Historic Home and Gardens

The Frick Pittsburgh is the legacy of Helen Clay Frick, daughter of industrialist Henry Clay Frick and his wife, Adelaide Howard Childs Frick. The family lived at Clayton from 1883 to 1905.

Clayton

A triumph of restoration

The home of the Henry Clay Frick family from 1882–1905, this meticulously restored 22-room mansion features an impressive array of fine and decorative art objects purchased by the Fricks. Docent-led tours of the home provide an inside view of daily life at the turn of the 20th century and a better understanding of Pittsburgh during the Gilded Age.

“Clayton is a triumph of restoration,” wrote Susan Mary Alsop in Architectural Digest. It is also a triumph of preservation.

When the Frick family moved to New York in 1905, after living at Clayton for 22 years, they left much of their Pittsburgh life behind. An astonishing 93% of the artifacts in the house are original, making Clayton a home more than a house, and an eloquent evocation of the lives of the family who lived there. Clayton has welcomed hundreds of thousands of visitors since it was opened to the public in 1990 after a four-year restoration.

Henry Clay Frick and his wife, Adelaide Howard Childs, purchased Clayton in August 1882 for $25,000. At the time, the house was considerably smaller, an 11-room, Italianate-style building on a 1.43-acre parcel of land. The home, which fronted Penn Avenue in the residential neighborhood of Point Breeze, was located just a half-hour by train from Mr. Frick’s downtown office. The couple moved into Clayton early in 1883, and soon had the first of their four children.

Clayton is unmistakably a family home. A high chair sits in the breakfast room, children’s toys and books are in the nursery and library, and a sink and clothes rack built to a child’s scale are nestled in an alcove outside the kitchen.

By 1891, the family and the Fricks’ social stature both had outgrown the home as it was, and architect Frederick J. Osterling was hired to transform Clayton into the 23-room chateau-style mansion seen today.

Clayton Restoration

The restoration of Clayton began soon after Helen Clay Frick’s death in November 1984. The home’s historic significance was assessed in terms of its importance as an example of domestic architecture of the period, its furnishings, and its status as one of the few intact homes from Pittsburgh’s lost “Millionaire’s Row.” Since the home had been the family’s primary residence from 1883-1905, this time period was selected for the restoration and the basis for historic interpretation. With an established budget of $6 million, the staff began to assemble a team of structural engineers, architects, architectural historians and history and decorative arts experts to undertake the project.

The Office of Thierry W. Despont developed the initial planning document and was the supervising architectural firm. Urban Design Associates of Pittsburgh and Peters Building Co. were the local supervising architects and general contractor, respectively. There were numerous specialty subcontractors, most of whom were local to Pittsburgh, who did the roofing, painting, plastering, and restoration of stone and wood details.

Decorative arts consultants from the Preservation Society of Newport and Winterthur examined the interiors and furnishings of Clayton. Their efforts were supported by documentary photographs and invoices, public documentation, and records from vendors who had worked on Clayton through the years, all of which were used to create an interior furnishing plan.
The physical work was begun in February 1989 and completed in October of the same year.

Greenhouse and Gardens

A Family Estate

The path that winds through the Frick’s 5.5-acre site is lined with lush gardens and a diverse selection of trees. Our active greenhouse is a renovation and partial reconstruction of one that served the Frick family from 1897 through the 1970s. The original greenhouse, designed by architects Alden & Harlow, was used to grow flowers and tropical plants for Clayton year-round, as well as annuals from seed for outdoor beds, vegetables, and mushrooms.

In the late 19th century, greenhouses and conservatories were common additions to the homes or estates of wealthy families. The Fricks’ greenhouse supplied them with year-round fresh flowers and seedlings for their gardens. The Frick family built their first greenhouse between August 1882 and June 1883.

In 1897, the Fricks replaced their original greenhouse with one built by Alden & Harlow, an architecture firm based in Pittsburgh and Boston, and the firm employed by Andrew Carnegie to design Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Library and Museum complex.

The greenhouse that exists today was rebuilt based on the 1897 Alden & Harlow structure. Through the Frick’s partnership with Grow Pittsburgh, a community group that promotes sustainable agriculture, a wide variety of vegetable and flowers are grown. Many are used to prepare foods in the Café.

Designed by Pittsburgh architects Pratt, Schafer & Slowik, the Italian Renaissance-style Frick Art Museum houses the collection of Helen Clay Frick, founder of the Frick Art & Historical Center. The museum displays work collected by Miss Frick, which features French 18th-century painting and decorative arts, and early Italian Renaissance painting, as well as special touring exhibitions.

The Frick Art Museum was opened in 1970 to house Helen Clay Frick’s personal collection of fine and decorative arts, which has particularly outstanding examples of early-Renaissance Sienese painting, and 18th-century French painting, furniture, and decorative arts. The Museum was designed to exhibit the collection in an atmosphere of intimacy.

Highlights of the permanent collection include a portrait by Rubens, a pastoral scene by Boucher, and Italian panel paintings by Giovanni di Paolo and Sassetta.

The museum also hosts an ongoing schedule of traveling exhibitions and related lectures, tours
and workshops.

After the turn of the 20th century, the development of the automobile profoundly changed American life. In the Car and Carriage Museum, visitors can travel back to the time of carriages, see some of the first horseless carriages to have an impact on Pittsburgh and learn about Pittsburgh’s role in the developing automobile industry.

The Car and Carriage Museum houses the Frick’s collection of historic carriages and automobiles dating back to the turn of the 20th century. Recent expansion and renovation initiatives provide for added space, higher ceilings and better lighting to improve your visitor experience.

Henry Clay Frick’s 1914 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost touring car and Howard Heinz’s 1898 Panhard (reputed to be the first car in Pittsburgh) are both on view, as part of a selection of historic vehicles that illustrate the story of how the automobile transformed early-20th-century life.

Designed by the architectural firm Alden & Harlow in 1897, the Playhouse was a center of activity for the Frick children when the Fricks lived at Clayton. Family photographs show many children gathered here for parties and events. Original amenities included furniture built to the smaller scale of the rooms, a bowling alley and a darkroom for Childs Frick’s pursuit of photography.

Today, staff offices are housed in the Playhouse, and it is not accessible to visitors.

The Education Center is the hub of what the Frick is all about. Three spacious classrooms serve a multitude of program participants, from school groups to seniors. This dedicated learning space at the heart of the Frick campus is equipped with technologies that enhance the Frick’s high-quality, artifact-based programs. 

The 1,000-square-foot Community Room is the perfect location for your next small event or business meeting. Amenities of the Center, which also encompasses a 600-square-foot terrace, include a high definition projector, A/V technology inputs for presentations and hearing-assisted technology, and a catering prep kitchen allows for food preparation, storage and service.