US (DC): Why were the greenhouses of Pittsburgh Cut Flower abandoned?

Have you ever driven past the former Pittsburgh Cut Flower property on Bakerstown Road and wondered why 13 acres of greenhouses were abandoned, becoming overgrown by trees and shrubs pushing through their frames? Global market changes brought an end to a business that supplied many of the city’s flowers for more than 100 years.

In 1872, 19-year-old Fred Burki immigrated from Switzerland and began working as a plant grower for C. M. Seibert. In the 1870s, he set up his own greenhouse business in Bellevue.

But near the City of Pittsburgh, the local steel industry made the air quality poor. In 1884, Burki bought 242 acres of farmland from the Crawford family on both sides of Bakerstown Road in Gibsonia (the current location of the blue Richland Township water tower). The site had excellent exposure to sunlight, several springs and a long slope that would permit a gravity-feed of water to the greenhouses.

As early as 1898, Burki had some of his Bellevue greenhouses disassembled and moved by horse and wagon to Bakerstown. As the business grew, more greenhouses were added, gradually moving down the hill, with the last one added in 1924. The new structures ranged from 50 to 562 feet long.

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