Notable fountains outside Downtown Pittsburgh

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Allegheny Cemetery



DETAILS: This is surely one of the oldest fountains in the city, though it's been rebuilt since it was first christened.

In 1872, the fountain -- an ornate cast-iron centerpiece anchored by a concrete basin -- was built near the Butler Street entrance of Allegheny Cemetery. Over the following century, it fell into disrepair, the water was shut off and the basin was filled with dirt and used as a planter.

But in September 1982, the restored fountain was rededicated by then-Mayor Richard Caliguiri and the Allegheny Cemetery Historical Association. A Post-Gazette article from that year said "the new fountain, designed by Imperial Bronzelite of San Marcos, Texas, features a series of pulsating, high-pressure brass jets to pump water 20 feet high at a rate of 335 gallons a minute." The cast-iron corner vases from the original fountain were salvaged and used in the new version, but the old cast-iron centerpiece had been destroyed.

The fountain, and several other cemetery improvements, cost about $1 million.

Water Steps and Canal Square

North Shore


DETAILS: The Water Steps built just west of PNC Park have become a popular oasis for walkers, runners, cyclists and children and adults alike who love to play in the water that tumbles amid its 500 blocks of sandstone and shallow pools.

Part of the $33.2 million first phase of the riverfront development, the fountain is designed for water play, a cool soak or just a restful respite for whose who perch themselves atop the blocks -- cut from a Butler County quarry -- to soak up the sun.

"If this is anything like other fountains we've designed, families will come with kids in their bathing suits and they'll stay all day," said landscape architect Dennis Carmichael with EDAW, the park's designer, at the time the fountain was dedicated in September 2001. That indeed has happened.

The water first spills over a 4-foot waterfall before cascading down the stones and recycling back to the top of the waterfall. At night, lights set in the stones shine up through the water steps.

In 2007, the area called Canal Square was completed, which connects North Shore Drive with the Esplanade. It includes a canal with a reflecting pool -- drawn from the same water source as the steps -- that re-creates the form and location of an historic canal of the 19th century.

Waltzing Waters

Bessemer Court, Station Square


DETAILS: It's not close to the huge scale of the world-famous Bellagio fountain in Vegas, but the Waltzing Waters is probably the closest thing to it in Pittsburgh.

This long canal filled with pipes and 800 nozzles shoots water up to 40 feet high that spurts, sways and dances to music -- leaving children and adults squealing with delight. It opened in July 2002, as part of the $25 million Bessemer Court project.

The fountain presents its Liquid Fireworks show every 20 minutes daily from 9 a.m. to midnight, from late April to the Friday before Thanksgiving. There are more than a dozen music shows -- from Frank Sinatra, Abba and Diva Disco, to Great Film Themes, TV Themes and Pittsburgh's own Christina Aguilera.

Mary E. Schenley Memorial Fountain

Schenley Drive, Oakland


DETAILS: Designed by Lithuanian immigrant Victor David Brenner, the fountain just outside the Frick Fine Arts Building, features a bronze sculpture called "A Song to Nature."

The public donated $50,000 for the statue and the City of Pittsburgh matched that amount. In a 1975 article, then-Post-Gazette art critic Donald Miller noted that Brenner's work was on a par with that of Daniel Chester French, who designed the George Westinghouse Memorial Fountain in Schenley Park and the sculptures in the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Every minute, 20 gallons of water flow through the fountain, which honors Mary Schenley, the heiress who gave the land for Schenley Park. In the spring of 2008, the fountain's water supply failed. Phil Gruszka, director of parks management and maintenance for the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, and a foreman descended into a manhole where they found that the fountain's water supply line had burst.

The line was repaired with public and private funds, and other improvements have been made at a cost of $500,000.

The statue was cleaned and given a hot wax finish, walkways were narrowed to provide more green space, and lighting was enhanced, Mr. Gruszka said.

The fountain was rededicated on Oct. 16, 2008.


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