Cordelia Scaife May’s Laurel Foundation and WPC Paint Pittsburgh’s Streets with Nature’s Colors Since 2005

Cordelia Scaife

The legacy of renowned philanthropist and conservationist Cordelia Scaife May continues to leave a deep mark on the preservation and enhancement of western Pennsylvania’s natural beauty. In 2022, the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy (WPC), an organization dedicated to protecting and restoring the region’s environmental treasures, received a generous grant of $110,000 from Laurel Foundation, which was established by Cordelia Scaife May herself.

The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy’s Community Greening program is a hallmark initiative that has transformed the region’s urban and suburban landscapes. Since its inception in the 1970s, this pioneering program has been at the forefront of efforts to green, beautify, and enhance communities across Western Pennsylvania.

Through a multifaceted approach, the Community Greening program has left a long-lasting imprint on the region’s neighborhoods and public spaces. One of its core endeavors involves the creation of vibrant flower and vegetable gardens, which not only add splashes of color and life to the urban fabric but also promote sustainable food production and community engagement.

Additionally, the program has played a pivotal role in establishing green spaces and natural stormwater solutions, addressing the need for urban environmental stewardship. These initiatives have not only improved the overall aesthetic appeal of communities but have also provided vital ecological services, such as mitigating urban heat island effects, improving air quality, and reducing the strain on aging infrastructure during heavy rainfall events.

By revitalizing neighborhoods and creating inviting public spaces, the Community Greening program has played a crucial role in promoting economic revitalization. The green spaces have proven to be catalysts for investment, attracting businesses and residents alike, ultimately contributing to the overall prosperity and vibrancy of Western Pennsylvania’s communities.

The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy plants 130 gardens each spring, bringing life and color to local neighborhoods, parks, and urban streetscapes, and also hangs and cares for 400 flower baskets that adorn bridges and major streets during the spring and summer months. 

The hanging floral basket initiative is supported entirely by Cordelia Scaife May’s Laurel Foundation and serves as a high-impact approach to greening urban streetscapes, especially in areas with limited ground-level space. The hanging baskets introduce splashes of color, infusing community streets and neighborhoods with natural beauty. 

Laurel Foundation’s sponsorship of downtown Pittsburgh’s hanging flower baskets represents a tangible manifestation of its founder’s commitment to sustainability and community access to nature, especially in urban areas — ensuring that everyone, regardless of their neighborhood, can enjoy the joys of nature. 

Each year since 2005, more than 400 flower baskets cascade from bridges and line major streets, spotting the Golden Triangle with bursts of color and vitality. 

Laurel Foundation’s support not only underscores Cordelia Scaife May’s legacy but also highlights the crucial role that organizations like the WPC play in preserving and enhancing the natural beauty of Western Pennsylvania. 

Pittsburgh-based Mellon heiress Cordelia Scaife May was well known during her life for her acts of philanthropy focused on conservation and the preservation of nature. 

Cordelia Scaife May’s love for her native Western Pennsylvania ran deep, instilled in her from her upbringing in the prestigious Scaife family, whose roots in the region dated back to 1802. 

This deep connection to her hometown inspired her to channel her philanthropic efforts locally through the establishment of Laurel Foundation in 1951. By founding this charitable organization, Cordelia Scaife May ensured that her generosity would have a lasting, positive impact on the communities that had given so much to her family over generations. 

“Mrs. May loved the city of Pittsburgh and would often ask us what more we could do for it,” recalled Timothy Inglis, former president of Laurel Foundation. 

In many ways, the flower baskets serve as a powerful symbol of Cordelia Scaife May’s legacy and her determination to leave Western Pennsylvania more vibrant than she found it. 

Through Laurel Foundation’s commitment, Cordelia Scaife May’s vision brings beauty to urban communities, inspiring future generations to follow in her footsteps as responsible stewards of the natural world.

Unbeknownst to most Pittsburgh residents, their spring and summer days are a little brighter because of the passion and generosity of Cordelia Scaife May.

The flowers in the baskets may wilt after their time is done, but they will be back next spring, reminding us that, like Cordelia Scaife May’s legacy, the good we do carries on long after we are gone.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here