|Owner||City of Pittsburgh|
L'Enfant by French artist Paul Roger-Bloche is a life-sized, bronze sculpture of a seated mother lovingly cradling her small child. Covered with patina and placed on a granite pedestal, L'Enfant can be seen on the traffic island where Overbrook Boulevard and Ravilla Avenue meet in Carrick.
An obsure traffic island in Pittsburgh is a curious spot for an artwork by a French sculptor. Few archival documents exist in regard to the acquisition of this piece. In a 2001 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article, the author contends that the City of Pittsburgh's archive first mentions L'Enfant in 1928. Around this time, the sculpture was taken from storage and installed at the entrance of Phillips Park in Carrick. Across the street from the park's entrance was the Mothers' Club of Carrick. The club adopted the sculpture and found the artwork's subject matter emblematic of the organization's mission.
In 1963, the Mothers' Club was forced to relocate to a frame house on Overbrook Boulevard when the nearby Carrick High School expanded; L'Enfant was again moved into storage due to the school's expansion. The club wanted, "to eliminate that 'displaced persons' feeling" by having their beloved sculpture reinstalled on the barren traffic island across the street from their new headquarters.
The Mothers' Club requested permission from the city to have the sculpture moved to the traffic island. The city agreed to relocate L'Enfant to the proposed location, but required that the club assume all responsibility for that particular area. The Mothers' Club declined the city's offer. Mrs. P.D. Cherry, then president of the club said, "since we owned neither the statue nor the ground on which it was to stand, we did not feel that we should be held responsible for anything that might happen there."
The city eventually reconsidered its initial stance and agreed to move the sculpture to the traffic island; the Mothers' Club cared for the landscaping of the area, and the city created a walkway around L'Enfant.
After many years, the sculpture was unfortunately neglected and became obscured by 7-foot-high shrubs. L'Enfant was "rediscovered" in 2001 by Steven Horhut, a young Boy Scout who organized clean up and repair efforts of the sculpture and traffic island for his Scout service project. Horhut culled a crew of Boy Scouts to assist him with his work. It took the Scouts 7-hour work days over a week's time to landscape and repair the sculpture's foundation. Horhut also coordinated with the City of Pittsburgh to have a generator availble for power tools, and to have debris removed from L'Enfant. Due to Horhut's efforts, the sculpture now receives the attention it deserves.
By Rachel Klipa, Office of Public Art
Jackie Day, "Scouts uncover 19th-century sculpture," Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, August 15, 2001.
Marilyn Evert, Discovering Pittsburgh Sculpture (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1983), 148.
Barbara Holsopple, "'L'Enfant' Back Home; Carrick Mothers Relax," The Pittsburgh Press, December 9, 1966.
Paul Roger-Bloche (1865-1943) was a French sculptor. The majority of Roger-Bloche's oeuvre was inspired by the events of World War I and the struggles of the working class. His notable works include the Monument to the Victims of Aviation, The Return Home, Le Froid, and La Faim.