Let's Learn From the Past: Point State Park

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With its lush landscape, winding trails, and dramatic views of the Pittsburgh skyline, Point State Park attracts visitors from around the world.

The triangular parcel of land where the city’s three rivers meet played a pivotal role in American history and as the birthplace of Pittsburgh. British explorers lined the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers at the Forks of the Ohio.

The site became an important hub for trade between American Indians and European traders in the 18th century and a key military stronghold during the French and Indian War. In 1755, British Gen. Edward Braddock failed to capture French Fort Duquesne, strategically located at the Point, but in November 1758, the French finally relinquished control and burned the fort to the ground. After discovering the torched remains of Fort Duquesne, British Gen. John Forbes immediately ordered a bigger and stronger fort to be built on the site. He named it Fort Pitt in honor of British Secretary of State William Pitt. Forbes, who hailed from Scotland, dubbed the settlement between the rivers "Pittsborough,” similar to his hometown of “Edinborough.”

After surviving Ottawa Chief Pontiac’s Rebellion in 1763 and serving as a crucial Western hub for the Americans during the Revolutionary War, Fort Pitt was ultimately decommissioned by the U.S. Army in 1792.

By the late 19th century, Pittsburgh’s industrial boom transformed the Point into a center for business and transportation as factories and railroad yards crisscrossed the Golden Triangle. By the 1940s, the Point had deteriorated into a commercial slum. Following years of neglect, during the 200th anniversary of Fort Pitt’s founding, city leaders committed to redevelop the area and commemorate its historic significance.

Over the next 30 years, the Forks of the Ohio was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania officially dedicated Point State Park in 1974.

Today, the site features 36 acres of recreation space, paved bike trails, and a fountain that shoots water 100 feet into the sky. Remnants of Pittsburgh’‍s early history are still key features of Point State Park. The Fort Pitt Blockhouse, which served as an outpost for Fort Pitt, is maintained by the Daughters of the American Revolution and remains the city’s oldest architectural landmark. Fort Pitt Museum, part of the Heinz History Center museum system, tells the story of the region’s pivotal role during the French and Indian War and the birthplace of Pittsburgh.

Visitors to the Fort Pitt Museum Friday, July 4, can help local veterans, Girl Scouts, and elected officials raise a 13-star 36-foot American flag as part of a special “Fourth at the Fort” ceremony. For more information, visit www.heinzhistorycenter.org.

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