Frick Art & Historical Center

Pittsburgh Travel Blog

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Carriage House

            Each summer I travel back to my parents in Ohio for about two weeks at the end of July/beginning of August for family birthdays and the county fair in my hometown.  While I love my family, there’s not always a lot going on in my small town.  So when my dad suggested a day trip to Clayton (my family has a tendency to visit historic homes), I was definitely interested.  When my sister decided to join us, I was even more excited.  Since moving an hour away, Megan doesn’t always come along for family outings.

            We picked Megan up at her townhouse (after saying a quick hi to her two kittens who promptly went into hiding) and then Dad drove us to and through Pittsburgh, late enough to avoid rush hour traffic in the Three River City.

Greenhouse
  We followed the directions along the city streets until the house popped up on our left.  A series of turns led to a parking lot next to the art museum.

            We started our visit in the Car and Carriage Museum which was located in—take a guess!—the estate’s former carriage house (I know, big surprise ;)  The building has been expanded to accommodate the collection’s growth.  One wing has mainly engineless modes of transportation ranging from carriages to bicycles while the other wing focuses on cars, many once belonging to the Frick family.  My mom’s dad owned a garage for many, many years so my mother grew up around cars and therefore is interested in older vehicles.  My sister and I weren’t quite as involved as our parents but thanks to the family history, we did recognize several famous brand names.  Examples of some cars in the collection include an 1881 Brougham, a 1914 Ford Model T Touring Car, a 1914 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost Touring Car, and a 1940 American Bantam Convertible Coupe.

  I also enjoyed looking at the additional facts posted on the walls such as one that showed the number of car producers in various states.

            Our official tour started in the Playhouse.  When I was young, my dad and his best friend built me a playhouse: a freestanding treehouse with railings around the sides and a little shingled roof, a slide and a set of monkey bars providing alternative exits to the steps.  The Frick children had a playhouse larger than the house I rented a few years ago.  Here, Helen and Childs had their own space where the scent of tea and delicacies filled the front room from Helen’s entertainment of friends and the second floor echoed with as Childs practiced with the Clayton Cadets, a military group composed of Childs’s school friends.  Today the Playhouse functions as a gift shop, tour meeting point, and offices.  The gift shop stills hints at the building’s original purpose; a portion of the floor is glass to reveal the bowling alley lane beneath the boards.

            After the group had met in a front room of the Playhouse, our tour guide filled us in a little bit of family history.

Presidential decorations
  Clayton is one of the few remaining homes from “Millionaire Row.”  With a fortune from the steel industry (was a partner of Andrew Carnegie), Henry Clay Frick wanted a home befitting his important place in Pittsburgh.  Thus the original 11-room house “Homewood” would undergo a major transformation into the current structure named “Clayton.”  Interestingly, while the family moved to New York City thirty years later, they never sold the home and it would be used intermittently over the next seventy-five years.  In 1981 the oldest daughter Helen Clay Frick returned to Clayton where she died three years later.  Following her wishes, the house was restored to its turn-of-the-century look and opened to the public.

            We started our tour in the kitchen which had a whole separate (although small) room that functioned as an icebox.  We went through a dining room, bedrooms, bathroom, library, sitting room, sunroom.  Since photographs are not allowed indoors, it is harder for me to write details about the inside of the house but even now six months later, the elegance and opulence stands out in my mind.

  • An inside door with a stained glass window
  • Elaborate wallpaper in a red-toned sitting room
  • Busts in the library
  • A relaxed family room upstairs with specially designed windows
  • An automatic music machine on the porch (originally open to the outside but now enclosed to protect the instrument)

After leaving the house, we swung through the Greenhouse which was pretty basic.  Although it was lunch time, we opted not to eat at the on-site café.  Instead we visited the art museum for about a half hour before heading out for lunch and eventually home.

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Carriage House
Carriage House
Playhouse
Playhouse
Greenhouse
Greenhouse
Presidential decorations
Presidential decorations
Pittsburgh
photo by: diisha392