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The Point: Pittsburgh's Fabulous Point Park

From Voice: The Peoples Natural Gas Company, Summer-Fall 1976.
As our Bicentennial year passes the mid-point, Pittsburgh continues fortunate in having Point State Park, a nationally-renowned historical attraction. In this picturesque vicinity where three rivers--the Monongahela, the Allegheny, and the Ohio--provide an extra dimension of natural beauty, the scenic Park presents a fascinating study of Pittsburgh's pre-Revolutionary history. At the same time, it serves as a model in respect to urban planning. Just a hop-and-skip removed from the gorgeously-landscaped Gateway Center complex, Point Park supplements its prime historical lore with broad-reaching lawns, rambling walkways, and a sky-shooting fountain. Both the history buff and the seeker of scenic wonders can find much to their liking here.

The case is well-founded that its popularity was ever thus. As early as 1754, the fabulous Point where the three rivers gathered had prestige as a prize location. France and Great Britain, each regarding the Point as the key to domination of the North American continent, made it the focus of attention during the French and Indian War. When England, in 1758, took Fort Duquesne from the French, it became North America's major colonial power, and it crowned its victory by building Fort Pitt, the most formidable outpost on the American frontier. Fort Pitt protected English settlers whose rugged independence soon transformed them from royal subjects to 1776 revolutionaries.

Because of painstaking preservation efforts, Point State Park could still be familiar to those doughty settlers. Fort Pitt's Music Bastion, east of the Park entrance, reveals foundations of the Fort's original brick walls. Within the wedge-shaped cove of the original Monongahela Bastion, the artfully-constructed Fort Pitt Museum presides. Nearby, the Fort Pitt Blockhouse, looking as it did in 1764, perpetually charms visitors. Collectively, what is offered represents a historical bonanza.

Fort Pitt Museum revives the fateful days of the French and Indian War in a variety of exciting ways. Dioramas and mannequinned, life-sized exhibits depict events and styles of life on the Pennsylvania frontier. Visitors find continuous appeal in the model of Fort Pitt located in William Pitt Memorial Hall, the main gallery. In 1975, 125,000 people visited the museum. Even more visitors are projected for this Bicentennial year.

"Visitors are always interested in the taped information accompanying the model," Curator Robert Trombetta comments. "But the fascination of mentally superimposing present landmarks upon old Fort Pitt is what keeps people returning to the display," he added.

As the oldest structure in Western Pennsylvania, the Fort Pitt Blockhouse originally served as a Fort Pitt redoubt. It later became part of an early Pittsburgh estate, and, in [1894], it was bequeathed to the Pittsburgh Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution [DAR] by Mary Schenley. Presently, it functions as a gift shop and point of historical study. Its portal stone, simply hand-carved, reads: "Colonel Henry Bouquet, 1764."

Curator George Parkas relates that Colonel Bouquet, skilled in Indian-type warfare, rendered valuable service to the British during the French and Indian War. The Blockhouse was constructed while he was in command of Fort Pitt.

The Fort Pitt Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution maintains the Blockhouse. Mrs. Kenneth Field serves as President, Mrs. John Hoy, as First Vice President, Mrs. David Miller as Secretary, and Miss Ida Wilson as Treasurer.

The DAR's cherished historical charge presides as a tiny, yet magnificent and entirely appropriate, satellite in a very large solar system. Point State Park's other history-rich features, along with its 36 acres, are maintained by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, in coordination with the City of Pittsburgh and the Allegheny Conference on Community Development.

Point State Park's development coincided with the start of Pittsburgh's Renaissance. In 1945, at the request of Governor Edward Martin, the Allegheny Conference on Community Development established a Point Park Committee. Business and industrial leaders, as well as City, State, and county government officials, aid the progressive thrust of the Allegheny Conference, and the organization serves as a liaison between State and local bodies concerned with Point Park's continuance as an A-1 American historical and scenic attraction.

Robinson F. Barker presently heads the Conference as Chairman of the Board, with Robert Dickey III serving as President.

Landscape Architect Ralph E. Griswold and Architect Charles M. Stotz, Pittsburghers who have earned international distinction in their fields, added to their laurels when they planned the Point Park complex. The Pittsburgh Regional Planning Association, under the leadership of Richard K. Mellon, commissioned them to carry out the planning phase.

The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission directs Fort Pitt Museum, except for the gift shop operated by the privately-organized Fort Pitt Associates. Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Resources, Bureau of Parks, oversees the Point State Park grounds, while Pittsburgh's Department of Parks and Recreation, through a reimbursement agreement, provides maintenance services. Urban planners throughout the United States compliment what has been done here.

Those desiring a Bicentennial treat cannot afford to bypass Pittsburgh's glamorous and educational Point State Park. But if the circumstances do not permit a visit this year, the supposition is sound enough that the attraction will be around next year and the year after that, a lasting testimony to the important history of the area, and to the successful efforts of those in the private and public sectors who cooperate so well in assuring its continued preservation and popularity.

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