Paul Riis was a rock star in the environmental design world. Literally. He became associated with the organic use of stacked stone to construct structures that remain to this day.  At the time he was designing these important historical structures in South Park, Riis was quoted as saying, “Pools of this order are a liberal education to young America, who here in childhood receive impressions that form a foundation of earliest appreciation of beauty and art.” 

From 1928 to 1932, he was the director of the Allegheny County Parks, hired the year after land was acquired by the county to create North and South Parks. He was a leading conservationist of the day and his vision was to design these new parks in the naturalistic, Prairie Style popular in the Midwest, where groupings of outdoor rooms were created to highlight the interplay of sky and landscape.

Among his first projects in South Park was the construction of three shallow wading pools known as The Cascades at Stone Manse. These pools were fed by a spring and were connected by a stunning waterfall designed with stacked stones quarried in the park. People could sun on the broad, flat stones surrounding the pools and dip in the shallow waters on hot summer days. The area also featured two picnic pavilions designed in the same manner which still stand today. The pools were eventually closed but the bones of what once was still remain, delighting hikers who "discover" them and reminding those who hold fond memories of hot summer days, wading in The Cascades.

Directions: The Cascades site is located between the Stone Manse Shelter and the Oliver Miller Homestead parking area which can be accessed from Stone Manse Drive just off Corrigan Drive at the rotary circle.


Click HERE to take a video tour of this hidden treasure.

Restoration made possible by the Allegheny County Parks Foundation, Allegheny County, Allegheny Foundation, Citrone 33 Foundation, Colcom Foundation, Friends of South Park, Operation Restore of the Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation, Pennsylvania DCNR, Richard King Mellon Foundation and the generosity of individual donors.

Historic photo courtesy of Allegheny County Parks

Conceptual restoration renderings provided by LaQuatra Bonci Associates

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