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Dick Scaife found peace in the beauty of his childhood home, Penguin Court

Remembering Richard Scaife

“As soon as we sat down and met for the first time, we found we genuinely liked and respected each other and had a shared love and zeal for Pittsburgh.

Dick was a fascinating man; he was a tough guy with a big heart, and a very bold thinker when it came to developing and improving Pittsburgh. People who don't know him will think of him as a great contributor to the arts, and his daring and ultimately very successful decision to start a newspaper in a competitive market, but what they miss is his passionate mark in the development of the city of Pittsburgh.

He took a rundown freight house, a grand rail station that hadn't seen a good day in decades, some shacks and a yard of rail tracks, and made the calculation that entertainment and retail development along the river would not only bring people into the city, it would spur others to make that same type of development up and down the rivers.

By God, he was right —there was born Station Square. And he made that decision when Pittsburgh was in the depths of unemployment that was nearing 20 percent, and unsure of its future. He was a visionary, and others followed his lead.

He always wanted Pittsburgh to look forward; it was a discussion we had over and over again during our visits, and we talked about how to do that. But he also had an encyclopedic knowledge of names, dates, people and places — great men who came before them and what they did to contribute to the betterment of the city.

I will miss my afternoon visits with him. I learned so much from our talks — like how to remember the mistakes of the past, understand the importance of risk and bold decisions in city planning, while always having an eye on historical preservation.

Take a walk in the city of Pittsburgh. You will be hard-pressed to walk a block and not find a place where he and his family have not had a positive impact, yet he was too humble to ever brag about it. He always felt that it was the right thing to do.”

— Jim Rohr, former chairman and CEO, PNC Financial Services Group

“My friendship and professional association with Mr. Scaife goes back to 1968 when, during the turbulent '60s, my centers, Manchester Craftsmen's Guild and Bidwell Training Center, were formed under impossible social and economic conditions. Mr. Scaife not only offered financial support during our early years but, perhaps more importantly, he made it clear to me and many others that he felt that I had leadership potential and would become a leader in the field of social enterprise.

Dick Scaife is and was a man of depth, bulldog determination, and a person capable of reaching far beyond his economic circumstances, heritage and background to reach a person from a very different economic and social circumstance. (We) learned from each other, and developed a strong bond based on leadership principles valuable in life and business.”

— Bill Strickland, founder, Manchester Bidwell Corp.

“Mr. Scaife carried on his family's tradition of philanthropy to the arts in myriad ways that leave our arts institutions in much better stead.

With his forebears' gusto, themselves forming the basis of the National Gallery of Art in Washington and the Yale Center for British Art in New Haven, Mr. Scaife greatly augmented the Carnegie Museum of Art here in Pittsburgh through his many notable gifts, both financial and in the form of spectacular artworks, including several works by Andy Warhol, who Mr. Scaife knew and respected.

Perhaps most important was his commissioning of two portraits of Pittsburgh scion Andrew Carnegie, which Warhol completed in 1981, for the Carnegie and which now hang in the museum's lobby cafe.

Philanthropy to the arts was one of Mr. Scaife's great passions in life, and we can thank him for ensuring that beauty, critical thinking and open dialogue are enabled and encouraged in our nation's arts institutions, and beyond.”

— Eric Shiner, director, Andy Warhol Museum

“My feeling is that you have to get to know a person before you paint their portrait. So before I painted his, he had me over to his home in Pittsburgh for a day. There was a lot of planning, a lot of sketching, and just some great conversation.

Although I didn't know him, he was very personable, very outgoing, and we became very much engaged on two subjects of interest to me – history and art.

We talked about the project I was working on at the time; we got to talking about portraits. He liked the power and effectiveness of them. I recall us talking about our mutual interest in the French and Indian War period, the forts at the fork of the rivers around that time. He struck me as being very knowledgeable on historical matters.

I think that during the day, I got to know his personality. What I came up with, I thought, was very much him — actually not very formal, him looking off into the distance, looking to that next step, looking to the future.”

— Chas Fagan, artist

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Saturday, July 5, 2014, 9:47 p.m.
 

No matter how distant the locales he traveled, Dick Scaife kept returning to the comfort of his tranquil childhood surroundings.

Nestled in the heart of the Ligonier Valley, Penguin Court wasn't just the place where Scaife was raised. To him, it was the place with the irresistible pull, the place where his hands could work the soil, the place where he indulged his lifelong love of flowers.

“Flowers really were his passion,” said Kevin Guerrier, Penguin Court's horticulturalist since 1993. “When he'd come to Ligonier on Friday for the weekend, he'd see the fresh-cut flowers there and ask if they came out of the soil on his property. When you told him they did, he smiled like a little boy. That warmed his heart.”

Penguin Court was a sprawling mansion where notables such as Time magazine co-founder Henry Luce used to visit Scaife's father, Alan. The 50-room home got its name from 10 penguins that roamed the grounds. His mother, Sarah, bought the birds during a national craze over the exploits of Antarctic explorer Richard Byrd.

In 1961, Scaife built his own Ligonier estate, Vallamont, and had the old home demolished after his parents died.

But on the Penguin Court property, he maintained the estate's 120-foot-long greenhouse. In the 1990s, a three-wing conservatory was added to increase his supply of fresh flowers — common and exotic.

“I have been active in horticulture for years, flora of all kinds,” he wrote in his 2009 memoir, A Richly Conservative Life. “There are extensive outdoor plantings at Penguin Court, as well as under glass. And to augment the blooms we raise, I bet I am the largest customer of Pittsburgh Cut Flower Company and a similar supplier in Greensburg.”

In the fall, Scaife would start bulbs or seeds there in a pot or in a cold frame — amaryllis, hyacinth, gladiolus, zinnia, chrysanthemums in the fall. “About January, shoots come up and they're moved into the greenhouse, which is four or five times larger, to be kept until they can be displayed in the house or left outdoors,” he wrote.

Guerrier said Scaife developed his love of flowers from his mother. Among his favorites were hyacinths, snapdragons, salpiglossis, delphiniums, gladiolas, zinnas, sweet peas and red roses.

Debbie Evans, who worked for Scaife for 14 years and maintains the conservatory, said the orchid room usually was his first stop when he visited the building. “He just loved orchids,” she said.

Although the Penguin Court mansion was razed in 1966, remnants of the estate remain. Two cobblestone driveways are intact, various statues adorn the property and the swimming pool changing rooms are intact.

“There's also a patio area where he would come and just sit for hours and look down at the valley,” Evans said.

Evans said Scaife also liked to spend time at a pond on the property.

“He'd go down there and spend time looking at the ducks, calling them over and feeding them,” Evans said.

In his memoir, Scaife stated that he found visits to his childhood surroundings restoring to his soul.

“Anytime I'm up in Ligonier, it keeps coming back to me what a beautiful property Penguin Court is,” he wrote. “Just a gorgeous part of the world.”

 

 

 
 


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