Photo courtesy of PPC
Architectural rendering of planned North Allegheny Commons fountain restoration.

By Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy

The founders of Pittsburgh’s public parks understood well the value of fountains to the urban experience. With their sprays and splashes of sparkling water, fountains delight the senses and provide a respite from the harsher sounds and sights of the built environment. They bring together friends, family, and strangers, and serve as a point of entry into the larger park landscape. Once, four large ornamental fountains drew people from all walks of life to enjoy Allegheny Commons park on Pittsburgh’s North Side. Over the years, as City budgets became more constrained, all of the fountains were filled in. The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy is working in partnership with the Allegheny Commons Initiative and the Northside Leadership Conference to bring the fountain in the North Commons at the corner of Cedar and North Avenues back to life. This prominent corner faces Allegheny General Hospital, Pittsburgh King K-8 School, and is near the Garden Theater Block Redevelopment, a multi-million dollar commercial/ residential project. The Allegheny Commons Fountain restoration is part of a long-range master plan to restore Pittsburgh’s oldest park and to spur continued revitalization of the Northside community.

The project, comprising approximately one city block, includes reconstruction of the historic fountain and surrounding gardens, as well as installation of new pathways and signage, benches, lighting, and other amenities. When completed, the Allegheny Commons Fountain project will transform this highly-visible corner into a greenspace overflowing with vitality and promise. Allegheny Commons was designed in 1867 for what was then the City of Allegheny, becoming Pittsburgh’s Northside by annexation in 1907. The creation of the park reflected the 19th-century movement to beautify American cities and improve urban living conditions. Designed by the New York firm of Mitchell & Grant, the plan for Allegheny Commons included more than 60 acres of broad lawns, tree-lined paths, fountains and benches, a picturesque lake, monuments, and ornamental flowerbeds. Although Allegheny Commons fell into disrepair over the years, its green spaces, fresh air, and recreational opportunities still keep it vital. The 17,000 residents of the ethnically, racially and economically diverse neighborhoods that surround the park consider it their green front yard.

In 2002, a master plan was completed by renowned historic landscape architecture firm, Pressley Associates of Cambridge Massachusetts to guide the preservation, restoration, rehabilitation, reconstruction, and maintenance of the park. The plan recommends reconstructing the fountain in the North Commons to its original 1868 design: a 50-foot circular stone basin, with a one-foot rim of heavy cut stone. At its center sits a large Grecian vase, with a principal jet 70 feet high and 16 smaller jets around the inside of the basin. Four ornamental beds of shrubs, herbaceous perennials, and bulbs hug the fountain’s stone rim. The landscape plan rehabilitates the lawn and restores the magnificent tree canopy with historic trees as well as trees that are resistant to weather and disease. The project also improves aspects of the park which are in disrepair and discourage public use: restored and new pathways, new lighting, signage, and benches will increase use, security, and safety. The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy is overseeing fundraising, project design, and construction management for the Allegheny Commons Fountain Restoration project. Over the past 20 years, the Conservancy has spearheaded more than nearly $100 million in capital improvements for Pittsburgh’s four major parks, as well as projects in neighborhood parks across the City. The Parks Conservancy is working closely with the Allegheny Commons Initiative as the community’s voice and advocate for the Allegheny Commons, along with the NSLC to fully engage business and institutional community stakeholders. Project design is completed and the bid process for construction is expected to begin in 2017. Construction will begin once sufficient funding is in place for all construction expenses. The $2.5 million project goal includes a maintenance fund of $750,000 to ensure that improvements to the area will be supported into the future. For more information about the project and ways to get involved, please contact Kathleen Gaines, Senior Development Manager, at 412-682-7275, ext. 213, or kgaines@pittsburghparks.org.

Park on Tap will be held on Friday, March 10, from 7:00 to 9:00 pm at the home of Dorna and Todd Palcic, located in the Mexican War Streets. Park on Tap features brews from Allegheny City Brewing and War Streets Brewery, with music by Brewer’s Row. Tickets are $75 per person. For more information, or to purchase your tickets, visit the Park on Tap Event Page.

 

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