A landmark on the National Register of Historic Places, the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens were founded in 1893 by steel and real-estate magnate Henry Phipps as a gift to the city of Pittsburgh. Set in the expansive Schenley Park near Carnegie Mellon University, its purpose was to entertain and educate people with formal gardens and collections of exotic plants that were a rare sight in North America. Today it is one of Pittsburgh’s premier attractions for visitors and locals alike.
The conservatory has undergone several expansions over the years, and currently consists of fourteen separate rooms and multiple adjoining gardens, as well being the home for the Center for Sustainable Landscapes. Showcasing sophisticated glass and metalwork, Phipps is a prime example of Victorian greenhouse architecture that was popular with conservatories at the time.
Several of the rooms feature different themes every three years, and on our recent visit the masterpieces of Vincent Van Gogh served as inspiration for many of the special exhibits. Phipps has also teamed with renowned glass artist Dale Chihuly for installations of hand-blown glass throughout the conservatory. We last encountered Chihuly’s work at the Cornell Museum of Glass in upstate New York on a previous road trip.