Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Save Fort Pitt?

As urban planners work to homogenize every urban center of the United States, the city of Pittsburgh seems to be striving to follow suit. Point State Park stands at the confluence of our three rivers... on the former site of Fort Pitt. This military installation protected men and women during the French and Indian War (in the 1750's). It was one of the few forts not taken during Pontiac's siege in 1763. And it's completely gone... or will be soon. This fact is especially troublesome in the light of the upcoming 250th anniversary of Fort Pitt's construction- an event that many plan to celebrate as the foundation of Pittsburgh.

In 1964-65, construction workers building Point State Park unearthed the remains of a wall that formed the music bastion of old Fort Pitt. It is assumed that this is where the buglers sounded their call to battle. The Allegheny Conference on Community Development spent $2 million to have it excavated and restored to its original condition. Since then, the park has been divided by a trench that runs along that wall. Along with a restored block house and the dilapidated portion of the flag bastion, it is all that remains of the original fort. It presents a unique and interesting feature that has been appreciated by several generations of Pittsburgh. But now that same Allegheny Conference and the nonprofit Riverlife Taskforce have decided to fill in the trench and bury the bastion wall. They plan to mark the location of the bastion with a granite slab path.

To what end do they seek to commit this crime against history? They want more room for people to stand on flat ground and watch bad rock bands at the annual Regatta. Surely those music fans can walk an extra 100 yards or so, to the ample space nearer the actual point that currently accomodates large concert crowds. The city side of the park, where the bastion still exists, is surrounded by traffic ramps and congestion- certainly not the ideal place to enjoy a music performance. Lisa Schroeder, director of the Riverlife Taskforce, has tried to brush away criticism of her plan by calling the bastion a "reconstruction". This is disingenuous because it suggests that the actual site is of no real importance... that history can exist arbitrarily wherever it is built anew. As noted above, the bastion is actually a "restoration" of a pre-existing structure. Schroeder further maintains (in a manner completely contradictory to her original position) that covering the wall with dirt will "protect the bricks from the park's visitors and weathering".

Evidently this has all been part of the master plan for five years. The organizations involved claim to have held numerous public meetings about park improvement, yet I just learned about this over the past weekend. The contracts have been bidded, and the work is set to begin any day now. It may not be too late to register your displeasure... you can still contact the Fort Pitt Preservation Society. Here is their website.

2 Comments:

Anonymous jefg said...

I'm sure I don't know the complete story. However,
(1) I don't like to see a blog sit out there looking lonely without a single response.
(2) On the surface (no pun intended), I found the following statement hilarious: "covering the wall with dirt will 'protect the bricks from the park's visitors and weathering' ".

Next she'll be suggesting that the White House be mounded over for a couple years to preserve it's integrity, and restored to the open air in 2008. What is she thinking? I think the woman must use entirely too much foundation.

8:15 AM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...

jefg,

Yeah... evidently people don't care that much about this, or there would be more of a flap. There's certainly some humor to be found in the irony of the act.

4:28 PM  

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