Origin of Phipps Conservatory's Neptune Statue
Dollar Bank's Fourth Avenue Building opened to the public in April 1871. In 1874, Dollar Bank commissioned Belgian-born sculptor Peter C. Reniers to create a fountain and Neptune statue for the rear courtyard of the building.
The 1874 job was one of several that Reniers would perform for Dollar Bank on the Fourth Avenue Building in the 1870s and 1880s. The others were smaller tasks involving marble carving and tile repair. Reniers' creation of Neptune and a fountain was some of his grandest work. The irony is that his role as Neptune's sculptor was lost over the years, and the identity of the statue's creator remained a mystery for more than a century, until an old bank ledger provided the critical solution.
Dollar Bank's cash books record that a payment of $2,500 was made to Mr. Reniers (miswritten as "J.C. Reniers" rather than "P.C. Reniers") on July 30, 1874, for a "Fountain & Statue of Neptune."
Fourth Avenue was home to Neptune for twenty years. In the mid-1890s, however, Dollar Bank's growth made expansion of the Fourth Avenue Building necessary. A plan to add three offices to the rear of the building meant that the courtyard, fountain and statue would be displaced.
In June 1895, Dollar Bank's Board of Trustees held a vote to decide where to donate the Neptune statue. George T. Oliver nominated the City of Pittsburgh to receive the statue, while Oliver Scaife nominated Allegheny City. The majority voted in favor of the City of Pittsburgh.
Neptune was placed at the front entrance of Phipps Conservatory, where he remained for a number of years until vandals stole his trident and he was put in storage.
In the 1930s, Neptune was brought out of storage, restored and put on display near the Highland Park swimming pool.
In 1996, Neptune was repaired and restored to his original bronze finish and returned to Phipps Conservatory.