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Fisher seeks to keep Frick archives in state

Tuesday, March 21, 2000

By Jan Ackerman, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

State Attorney General Mike Fisher will try to prevent trustees of the Helen Clay Frick Foundation from moving historical archives of Pittsburgh industrialist Henry Clay Frick from Point Breeze to Manhattan.

"It is the position of the attorney general's office that these family archives should be held in perpetuity by state trustees and should be maintained within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania," T. Lawrence Palmer, a senior deputy attorney general, told Common Pleas Judge Lee J. Mazur yesterday.

In a 17th-floor courtroom of the Downtown building named for Frick, attorney Daniel P. Gallagher yesterday filed a motion on behalf of a majority of trustees of the Helen Clay Frick Foundation to move the archives to New York.

Gallagher represents a group who maintain that the archives, stored at the Frick Art & Historical Center in Point Breeze, should be moved to New York to bring unity to the collection, making it more accessible to scholars.

Palmer and Pittsburgh attorney Albert G. Feczko Jr. told Mazur they will file legal challenges.

Feczko will file an objection on behalf of Arabella S. Dane, a grandniece of Helen Frick and a trustee of the Helen Clay Frick Foundation in Pittsburgh, and Edward Weidlein Jr., a member of the Frick Art & Historical Center board in Pittsburgh.

Feczko is working with Baltimore attorney Jim Astrachan. Astrachan is representing the interests of Martha Frick Symington Sanger, a great-granddaughter of Henry Clay Frick. Sanger is an advisory trustee, not a voting member.

Mazur gave the lawyers 20 days to file their motions.

In November, trustees of the Helen Clay Frick Foundation, which owns the archives, voted 10-1 to move them to Manhattan.

Their decision has the blessing of the director and board of the Frick Art & Historical Center here. In December, Thomas Hilliard, chairman of the center's board, said the archives are not large enough to be supported on their own, are used only 10 to 15 times a year and ought to be stored in a larger and more economical place.

The documents include school notebooks, letters, diaries, photographs and film reels collected by Henry Clay Frick and his daughter, Helen. The one-of-a-kind collection is housed on the second floor of the Carriage House at Clayton, the Fricks' Point Breeze home, which is now a house museum.

Outside the courtroom yesterday, Palmer said the attorney general's office has legal authority to monitor whether the wishes of the deceased are being carried out.

He contends that Miss Frick, in her will, called for her assets at Clayton to remain there and that one of the assets was the archives, which she meticulously maintained throughout her life.

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