Places We Love: The Car and Carriage Museum at The Frick Pittsburgh

There may be no better way to imagine the lived experience of the fashionable Frick family than to inspect the details of the vehicles that took them around town.

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These aren’t artifacts; they’re possessions.

When you walk into the bright Car and Carriage Museum at The Frick Pittsburgh, the well-preserved conveyances (many of which belonged to the Frick family) could be mistaken for movie props. They’re beautifully maintained, of course, but the shape and look of them is fully antiquated; they’re as different from the car you arrived in as a lapdog is from a wolf.

Cars2Yet as you approach and really look at these vehicles, you begin to notice details that time cannot remove: The wear on a step or the looseness of a fragile handle. Suddenly, you can imagine yourself turning that handle, stepping up and ducking in, the enormous gas lamp illuminating the small compartment. You begin to have a sense of how it would feel (charming, if rickety) to ride around town in these antiques.

Img 3792Until you encounter something that doesn’t seem like it could ever have been practical — take the basket phaeton from 1903, a carriage that looks like an exceptionally large wicker basket.

The collection contains some of the first automobiles ever used in Pittsburgh, as well as some of the finest, such as the breathtaking Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost — an extravagance in Frick’s time at a cost of $4,800 (around $125,000 today).

Cars1As expensive as these vehicles may be, viewing them won’t cost you a dime. Much of The Frick Pittsburgh in Point Breeze is free and open to the public, including the permanent art collection, the grounds and the Car and Carriage Museum. (Tours of Clayton, the Frick family home, as well as some special exhibitions, cost extra. Clayton tours are set to resume this summer.)

Henry Frick himself may have bristled at the public inspecting his luxury carriages anytime they liked, but don’t let that stop you — the ability to enjoy this cultural treasure, free of charge, is a gift to the city.

The Frick Pittsburgh

Insider’s Tip
Also free at the Frick: The lush and lovely greenhouse, near Clayton. It’s easy to miss, but should be included on any visit.

While You’re Here
Why leave for lunch? Pretend you’re a robber baron and enjoy a meal on the grounds. The Cafe at the Frick is open 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Thursday-Sunday.

Categories: Places We Love, Things To Do