Historic Structures

Croghan House - Picnic Place, Pittsburgh Pennsylvania

Date added: April 23, 2021 Categories: Pennsylvania House Mansion

The recorded history of this structure deals mainly with the romance surrounding the elopement of Croghan's daughter with Captain Schenley, and it has been very difficult to get any auithoritative data dealing directly with the building.

Although Schenley had nothing to do with the building of the house and only lived in it a year or so, it has always been known as the "Schenley House", or, as Croghan named it "Picnic Place."

The property was originally owned by General O'Hara who came to Fort Pitt in 1773. He held many offices of importance under Washington among which was Quartermaster General of the United States Army. His daughter, Mary, married William Croghan, Jr., Who was born in Kentucky, son of Major William Crogan who came to Fort Pitt with Colonel John Neville in 1782.

William Croghan, Jr. after the marriage with Mary O'Hara in 1821, made his permanent home in Pittsburgh. Shortly after the birth of their only child, Mary Elizabeth, Mrs. Croghan died. It seems that about this time, Croghan was building a home on Black Horse Hill {now Stanton Heights) which he called "Picnic House" and this we assume to be the rear or stone portion containing the Ball Room, this would place the date of it at about 1825.

He was passionately devoted to his daughter. With the idea of giving her the best education available, he sent her at the age of 17 to Miss McLeod's school on Staten Island. Here she met Captain Edward W. H.Schenley, 50 years old and a widower for the second time, and fell in love with him. Her father refused to consent to her marriage with an English army officer. They thereupon eloped and were married in 1842, immediately leaving for England.

The news of his daughter's elopement caused her father to faint and brought on an illness that nearly took his life. A year after the marriage he went to London, where he found his daughter to be happy and he became somewhat reconciled. He found them in poor circumstances. As he had inherited vast real estate holdings from his wife's father, Croghan was extremely wealthy. His first act was to buy his son-in-law a handsome London house. After a visit of a year he obtained a promise from them to come to American and to make their home with him in Pittsburgh.

Croghan then returned to Pittsburgh, and immediately set to work to build a mansion which would be a replica of their London home. It is said that the drawings for it were prepared in England. He soon completed the house, which we assume to be the brick or front portion and at that time continued the two-story porch around one side of the original or stone portion. This would make the date of the second building about 1845.

The Schenley's did not comply with their promise until about five or six years after Croghan's return. They then came to America (about 1848) with three children and a entourage of servants. They stayed only a year or two, when due to the persuasion of Schenley who found life in the American back country too tedious in spite of the elaborate living facilities, stables and social life furnished, they returned to England.

Croghan died one year later, on September 22 1850, it is said of a broken heart.

Desdenants of the servants who came from England continued to occupy the building. Otherwise it has been left untenanted although all of the furnishings remained intact until February 1931, when most of them were sold off.