Throw away the key: Pittsburgh couples lock love


When Terry Boring first noticed the misfit assortment of locks lining Schenley Park Bridge, he assumed the ever-expanding metal maze was an art project.  

But after a stroll across the bridge with his fiancee Jessica Ferringer, he learned of their purpose in cities such as Pittsburgh, Rome and Paris. 

“That’s not an art project — those are love locks,” Ferringer, 28, who has a Master of Business degree from Pitt, told him. 

“It’s a symbol of their unbreakable love,” Boring, 29, a second-year information science major, said. 

Instead of carving their initials into an evergreen tree, more Pittsburgh couples are flocking to the Schenley Park Bridge to latch a lock symbolizing their love and commitment to each other onto the chain link fence. Some keep the key as a token to the memory, but others will then toss the keys into Panther Hollow directly below the bridge. The sound of the small splash below signifies that the locks cannot be conventionally removed from the chain link fence. 

Although some of the locks attached to the fence appear suitable for a bicycle or locker, other ornate engraved locks were purchased just for the occasion.

In 2009, Debbie Peysar launched Lovelocks Online, a Utah-based company that creates and engraves custom love padlocks for couples looking to symbolize their commitment on chain link fences around the world. 

Peysar, a former wedding planner, said she began noticing the locks in Utah in 2009.

“It just seemed like a really unique way to express your love,” Peysar said. “And when I’ve seen the masses of these locks it just blew my mind, because there are bazillions of them — not just a few here and there.”

Peysar said she and her colleagues may have traced the origin of the love locks to Mount Huang, China. She explained how couples would climb the mountain and attach a lock somewhere at its peak.

“Then [the couples] would toss their keys into the abyss — signifying eternal love,” Peysar said.

The practice spread across Asia and reached France in 2006. Popular French bridges include The Pont de l’Archevêché and the Passerelle Simone-de-Beauvoir.

The heartfelt metal montages are now collecting on structures throughout Europe and in the United States.

According to Peysar, the tradition is not limited to romantic relationships. Birthdays, adoptions, deaths and even deceased pets are being memorialized through affixing padlocks.

“I mean shoot — just about any celebration people are using [locks] for now,” Peysar said.

Pittsburgh’s Department of Public Works would be responsible for removing the locks from the bridge if anyone complained or requested that they be removed, according to administrative assistant Bonnie West. West gave directions on how to file a complaint to remove the locks online.

“I honestly don’t know why they haven’t been removed,” West said. “I guess no one has complained about them.”

When the one-year anniversary of Boring and Ferringer’s relationshipapproached, Boring visited to purchase “the fanciest chrome lock” he could find.

The couple began their anniversary celebration by reenacting their first date at Espresso a Mano in Lawrenceville, but Boring took a detour before continuing to the location of their second date in Highland Park.

Boring stopped the car by the Schenley Park Bridge and surprised Ferringer with the padlock.

“We attached the lock and ceremoniously threw the keys into the gorge below, ” he said. 

The letters have oxidized since January, when the pair attached the heavy chrome padlock, but the lock’s browning engraving still reads true: “Terry and Jessica Forever.”