Glass roof, destroyed in 1937, is restored at Pittsburgh’s historic Phipps Conservatory

Founded in 1893, the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is today considered a green leader among public gardens.

Its stated mission is 1) to inspire and educate all with the beauty and importance of plants; 2) to advance sustainability and promote human and environmental well-being through action and research; and 3) to celebrate its historic glasshouse.

The roof of Phipps Conservatory was lashed by a powerful storm in 1937. The ogee—the distinctive architectural arch molding that formed a crest of glass—was shattered, never to be replaced. Until now.

On October 11, 2018 the multi-year Palm Court renovation reached its final, historic milestone with the installation of the final pane of glass, completing this major restoration.

Pittsburgh Mayor William Peduto joined Phipps President and CEO Richard Piacentini to announce the completion of the Palm Court renovation.

Mayor Peduto declared the month of October 2018 “Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens 125th Anniversary Celebration Month” in a city proclamation, and construction crew members placed the final pane of glass on Palm Court during the dedication ceremony and unveiling.

The Palm Court restoration is part of Phipps’ 125th anniversary commemoration, protecting and sustaining its treasured beauty for generations to come. Palm Court is part of the original nine-room glasshouse established in 1893 and is located at the heart of the conservatory. This architectural gem is the first room that guests experience at Phipps, inspiring them with breathtaking plants, floral displays, special exhibits and renowned collections.

Dedicated architectural and construction teams replaced Palm Court’s wooden ribs with aluminum ribs, meticulously extruded to match the original profile from 1893. They also replaced over 5,000 panes of glass using advanced state-of-the-art glass technology.

Additionally, after over 80 years, Phipps returned the historic ogee crest to the exterior of Palm Court, restoring this crowning architectural feature to the Pittsburgh glasshouse for the first time since 1937.

The term “ogee” describes the distinctive architectural molding and arch curve formation that tops the glasshouse, returning its stunning skyline profile to its original design. Seven aluminum trusses form the ogee, filled in with aluminum ribbing and over 700 panes of glass.

Center for Sustainable Landscapes at Phipps.

Stunning architectural features also include decorative new fleur-de-lis cresting and towering 8-foot tall finials. The ridge fleur-de-lis cresting is a classic, striking element found in Victorian glasshouse architecture, with each distinct shape standing between 2 and 5 feet tall, totaling 90 feet in length atop the ogee.

The renovation process included the addition of new color-changing LED lights which illuminate Palm Court, making Phipps’ upcoming Winter Flower Show and Light Garden the biggest, brightest yet.

Phipps commemorates its 125th anniversary throughout 2018, celebrating its historic past, vibrant present and exciting future ahead — including inspiring seasonal flower shows, community events, public programs and groundbreaking green innovation. Guests can join in the 125th commemoration by sponsoring a restored pane of glass in Palm Court, including those located in the iconic ogee.

All photos courtesy of Paul G. Wiegman / Phipps.

See Phipps website.

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