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Above: Volunteers plant flowers in the garden recognizing artist Mary Cassatt. (Photo by Kelsey Shea)
The Allegheny West birthplace of famous Allegheny City-born artist Mary Cassatt got a makeover this week.
Cassatt was the daughter of Allegheny City’s fifth mayor Robert Simpson Cassatt before she later went on to become the first American woman to paint in the French impressionist style. Some of her paintings are currently on display in the Carnegie Museum of Art’s “Impressionism from a New Light” exhibit.
Over 150 years later, the former site of her old home along Allegheny Avenue between Reedsdale Street and Ridge Avenue is the now a median near the entrance ramp to I-279 and I-376.
But in recent years, due to hard work on the part of the Allegheny City Society, and more recently PennDOT, GTECH, the City’s Forestry Division, Tree Tenders and a group of volunteers from Alcoa, the site is now the Mary Cassatt Garden, which volunteers refurbished on Tuesday.
“It means so much to the Allegheny City Society. We call her ‘Pittsburgh’s Steel Rose,’” said Dr. Jean Binstock who organized the project. “She was an extraordinary person.”
In addition to cleaning up the garden and mulching the ground, volunteers also planted a new hybrid of Canna flowers that were hybridized by Alice Harris at the Harris-Karchesky Canna Farm in Washington County and named Mary Cassatts.
Binstock organized the project as part of GTECH’s green ambassador program on the Northside.
This year Binstock, an Allegheny West resident and Allegheny City Society member, was chosen as a Green Ambassador and Apprentice for her neighborhood as part of GTECH’s green ambassador program.
GTECH Strategies, a Pittsburgh-based nonprofit, recruited community leaders from 13 Northside neighborhoods to act green organizers in a leadership development program they kicked off early this year.
Neighborhood leaders are paid a small stipend to continue GTECH’s green initiatives and create some of their own in areas they identify as needing improvements.
GTECH provides four months of leadership training to give the apprentices like Binstock the skills and preparation they need to engage the neighborhood and complete relevant projects.
The garden was originally planted 2007 when the Allegheny City Society was celebrating the 170th anniversary of the famed impressionist artist Mary Cassatt’s birth in Allegheny City.
Like many of Cassatt’s impressionist paintings, the Northside garden was to be seen from a distance as a gateway entrance from the North Shore to three historic communities on the Northside – the Central Northside, Manchester and Allegheny West, which is why GTECH recently targeted the spot as a viable neighborhood project.
Since 2007 when the garden was originally planted, it’s faced maintenance problems and fell into poor condition.
Binstock said as well as the recent clean up and planting project, her job with GTECH is to tackle the challenge of ongoing garden maintenance, and she hopes to install some sort of signage that identifies the spot as both a historical landmark and a gateway to the historic neighborhoods.
“I picked this project out months and months ago, before I knew we’d be getting all of this beautiful help,” said Binstock.