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Historic American Engineering Record
Panther Hollow Bridge
HAER No. PA-489

Pennsylvania Historic Bridges Recording Project - II
Spanning Panther Hollow at Panther Hollow Rd.
Allegheny County

National Park Service
1849 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20240

Index of Photographs

(Panther Hollow Bridge)
HAER No. PA-489

Location: Spanning Panther Hollow at Panther Hollow Rd., Pittsburgh,
Allegheny County, Pennsylvania.

USGS Quadrangle: Pittsburgh West, Pennsylvania (7.5-minute series, 1993).

UTM Coordinates: 17/589320/4476790

Dates of Construction: 1895-96.

Designer: City of Pittsburgh, Department of Public Works.

Builder: Schultz Bridge & Iron Works (McKee's Rocks).

Present Owner: City of Pittsburgh.

Present Use: Vehicular bridge.

Significance: Schenley Park Bridge over Panther Hollow includes design elements from the City Beautiful movement while utilizing Pittsburgh's "native" industry: steel. An elegant three-hinged steel arch, the bridge is a contributing structure to Phipps Conservatory and the Schenley Park Historic District, both listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Historian: Haven Hawley, August 1998.

Project Description: The Pennsylvania Historic Bridges Recording Project II was co-sponsored during the summer of 1998 by HABS/HAER under the general direction of E. Blaine Cliver, Chief; the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, Bureau of Environmental Quality, Wayne W. Kober, Director; and the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Brent D. Glass, Executive Director and State Historic Preservation Officer. The fieldwork, measured drawings, historical reports and photographs were prepared under the direction of Eric DeLony, Chief of HAER.

HAER No. PA-489
(Page 2)

Pittsburgh made a delayed entrance to the parks movement that swept urban American centers in the mid-nineteenth century, best represented by Frederick Law Olmsted's Central Park in New York City. The neighboring city of Allegheny, Pittsburgh's commercial and political competitor on the North Side, examined the public parks of Philadelphia, New York, and Baltimore before developing its own in the late 1860s.(1) Pittsburgh, however, remained aloof of city-sponsored beautification efforts until the broader City Beautiful movement began taking shape in the 1890s. Inspired by the technological achievement of beauty at the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893, a growing number of city leaders such as those in Pittsburgh began to envision ways of reconciling industrial progress with a return to nature - albeit one artificially constructed.

Schenley Park Bridge over Panther Hollow made accessible to citizens the first public park in Pittsburgh, built as the City Beautiful movement began taking shape. A graceful three-hinged arch exemplifying the beauty and strength possible with steel construction, the bridge over Panther Hollow symbolized the dominance of a new social elite controlling the city's rising steel industry. In its design and funding, the bridge served as a link between nature and technology, bringing together the parks movement with Pittsburgh's heavy industrial base.

Phipps Conservatory and Schenley Park

The downtown parks of nearby Allegheny included a lush conservatory donated by steel magnate Henry Phipps, Jr., and the sculpted landscaping and walkways were "the resort of thousands of Pittsburgers until the park mania, after years of agitation, took hold of the city officials of Pittsburg and induced them to act."(2) Urban beautification and recreation areas became another means of municipal competition, with Pittsburgh creating Schenley Park and Allegheny adding Riverview Park to its existing system in the final decade of the nineteenth century.

Phipps donated a conservatory to Pittsburgh as well in the early 1890s, which was built in Schenley Park on the north side of Panther Hollow. Gardeners tended plants for display in the conservatory itself or for outdoor landscaping in Schenley, Herron Hill, and Bedford parks.(3) In 1896, Phipps added a gift of $30,000 to construct propagating houses for storing materials and young plants in steam-heated structures.(4) The conservatory, an iron-and-glass structure with a main building and side wings planned for open-air cultivation of tropical and desert plants,

1. City of Allegheny, Second Annual Report of the Park Commission of the City of Allegheny, 1869 (Pittsburgh: W. G. Johnston & Co., Printers, 1870), 9.

2. J. M. Kelly, Handbook of Greater Pittsburgh (Pittsburgh: J. M. Kelly, 1895), 49.

3. City of Pittsburgh, Annual Report of the Department of Public Works, 1896 (Oil City, Pa.: Derrick Publishing Co., 1897), 330.

4. "Lots Of Money Is Being Spent," Pittsburg Post, 6 Sep. 1896; "Will Plant 160,000 Trees," Pittsburg Post,
25 Jan. 1897.

HAER No. PA-489
(Page 3)

adjoined the palm house and new propagating houses to create a giant greenhouse ranging through all three buildings. Together, the structures encompassed almost 1.75 acres.(5) Outside the conservatory, an electric fountain incorporated a bronze statue of Neptune atop a granite block in the bubbling fountain waters, combining nature, myth, and electrical power.(6)

The Phipps Conservatory attracted visitors throughout the year. "An unbroken display of flowers is maintained throughout the year, and the elegant palms and rare tropical fine foliaged plants elicit great admiration," reported Schenley Park Superintendent William Falconer in his year-end statement for 1896. The Easter plant display drew 15,000 visitors to the Phipps Conservatory that year, with 11,000 coming the next week while the show remained open. A chrysanthemum show surpassed all other exhibitions during the year, drawing 72,000 people for the month-long event.(7)

In the well-known story about the park's origins in 1889, E. M. Bigelow, director of Pittsburgh's Department of Public Works, sped to England to meet a former Pittsburgh resident and secure a land donation before a rival applicant purchased the acreage. Heiress to a Pittsburgh fortune, a young Mary Elizabeth Croghan married the older, widowed, and English Capt. Edward E. H. Schenley and eloped to England. They returned for visits to Pittsburgh, but Mrs. Schenley lived for the rest of her life in her adopted home of England. Bigelow pursued a donation that Mrs. Schenley had offered two decades earlier but withdrawn after a controversy erupted in Pittsburgh over whether the city should fund the purchase of park land. With Pittsburgh's entry into the parks movement, opposition to publicly funded recreation lands faded, and Bigelow undertook the dramatic 1889 journey to London with Robert B. Carnahan, who represented Mrs. Schenley's business interests, to plead the city's case anew. The two barely beat a businessman to their benefactor, arranging for her to donate about three hundred acres of land and to allow the city to purchase one hundred more at a later date.(8)

5. Pittsburgh, Annual Report... 1896, 330-31.

6. Pittsburgh, Annual Report... 1896, 333.

7. City of Pittsburgh, Engineer's Office, "In-Depth Inspection Report, Schenley Park Bridge Over Panther Hollow" (Acres America, Inc., for City of Pittsburgh Department of Public Works, June 1981), copy of plan enclosed with report; and Pittsburgh, Annual Report... 1896, 329. Schenley and Highland parks both had conservatories, and they engaged in a friendly competition over their chrysanthemum shows. See "Park Makers Start A War," Pittsburg Post, 8 Aug. 1896. For an indication of the enormous horticultural project at Schenley, see Pittsburg Post, "160,000 Trees."

8. Christina M. Schmidlapp, "Schenley Park," Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, National Register of Historic Places Registration Form, 1985, U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Washington, D.C.; and Samuel Harden Church, A Short History of Pittsburgh, 1758-1908 (New York: DeVinne Press, 1908). Two secondary sources provide good details about the parks program and the personalities involved, although both sometimes mistakenly report dates relevant to adjacent areas as completion dates for bridge work: Christina M. Schmidlapp, "Pittsburgh's Park of a Century," Pennsylvania Heritage (Spring 1986): 32-36; Howard B. Stewart, "Historical Data: Pittsburgh Public Parks" (typescript, 1943), 32-33, in Drawer 5, Cabinet IV, Print Collection, Series 1, James D. Van Trump Library, Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation, Pittsburgh, Pa. A third source is R. J. Gangewere, "Schenley Park," Carnegie Magazine 53 (June 1979): 60-68. See also City of Pittsburgh, Annual Report of the Department of Public Works, 1895 (Pittsburgh: W. T. Nicholson, 1896), 16.

HAER No. PA-489
(Page 4)

Fabricating Nature

Schenley Park became the jewel in Pittsburgh's system of parks. Bigelow was enthusiastic about the efforts made toward long-term plans for the Mount Airy tract in his report for 1895:

The work of transforming what were for the most part stretches of vacant ground, broken here and there with old buildings, into sightly pleasure grounds, traversed by shady drives and walks, connected by convenient bridges, has now advanced so toward completion that nature works visibly hand in hand with us in adding to their beauty from year to year.(9)

A snapshot taken in 1896 would have revealed eight miles of recently constructed macadam roadways for bicycling or carriage touring through the park, the Phipps Conservatory's special collections of tropical and domestic plants, and continuing construction on a new zoological center.(10) Descriptions of the park published within the next four years described it as a gathering place for enjoying both nature and public entertainment. Cowboy actors performed skits about life in the wild west to crowds at the speedway, spectators watched a horse named Queen dive from an elevated platform into water below, and a lighted electric fountain attracted evening park goers with its bubbling, hour-long display.(11)

Schenley was one of eight parks under the city's control in 1896, comprising 874 acres. Landscape architects reshaped the rugged terrain into a "natural" environment, adjusting slopes to create the dramatic vistas for which the park became known The grading of Panther Hollow from the top bank to the bridle path did not mean merely forming a gentle slope. According to
park superintendent William Falconer,

Grading in these cases does not mean a simple smoothing over of the surface of the ground. Prominent, rigid, abrupt banks or breasts of rock and clay have been removed wide and deep enough to allow the introduction of natural-appearing graceful sloping waves instead; this necessitated much excavation....(12)

9. Pittsburgh, Annual Report... 1895, 16-17.

10. Pittsburgh, Annual Report... 1896, 11.

11. "Western Scenes Out at Schenley," Pittsburg Post, 5 July 1896; "Queen," Pittsburg Bulletin: A Weekly Journal for the Home, 6 Oct. 1900; Pittsburgh, Annual Report 1896, 333.

12. Pittsburgh, Annual Report... 1896, 335.

HAER No. PA-489
(Page 5)

A total of 112,200 square yards had been graded by the end of 1896, creating the views enjoyed by visitors from carriages or bicycles.(13) While allocating less than $10,000 on salaries for park personnel and about $18,000 for supplies in 1896, the budget for Schenley Park provided about $195,000 -- nearly seven times as much -- for contract grading and paving. Yet city officials often expressed their belief that the dramatic vistas were created by the city at a relatively low cost due to the existing rugged terrain.

Park Bridges

Bridges were necessary to make the scenic views and new drives fully accessible. Under Bigelow's hand, the city spent as much building bridges in Schenley Park during 1896 as was recommended for renovating the recently acquired Monongahela river crossings.(14) The park project came at the end of nearly a decade of spending on a massive public works program that literally changed the face of Pittsburgh in the 1890s. The average citizen "can have no just conception of the extent to which a new Pittsburg has been built within the last eight years," wrote Bigelow in his annual report for 1895. The city relaid virtually every paved road, expanded sewer and water services, and constructed numerous bridges to connect neighborhoods to one another, and began plans to construct wide boulevards which continue to connect downtown to Schenley Park.(15)

The Parks Bureau planned for three major bridges in Schenley Park during the mid-1890s.(16) Construction on the first, best known as the Panther Hollow Bridge, started in September 1895 and was finished in 1896. Dedication ceremonies were scheduled for 1 August. The bridge's completion signaled another step in the maturity of Bigelow's designs. The structure carried pedestrians and motorists across a deep ravine and creek, providing a vital link between Phipps Conservatory and the interior of the lavishly landscaped park. Falconer noted, "It is greatly appreciated by visitors, and is a convenient and near way to the zoo and the speedway, and it opens up to the public a well-wooded and beautiful part of the park that before now was visited by few, because of the inconvenience in getting there.(17)

The bridge provided "a very much needed connection," noted Bigelow, especially in light of the continuing work on the two other proposed bridges for park roadways.(18) Even more reflective of the city's concern for making the park accessible at all points inside is the

13. Pittsburgh, Annual Report... 1896, 333-34.
14. Pittsburgh, Annual Report... 1896, 9-10.
15. Pittsburgh, Annual Report... 1895, 9-12.
16. Pittsburgh, Annual Report... 1896, 334.
17. Pittsburgh, Annual Report... 1896, 334.
18. Pittsburgh, Annual Report... 1896, 11.

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Page created: 15-Feb-2009
Last modified: 15-Feb-2009

HAER Text: Haven Hawley, August 1998; Pennsylvania Historic Bridges Recording Project - II
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