Historic Home and Gardens
A triumph of restoration
“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.
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
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.