Highland Park Aug01

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Highland Park

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Most people would agree that the Pittsburgh Zoo is one of the city’s greatest amenities. But what most people probably  don’t realize when they go to ogle polar bears and sharks is that another jewel of the city sits just up the hill from the zoo, Highland Park.

In 1879, the city built Pittsburgh’s first reservoir in a patch of public land surrounded by green hills and shady trees. The site soon became a gathering place for Pittsburghers drawn to its beauty and the wonder of the large reservoir, compelling the city to officially create Highland Park ten years later. Around the turn of the century, a beautiful Victorian garden was constructed and majestic sculptures by Giuseppe Moretti were erected at the park’s entryway. (Moretti is also responsible for creating the Stephen Foster statue in Schenley Park and the marble panther statues on the Panther Hollow Bridge. You’ve seen them during commercial breaks on televised Panters games.) For decades since, East Enders have been enjoying this historical park’s beauty and unique features.

One of those uniquely Pittsburgh things is going to Highland Park to walk around the reservoir. It has become such a strong tradition in the East End that when state regulations were enacted in the 1990’s requiring open air reservoirs to be covered or the water to be specially treated to kill parasites, community pressure led to the water authority constructing a special filtration plant next to the reservoir instead of the more economical option of covering it to maintain the aesthetics of the gently rippling water. In addition, a “babbling brook” was created to naturally dechlorinate and clean the waste water from the filtration plant by aerating the water over rocks. Pretty innovative for the “Smokey City.”

The park is home to a bunch of unique things. A nearly 200 year old farmhouse originally owned by Pittsburgh’s infamous Negley family sits on the property. There’s also Lake Carnegie, the creation of which was financed in part by Andrew himself in the late 1800’s. There’s walking trails, biking trails, a huge and truly unique wooden playground (my son loves it), a swimming pool and of course, groves to hold those special family picnics.

The next time you go to the zoo, save time to drive up the hill, admire the beauty of the Victorian garden and explore Highland Park. It’s a national landmark, chock full of history and tradition. Or if you make your way to one of the new great restaurants in the neighborhood of Highland Park, stop by and take a walk around the reservoir. Walking around the Highland Park reservoir is as uniquely “Pittsburgh” as a Primanti’s sandwich or taking your best girl to Mt. Washington on your first date.

Find more information on Highland Park here: Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy

Highland Park, 4.3 out of 5 based on 4 ratings