The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for May 8th, 2023

Phipps Conservatory

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

A recent Sunday saw Our Lady of the Pentacle and myself heading into Pittsburgh’s Oakland section for a visit to the Phipps Conservatory. The business partner of Andrew Carnegie, Henry Phipps Jr. – like many of the so called ‘Robber Barons’ of the late 19th century – decided to get philanthropic in his later years, and it had absolutely nothing to do with a guilty conscience because of their decision allowing the use of heavily armed troops to break Union strikes, and massacre the laborers. It was out of the goodness of their hearts, bless ‘em.

In 1893, Phipps endowed a conservatory and botanic garden as a gift to the city whose laboring masses had made him rich beyond the dreams of avarice. Hmm… 1892 – Homestead Strike and Massacre, 1893 – flowers and gifts to the public…

The Phipps Conservatory is found nearby the entrance of an enormous park that serves this section of Pittsburgh as a green space and playing field for a variety of sports and other outdoor activities. Botany ain’t really my bag, but Our Lady wanted to check this one out and part of getting to know a City involves visiting its cultural institutions, so…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The place is set up along a thematic scheme, with wings and sections devoted to various ecosystem biota. There’s a spectacular section right when you enter which sports Hawaiian and other Southeast Asian plantings, a tropical room which felt like I had stepped directly into late July, and a lot of flowering plants.

There was a desert room filled with cacti which appealed to me, pictured above. Glass sculptures are prominently displayed throughout, which are the work of Dale Chihuly. There’s one of his pieces in the shot above, and there’s an incredible example of his work displayed at the entryway to Phipps.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The conservatory was very well attended, I would mention. Lovely place, and if you find yourself in Pittsburgh it’s definitely worth your attention. Me? I shot a few macros of flowers which I passed by and waved the camera about a bit, but this sort of thing doesn’t light me up. I like sewer plants, bridges, and things that go ‘Choo choo.’

Our Lady, on the other hand, was absolutely electrified.

Back tomorrow.

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In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 8, 2023 at 11:00 am

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