Allegheny Land Trust effort keeps Pittsburgh Cut Flower Co.'s memory alive
Brian and Nancy Newhouse of Richland never met Fred Burki, the late Swiss immigrant who established Pittsburgh Cut Flower Co.
They know all about Burki, however, after buying Burki's former home at North Montour and Bakerstown roads, and then digging into his flower firm's history.
Burki's flower company operated from 1884 to 1991 on 242 adjacent acres. Allegheny Land Trust, a nonprofit group, now hopes to buy 180 remaining acres of the original property for $1.4 million — in grants and donations — for recreational use and limited economic development.
Brian Newhouse — former curator of the George Westinghouse Museum in Wilmerding — will present more than 25 displays of Pittsburgh Cut Flower Co. artifacts and photos at 1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 9, in Northern Tier Regional Library, 4015 Dickey Road. Walk-ins are welcome. Refreshments will be served.
The Allegheny Land Trust also will seek suggestions during the event for future use of the former Pittsburgh Cut Flowers Co. property on Bakerstown Road.
“I'm glad to see they're getting public input on how people would like the land to be used,” said Dustin Shilling, director of Northern Tier Regional Library.
Already on display at the library is a 7-foot colored engraving of the former flower company's picturesque acreage as viewed in 1913 from Burki's home.
“It's like a cross between a painting and a photograph,” said Brian Newhouse.
The picture used to hang in the Pittsburgh Cut Flower Co. packing house.
Newhouse found dead insects behind the glass in the picture's original frame after he obtained the work from Valencia Historical Society and gently cleaned it with soft, dry tissue.
Other artifacts he collected include stilts once used by Pittsburgh Cut Flower Co. workers to reach up and repair storm-damaged glass panes in the greenhouses.
After moving into Burki's homestead, Brian Newhouse began gathering such keepsakes “just to explore the meaning of what we were living in, as well as everything over the hill,” he said.
The Newhouses' property overlooks more than 100 acres that once yielded a reported 2.5 million roses a year.
The couple also live near the string of crumbling, vandalized greenhouses that passing motorists now view as an eyesore.
“It's in its saddest state ever,” said Brian Newhouse, a mechanical engineer by profession.
Newhouse said his drive to learn about Pittsburgh Cut Flowers Co. “caused me to just start making phone calls,” he said. “I never saw it operating.
“I'm the third owner (of Burki's home) since the estate had been liquidated,” he said. “My wife and I own it now. We bought it from her sister-in-law, who had lived there for 12 years.”
Burki's last direct male descendant, son Albert Burki, died in 1982, Brian Newhouse said.
“When I started to learn their stories, I knew I had to tell their stories,” he said.
“There are many nights that I dream about what went on over the hill,” he said. “My goal is tell everyone of the history, so that everyone will have a future dream about what occurred there ... It is time to grow something there again.”
Deborah Deasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6369 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.