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Onlookers give Robert Berks’s statue of Fred Rogers a round of applause at its unveiling on the North Shore this morning.
Beside the sports stadiums and the nation’s largest single-artist museum, the North Shore now hosts another symbol of Pittsburgh’s vibrant legacy.
This morning, city leaders and organizers unveiled a larger-than-life statue of Fred Rogers, icon of the Mr. Rogers’s Neighborhood show on public television.
Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato were on hand, alongside members of the sponsoring Colcom Foundation, to dedicate the 7,000 pound statue, “Tribute to Children,” in front of about 200 attendees.
The 10-foot statue of a seated Mr. Rogers stands in a new park area between the Del Monte building and Heinz Field under a repurposed pier of the old Manchester Bridge. The pier had been abandoned since 1970. During the 20-month process of transforming the location, workers restored the pier’s sandstone slabs to build a perfect oval arch. A new walkway and patio also surround the statue and arch.
“On behalf of the people of Pittsburgh, this statue will forever be a symbol of a city that’s a wonderful place to live,” Ravenstahl said.
Bill Isler, President and CEO of Family Communictions, Inc., Fred Rogers’s nonprofit production company, thanked the Colcom Foundation who funded the tribute to the nonprofit’s founder.
Before her death in 2005, Colcom founder Cordelia May envisioned a tribute to her friend, Fred Rogers, overlooking the city where he spent much of his life. The statue, by famed sculptor Robert Berks, features a seated Rogers looking out across the Allegheny River toward Downtown.
“There are not many cities that have a place to recognize the importance of children,” said Isler, who thanked Cost Construction, Butler Landscaping and the Astorino architectural firm.
Speaking about architect Lou Astorino’s idea to use the abandoned pier in the design, Onorato said, “That’s what’s so special about this town. We have so many people that have a vision to turn eyesores into something beautiful. He must have been the first person that didn’t want to tear it down.”
Sculptor Robert Berks, known internationally for his statues of John F. Kennedy and Albert Einstein and locally for the statue of Richard Caliguiri in front of the City-County Building, built Rogers’s likeness in upstate New York and shipped it to Pittsburgh last week. He could not be on hand due to illness.
Fred Rogers’s wife Joanne spoke on behalf of the Rogers family and thanked all participating organizations and the mayor for making the concept a reality.
The original Mr. McFeely, Mr. Rogers’s colleague on the television show, also made remarks, and students from the Creative and Performing Arts magnet school sang the theme songs to Mr. Rogers’s Neighborhood.
The monument will be open to the public during daylight hours and will be open at night starting Nov. 20 during Light Up Night.