E.V. Babcock-The Father of Allegheny County Parks / Creation - Ecology - Culture

E.V. Babcock-The Father of Allegheny County Parks / Creation - Ecology - Culture (HM25JK)

Location: McCandless, PA 15101 Allegheny County
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Country: United States of America
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N 40° 36.3', W 80° 0.433'

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Side A
E.V. Babcock - The Father of Allegheny County Parks
We have E.V. Babcock to thank for starting Allegheny County's remarkable park system. Edward Vose Babcock (1864-1948) was born and raised on a farm near Fulton, New York. He set out at age 21 to work in the lumber trade and by 1889 had started his own company in Pittsburgh. In time, Babcock and his brothers Fred and Oscar grew Babcock Lumber Company into one of the nation's largest lumber firms. E.V.'s civic service began when he was appointed councilman for the City of Pittsburgh by Governor John K. Tener in 1911, Babcock was elected 45th mayor of Pittsburgh in 1918. As mayor, he built many playgrounds, provided free transportation within parks and appointed the first woman to lead the Bureau of Public Recreation.

In 1925, Babcock was elected Allegheny County Commissioner. He wanted to preserve large areas of rural land from suburban growth and to meet future needs for recreation. In the 1920s, much of Allegheny County was still farmland, and most residents just had to step out their door to go hiking. Yet Babcock followed his dream, personally buying two huge tracts of land, totaling around 4,000 acres. He sold the land to the county at cost to create North and South Parks. And despite mocking the idea at first, the public quickly came to

E.V. Babcock in 1927, surveying the farm fields that would eventually become North Park.
Photo Credit: North Allegheny History Museum

love the "people's country clubs," and the County soon acquired another 500 acres. North and South Parks provided the foundation for the county-wide system, which expanded to a total of nine parks and over 12,000 acres from 1958 to 1979.

Side B
County Commissioner E.V. Babcock required an equally visionary individual to design and build the large parks that would preserve precious natural resources for future generations.

Babcock hired Paul B. Riis, a nationally prominent landscape architect, as the first director of the new Allegheny County Bureau of Parks in 1927. Riis laid the groundwork for North and South Parks, including major landscaping and road systems. He was inspired by the "Prairie Style" of landscape architect Jens Jensen, which used native plants and materials to construct naturalistic landscapes.

The hallmark of Riis's design included familiar features of the Western Pennsylvania landscape. He used layered stones, a rich palette of native plants, and winding waterways to define the park's character and create spaces "suitable for human play." Riis worked for six years to develop the North Park Lake and Boathouse as the park's signature features as well as park roads, trails, picnic groves, sports fields, pool, and golf course.

In 1932, new County Commissioners hired architect Henry Hornbostel,

The North Park Lake Boathouse, designed by Henry Hornbostel and built in the mid-1930s.
Photo Credit: Detre Library and Archives, Heinz History Center

who had designed many of Pittsburgh's greatest buildings, as Bureau of Parks director. Thanks to his leadership, North Park was completed during the Great Depression using New Deal programs. In 1933, he established a Civilian Conservation Corps camp in the park housing 200 men to carry out his plan.

"The native landscape of Western Pennsylvania has a charm all its own, comparable with the best in the country, consistently and sincerely appealing. North and South Parks are typical examples of this priceless heritage, notwithstanding agricultural exploitation. Since that period has passed into history, restoration to its former glory is not an idle dream. It is within the province of intelligent treatment and patience."

It can be a surprise to learn that the 3,075-acre North Park is not just a nature preserve; it is a designed landscape. Almost all of the evergreen and hardwood trees in today's parks were planted in the late 1920s and early 1930s, along with nut and fruit trees and shrubs. Its streams flow the 65-acre North Park Lake into Pine Run, which joins the Allegheny River. The varied terrain contains high-quality woodlands and diverse habitats, notably in the Hemlock Grove and Rocky Dell areas. Many trees in the park are over 200 years old, including white oak, sycamore,

and catalpa. The Latodami Grasslands is a habitat restoration area that features blanket flower and wild bergamot, and teems with birds like the American goldfinch and bobolink. Other creatures in the park include salamander, northern spring peeper and midland painted turtle.

These resources are preserved and revealed through the programs of the 250-acre Latodami Nature Center. Based on a circa-1914 former dairy barn, the Center offers year-round programs, supported by displays and artifacts that reflect the region's natural environment. Special featured include bluebird/tree swallow trails, honeybee hives, wetlands, butterfly/hummingbird gardens and an orienteering/compass course.

North Park is richly endowed with sites of historical and archaeological importance. The North Park Swimming Pool was one of the nation's largest when it was built, and the Bathhouse is an architectural gem. Other historic notables are the Golf Clubhouse, several stone bridges, North Park Lodge and Observation Tower and a number of barns that were converted into dance halls.

Today, the character of North Park is a blend of the naturalistic designs of Riis and the grand plans of Hornbostel, along with decades of additions. A notable one is the Flag Retirement Plaza, incorporated into the 80th Division Monument and Garden along Babcock Boulevard.


can enjoy a wide range of experiences, from kayaking and fishing to golfing on an 18-hole course, from lively play on the sports fields and courts to tranquil wooded trails. Each generation has brought a unique vision to the parks, and their legacies can still be read in these treasured landscapes.
HM NumberHM25JK
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Sunday, February 18th, 2018 at 4:01pm PST -08:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)17T E 583991 N 4495383
Decimal Degrees40.60500000, -80.00721667
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 40° 36.3', W 80° 0.433'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds40° 36' 18" N, 80° 0' 25.98" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Area Code(s)412, 724
Closest Postal AddressAt or near 991 Tennis Ct Rd, McCandless PA 15101, US
Alternative Maps Google Maps, MapQuest, Bing Maps, Yahoo Maps, MSR Maps, OpenCycleMap, MyTopo Maps, OpenStreetMap

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