“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 six-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.