In late 1800s and early 1900s, Italian immigrants settled in the neighborhood surrounding what is now the Mattress Factory. Many of them worked in agriculture-related jobs, including food production and cooking, as grocery store operators and as vegetable hucksters. The history of the Mattress Factory building directly reflects this fact.
On the site where the garden now stands, was a four-story brick building constructed in the 1890s for the Italo-French Macaroni Company. It was owned by a Mr. Pivorotto who lived nearby. In 1900, a six-story addition was constructed, which now houses the Mattress Factory. According to a long-time neighborhood resident, Mrs. Mary Marasti, the macaroni was manufactured in the four-story building and dried in the six-story section. The macaroni company moved out of these buildings to another North Side location around 1930.
The buildings were vacant for much of the 1930s – the Depression – but were used to store and sort clothing and other materials for relief for victims of the 1936 St. Patrick's Day flood. With economic recovery in the late 1930s, the six-story portion of the building was occupied by the Gorman Candy Company and the four-story building was occupied by the Stewart Paper Company from the late 1930s until 1963, when it burned to the ground.
By the time Winifred Lutz began work on her permanent outdoor garden installation in 1993, she had already studied the site for five years. She used the information she had uncovered – both historical and physical – to design a garden that responded to and incorporated the history and attributes of the site, including the foundation of a building that had burned many years ago.
The three-quarters of an acre adjacent to 500 Sampsonia Way is a living work. An enclosure for a single chair is surrounded by tall grass. A trellis, made from huge wooden beams, acts as an entryway from the parking area.Water flowing through a concrete trough splashes and gurgles. Large stones, individually selected from a western Pennsylvania quarry, dot the landscape. Cast cement apertures in the brick and stone walls frame specific views. Twisted rebar railings descend 10' below ground level to a cement basin filled with water. Newly-planted trees and indigenous wild flowers attract birds into the urban garden.
The Heinz Architectural Center of The Carnegie Museum of Art featured this garden installation in its 1996 exhibition, "A Century of Women Landscape Architects in Pittsburgh."