activities on our calendar and the Buzzword website and join us to see what all the buzz is about!

Arsenal and Leslie Parks Master Plan Nearing Completion

Lawrenceville, there are big plans for your parks.

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Community members and organizers on a site walk through Arsenal Park in summer.

Started May 2014, the Arsenal and Leslie Parks Master Plan is nearing completion, an exciting next step for these two greenspaces seeped in local history. A collaborative effort shared by the City, the Parks Conservancy, Lawrenceville United, Lawrenceville Corporation, Friends of Arsenal Park, and the Leslie Park Collective, this revitalization road map is slated to be finished this spring.

Enmeshed in the community for generations, Arsenal and Leslie Parks’ rich histories and roles in the neighborhood are tangible:

If you also love Arsenal and Leslie Parks, we welcome you to give your two cents on the developing plan through this MindMixer site and at these upcoming public meetings:

Thursday, Februrary 26th
6 – 8pm
Stephen Foster Community Center (286 Main Street)

Saturday, Februrary 28th
10am – noon
Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (279 Fisk Street)

We look forward to hearing what you have to say, and stay tuned for the completed Master Plan!

Did you know? In addition to four of Pittsburgh’s RAD parks — Frick, Highland, Riverview, and Schenley — the Parks Conservancy in recent years has begun to work alongside community groups in neighborhood parks. Our work in these parks allows us to join Pittsburghers in bringing the benefits of healthy green space to even more communities.

Spotlight on Mary Schenley

An estranged daughter. An international love affair. An heiress disinherited.

Before turning twenty, Mary Schenley’s life read like many a juicy soap opera. And it’s exactly this flair for the dramatic that has us telling her story more than 150 years later.

Recently, 90.5 WESA featured the story of Mary Schenley in a pithy piece featuring our Parks Curator Susan Rademacher. Listen to the full story here, and read below for a piece written by Susan about Mary and the making of Pittsburgh’s civic park.


Mary Schenley and the Making of Our Park System

By Susan M. Rademacher, Parks Curator, Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy
Originally published in
Squirrel Hill Magazine

Only two of our city’s four historic regional parks bear a family name. Frick Park is named in tribute to Henry Clay Frick who, upon his death in 1919, gave 150 acres and an endowment to develop and care for a new park. Frick Park is also a symbol of a father’s Iove for his daughter — Frick’s daughter Helen is reputed to have asked her father for the park property as a gift to the children of Pittsburgh. This story is perhaps the better known of the two family-named parks, because the Frick home and museums at Clayton remain to embody the family’s presence and impact on Pittsburgh.

Mary E. Schenley

Schenley Park, on the other hand, wouldn’t exist today if it weren’t for the forgiveness of a father in restoring his estranged daughter to her inheritance. In what became the scandal of the day, Mary Elizabeth Croghan eloped at age 15 from her Long island boarding school with the headmistress’s 43-year-old brother-in-law, Captain Edward Schenley. The newlyweds settled in London and Mary was promptly disinherited. Her father, William Croghan Jr., couldn’t bear the break for long, visiting the young couple and the first of many grandchildren in London a year later in 1843. His forgiveness is especially understandable, given that Mary was the widower’s only surviving child.

William Croghan Jr., father of Mary Schenley

Croghan was born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky, at the fabled country seat Locust Grove. His father was the Revolutionary War Quartermaster General William Croghan, married to the sister of General George Rogers Clark. After the steamboat allowed passage upriver, Pittsburgh became a favored destination of Louisvillians. It was on such an outing that William Croghan Jr. met the prosperous O’Hara family, marrying daughter Mary O’Hara in 1821. The couple started their family in Louisville with son William and daughter Mary Elizabeth born at Locust Grove on April 27, 1826. That same year, William Croghan Jr. wrote his brother-in-law, “I am sick & tired of farming, incessant toil and anxiety & no profit….I am now firmly resolved so soon as my difficulties will allow to make arrangements for moving to Pittsburgh.” Sadly, he would make that move as a widower, his wife Mary having died 1827. In an 1828 letter from William’s sister Ann Croghan Jesup to her sister Eliza Croghan Hancock, Ann writes “Mr. Baldwin in Pittsburgh says Will Croghan is the finest boy he ever saw & Mary is a lovely child it did me good to hear him speak of those poor little children. Mary has quite recovered I sat up with her for two nights she was dangerously ill with Quinsy and inflammation on the Lungs.”  Young Will died only a month later.

Picnic House

Father and daughter Mary Elizabeth soon moved to Pittsburgh to make a new life. There, William Croghan Jr. was admitted to the Allegheny Bar. And in August of 1833, Mary writes to her Aunty Lucy Jesup, “Next year Papa is to build his cottage.” This fine Greek Revival-style home atop Stanton Heights was named Picnic House, and contained 22 rooms. Croghan died at Picnic in 1850, but his will preserved the home and furnishings for the use of Mary and her children until 1931, when Mary’s daughter Hermione, Lady Ellenborough, sold the furnishings. The house was demolished in 1955, and its grand ballroom and foyer were transplanted to the University of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning where they remain a major attraction.

Mary’s inheritance of O’Hara properties from her mother’s estate made her the largest property owner in Allegheny County. Her Pittsburgh landholdings included slums at the “Point” and she was severely criticized as an absentee landlord and exploiter of the wretched by Pittsburgh’s Labor Tribune and the Chicago Daily Tribune in the late 1880s. Her redemption came in philanthropic form. Significant gifts to several important institutions helped shape the cultural, social, and physical landscape of Pittsburgh as we know it today.

Among her major gifts were:

  • Land for building the West Penn Hospital;
  • Property for the Western Penn Institute for the Blind;
  • A large lot for the Newsboys Home;
  • A $10,000 subscription toward the purchase of land for Riverview Park; and
  • The gift of the Old Block House and adjoining property, (the original Fort Duquesne) to the Daughters of the American Revolution.

While the City of Pittsburgh had been attempting to buy or take Schenley properties for an Oakland park since 1869, it wasn’t until 1889, after Captain Schenley died, that the land for Schenley Park was finally acquired. It was through the enterprising efforts of the “Father of Pittsburgh Parks,” Edward Manning Bigelow (1850-1916), that Mary was persuaded to donate 300 acres, giving an option to buy another 100 acres. Bigelow, named the first director of the new Department of Public Works, envisioned a park system for the city. When he heard that a developer was heading to London to broker a deal with Mrs. Schenley, he promptly dispatched an attorney to get there first and secure a donation. Mary had just two conditions: that the land be used for a park named after her and that it could never be sold. The City soon purchased an additional 144 acres, including the present-day Schenley Plaza and part of the Carnegie Library for much less than its tax value.

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Mary E. Schenley Memorial Fountain

Sculpted by Victor David Brenner, with the granite base by architect H. Van Magonigle, the memorial was entitled A Song to Nature and dedicated on Labor Day, September 2, 1918. The memorial was restored and lit in 2008 by the City of Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy. Her invaluable gift is memorialized in the Mary E. Schenley Memorial Fountain at Schenley Plaza.

When she died in 1903, the New York Times observed, “The death of Mrs. Mary E. Schenley, which occurred at her home in Hyde Park, London, was made known in Pittsburg [sic] to-day. Mrs. Schenley has been Pittsburg’s benefactress for many years… Mrs. Schenley was the heroine, sixty years ago, of the greatest romance in Pittsburg’s early history… The affair created an immense social sensation at the time, and the house was preserved for many years in precisely the shape that it was in at the date of the elopement.”

Mary returned only once to Pittsburgh before her father’s death in 1850, and rarely after that. As an asthmatic, the smoky city was not a healthy environment for her. How fitting that our park system was created, in part, to improve the health of our people while changing the image of the city from gray to green. Schenley Park, along with all the parks and greenspaces of Pittsburgh, has more than fulfilled that early promise, thanks in no small part to the spirited benefactress Mary E. Schenley.

Sources:
A century and a half of Pittsburg and her people, by John Newton Boucher; illustrated. Vol. 2.
Frick Fine Arts Library: Schenley Plaza, Schenley Park &Environs, Library Guide Series, No. 11.
Grove Gazette, Winter 2011.   Historic Locust Grove, Louisville, Kentucky.
“Fountain of Forgetting: Mary E. Schenley (1827-1903),” by Don Simpson, University of Pittsburgh.
Mandy Dick, “The Storyteller,” Clarksville, Indiana, 502-500-8899.
The New York Times, November 6, 1903.
The History of Pittsburgh: Its Rise and Progress, by Sarah Hutchins Killikelly.  B. C. & Gordon Montgomery Co., 1906: Pittsburgh, PA.

25 Ways to Celebrate Your Galentines and Valentines (Part 2)

Last week, we starting laying out our recommended ways to celebrate Valentines and Galentine (really, anyone who you love taking to the park). Here’s the second half of our list of park adventures:

14. Find serenity lakeside

Love a little peace and quiet? Skipping rocks? The perfect scene to Instagram? Look no further than the lovely water features throughout the parks. We think you and your someone special will love a trip to Lake Elizabeth, Panther Hollow Lake, and Lake Carnegie.

Sunset at Panther Hollow Lake. Photo: Melissa McMasters.

15. Grab a cuppa at the Schenley Park Cafe and Visitor Center

Warm your hands around a tasty beverage of your choice and take in the views of Panther Hollow from the big open windows of the Schenley Park Cafe and Visitor Center. After enjoying your vantage from above, follow the chunky Belgian block trail behind the Cafe through peaceful Panther Hollow.

Hang out with this soldier in Schenley for Valentine’s Day.

16. Play docent all of the art

Pittsburgh parks are art. For art aficionados and history buffs, the parks are like a free museum, open year-round. Brush up on art in the parks with this helpful Pittsburgh Art Places website.

17. Snap a selfie with Dippy and bask in the bosque

Diplodocus carnegii is just too cute not to be a part of any selfies shot around the Plaza. Once you’ve visited Dippy, walk on through the bosque in front of the Carnegie Library – Main with its ceiling of overarching London plane trees.

18. Join the parties that are volunteer days 

It’s always a good time when you gather hundreds of happy, energized folks to beautify the parks. Rain or shine (even snow or sleet), volunteer days are full of positive vibes, perfect for a day spent with your friend or sweetheart.

19. Prowl for owls

Getting on around dusk, the silent winged denizens of the park come to life. If you keep your voice down and your ears open, you might be lucky enough to hear owls on the move.

20. Promenade in Allegheny Commons

The allées of Allegheny Commons were designed to accommodate the wide hoop skirts of the late 19th century when the park was designed. Walking on through this park today can be like going back in time, especially since some of the park’s trees growing there today date almost as old as the park itself.

Daffodils popping up in spring.

21. Give a gift they’ll really dig

A gift of daffodils in the parks is perfect for all of your favorite people, whatever the occasion. Each spring, the bulbs planted through the Daffodil Project burst into life for all to enjoy, which is really a gift from all park lovers to everyone. Learn more here.

22. Go for a ride, start a war

Be a kid again: grab some saucers, toboggans, cafeteria lunch trays, whatever you can get your hands on and hit the sled-riding slopes or go all in on an all-out snow ball battle.

23. Eat to your heart’s content at The Porch

The Porch at Schenley, the only full-service restaurant at Schenley Plaza, is always a popular spot for a bite before or after your adventures in Schenley Park.

24. Skate the night away

Citiparks’ annual Valentines on Ice event attracts couples from across the land for a night of skating under the stars with the city as a backdrop. Added bonus: the first 300 couples to arrive receive complimentary sweets and flowers. Can’t make this event? The Schenley Park Skating Rink is open daily; find the schedule and pricing here.

Where is this snowy scene? You’ll just have to explore the parks and find out!

25. Get lost, then get found

You’re a modern-day explorer on a quest to conquer new park lands. Pack a bag and venture out to parks uncharted by you and your date. It’s always fun to get lost in these urban jungles, but if you’d like to get found, there’s a free app for that.

 

Have other date ideas that we’ve missed? Post them below or through Facebook and Twitter!

XOXO,

The Matchmakers at the Parks Conservancy

25 Ways to Celebrate Your Galentines and Valentines (Part 1)

25 Ways to Celebrate Your Galentines and Valentines (Part 1)

Whether you’re celebrating your Valentine, Galentine, or really anyone that you enjoy, we’ve compiled a list of date ideas — platonic or romantic! — that will knock your next park adventure, well, out of the park:

1. Catch sunset at the Highland Park Reservoir

The Overlook at Schenley Park is a fan favorite for sunset spotters. Take a stroll around the Highland Park Reservoir, though, to see the sun set betwixt trees and the Giuseppe Moretti entrance statues in the peaceful entrance garden.

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2. Ride a bicycle built for two on Pocusset Street

Don’t have the balance to reenact that timeless Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid scene with your sweetie? Riding a tandem bicycle (or any bike, really) down the biker- and walker-only Pocusset Street in Schenley Park is the next best thing.

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Knock, knock!

3. Hunt for fairy doors 

In Frick and Mellon Park, Allegheny Commons, and many other parks are teensy little doors for the resident fairies. Find and knock on them to see if anyone’s home.

4. Gaze at stars in Riverview Park

The iconic Allegheny Observatory opens its doors weekly to star-struck astronomers for free tours, lectures, and open houses at this incredible space. On clear nights during these events, the 100-year-old-and-older telescopes are generally open for use.

5. Gaze at stars in Mellon Park

Whatever the weather, you can always see 150 stars peeking up from the lawn of Mellon Park’s Walled Garden thanks to 7:11AM  11.20.1979  79º55’W 40º27’N, a memorial art installation.

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6. Read Shakespeare in a Shakespearean garden

Whilst we speak of Mellon Park, o’er the hill of the Walled Garden thou must recite verses when alighting in the Shakespearean Garden.

7. Make a snowman or snowbeast

This is an anywhere, anytime activity. Let your creativity run wild. Just try not to sing that one song from Frozen when you’re out there; it’s contagious.

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Telescope in Allegheny Observatory in Riverview Park.

8. See the cityscape from Emerald View Park

The Mount Washington overlooks get a lot of love (deservedly), but seeing Downtown peek in and out from the undulating trails of Emerald View Park is always a rewarding experience.

9. Take a trip around the world with a visit to the Plaza

Immerse yourself in international flavors with the fares served in Schenley Plaza. Your hankerings for Chinese, Greek, Belgian, or the ever-changing cuisines at Conflict Kitchen are all conveniently in one square acre.

10. Traverse the tufas

The solid bridges along the lower and upper Panther Hollow trails in Schenley Park, made of a limestone variety (tufa) and built by W.P.A. crews, are straight from a storybook, covered in moss, lichens, and now snow. See these and other old-timey Works Progress projects sprinkled throughout the park.

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Tufa under snow.

11. Latch a love lock and throw away the key

Make a statement with your sweetie by adding your own lock to the Schenley Bridge and throwing away the key — just as you do it in the proper waste receptacle. (Forgetting the combination also acceptable.)

 12. Tour the neighborhood, visit parkside cultural establishments

While you’re in the neighborhood, drop by the Carnegie Museums, the Frick Pittsburgh, Phipps Conservatory, the National Aviary, the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium, and many other must-see institutions around the parks.

13. Learn something new together

Be spontaneous, try something new! Take a shot at disc golf, lawn bowling, or curling.

 

Check back next week for the second half of our park date ideas. Share your inspired date ideas below or through Facebook and Twitter!

XOXO,

The Matchmakers at the Parks Conservancy