Point State Park Pittsburgh PA is a delight of open space, city beauty and historical landmarks all rolled into one. Whether as a family, alone or with friends it is the perfect place to spend some time in down town Pittsburgh.
Where is Point State Park Pittsburgh PA
The Point State Park in Pittsburgh is on the address of Commonwealth Place PA 15222. Located in the heart of Pittsburgh it is immediately accessible from either Fort Pitt Bridge of Fort Duquense Bridge.
What you will find at the Point State Park
The site is a popular green space in the very centre of the city of Pittsburgh. There are lots of green grass to explore and an impressive water fountain. You might even come across some free entertainment. You can also find the path way for the Eliza Furnace Trail and the Strip District Trail (part of the Riverfront Trail or 3 River trails of Pittsburgh).
However the thing that really interested me about this location is the history. It is the location of where Fort Duquesne and Fort Pitt were based. Neither exist any more since they were destroyed or left to ruin in the mid-late 1700s however they are key to the history and finding of Pittsburgh.
Fort Duquesne was a French fort built on land at the point where the 3 rivers meet. Those rivers are the Allegheny River, the Monongahela River and the Ohio River. As a result of this it was a key strategic point for trade.
The Seven Year War (1756-1763) also known as the French and Indian War was fought on American soil between the British and French with involvement from Native Indians. During the course of the war Fort Duquesne was a target for the British and gaining control would allow them to have strategic control of the area.
Fort Duquesne Pittsburgh PA was destroyed in 1758 by the French as they feared they could not defend the site from an imminent British attack.
The site of Fort Duquesne is today marked out by bricks on the site at Point State Park Pittsburgh PA. You can get a feel for the size of the fort and I must admit to being surprised at the fact that they could fit hundreds of soldiers in a small area. There is also a plague in the middle of the markings for where the fort is believed to have been in the Point State Park.
Fort Pitt and the Fort Pitt Blockhouse
When John Forbes and the British army arrived to find Fort Duquesne destroyed they built a new fort just metres away. This was called Fort Pitt and was named after British Prime Minister William Pitt. This is how Pittsburgh got its name.
The fort at what is present day Point State Park in Pittsburgh was a strategic location for trading and military purposes. It faced attack under the later Pontiac War and the American Revolutionary War (American War of Independence). It was then decommissioned in 1797 and fell to ruin.
You will see little evidence of the original Fort Pitt at the Point State Park in Pittsburgh PA.
There is however one area of the fort which has been retained, this is a blockhouse (military defensive structure) for the Fort. Whilst there is a Fort Pitt Museum on Point State Park in Pittsburgh the blockhouse is actually run by The Daughters of the American Revolution. The Fort Pitt Blockhouse is free to enter although admittedly is not very exciting inside. It is mostly a shop with only a small number of displays. The upper tier was closed off to visitors.
The Fort Pitt Museum
As you enter the Point State Park Pittsburgh PA you will notice the Fort Pitt Museum to your left. This 12,000 foot museum is run by the Heinz Historical Society. The Fort Pitt Museum is open daily from 10am to 5pm and currently costs $6 for adults (June 2014).
Exhibits are spread over 2 floors with the main features being upstairs.
I found there to be many informative boards talking of the history of Fort Pitt, Fort Duquesne and indeed history of the area. The focus was not just on the Seven Year War but also the time afterwards.
Life size models helped demonstrate clothing, trade and life back then.
Children were able to hold muskets whilst you read about the excavation works beginning in 1942.
Outside they also periodically fire an 18th century cannon and believe me when I say, it is loud! The whole museum shakes when it is fired.
After my visits to various historic sites in the area a lot of the information on display wasn’t really new to me. However it would be a valued history lesson to many.
At the time of my visit there was a rather unique display celebrating the era being represented in Hollywood films. Of particular note the film “Unconquered” starring Gary Cooper is discussed and shown for free a couple of times a day. The film focuses on Fort Pitt and historic raids on the garrison even if not completely historically accurate.
Whilst I was familiar with much of the history on display, an interested historian hobbyist could easily lose a couple of hours in here.
Point State Park is more than just history
Whilst all this history was great for me, it may not be for everyone. So here are the many things I saw people enjoying about the Point State Park Pittsburgh PA.
The Point State Park Pittsburgh PA and the remnants of Fort Pitt and Fort Duquesne make for a pleasant afternoon in the heart of the city. If you are blessed with nice weather then you can admire the water fountain from the grassland or take a stroll along the riverside.