Pittsburgh’s Phipps Conservatory Membership Just Got Better

In September, members were invited to the launch of a new tour: Artwork at the Phipps. With seasonal flower shows, we’d made many trips to the Conservatory before being smart enough to join. At $75 for two adults ($15 per adult per visit), it easily made sense.

Then there are the special events—presentations, learning opportunities and now this tour. Docent Joanna showed us things we’d seen but hadn’t really seen. We had a glimpse into the art decorating the Center for Sustainable Landscapes offices. This building is an icon of Pittsburgh’s Green buildings, and a smart one at that.

Henry W. Phipps, Jr. created the Conservatory for the city of Pittsburgh in 1893. If you aren’t up on your steel history (I wasn’t), Phipps partnered in Carnegie Steel with Scotsman Andrew Carnegie. It was only one display of Phipps’ wealth as he spent it to better the world around him.

It’s pleasing to learn that one of Phipps’ gift-stipulations was that the Conservatory be open on Sundays so that workingmen and their families would be able to visit. That was a fairly rebellious idea on a few levels in the early 20th century.

Every time we approach the Phipps, I’m struck by the beauty of the structure. And each time we exit the Tropical Room and walk outside the rear of the building, I’m astounded by the overall size of it.

History Within the Conservatory’s Glass Walls

With history as part of the organization, it’s fun to connect the conservatory to another Pittsburgh family: the Mellons.

The Ladies of the Broderie Room started life at the Mellon home. It was a tremendous 65-room mansion demolished in 1941 (built in 1910—so young to be gone). When the mansion lie in pieces, an announcement was sent to certain organizations that items were there for the taking. 

The term broderie translates from the French to mean, “embroidery of the earth.” As we see show after show, the Phipps staff re-embroider this room into lovely works of art. It’s easy to see why it is a popular spot for weddings.

As a fan of fellow Scotsman Robert Burns, it was fitting for Carnegie (and a few friends) to donate a statue of the poet in 1914.

Glass master Dale Chihuly had a show at the Phipps in 2007 and several pieces remain in place. I particularly like the Desert room installation since it matches thorny cacti so well. In addition to his pieces, they’ve been graced with other glass artwork.

The Phipps Conservatory is ever-changing and always provides for soul rejuvenation, whether it’s the stunning array of blooms in the orchid room or first noticing the hidden Venus statue. If you’re in town, I urge you to stop in to experience the various exhibits and colors of Phipps.

Phipps Map


After the Phipps Conservatory, head to The Strip to find something yummy to eat.

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