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History of Point State Park

During a trip to negotiate with the French in 1753, Lieutenant George Washington -- then in the Virginia militia -- passed through the land that would become Point State Park. He wrote about it in his journal:

"As I got down before the Canoe, I spent some Time in viewing the Rivers, and the Land in the Fork; which I think extremely well situated for a Fort, as it has the absolute Command of both Rivers. The Land at the Point is 20 or 25 Feet above the common Surface of the Water; and a considerable Bottom of flat, well-timbered Land all around it, very convenient for Building: The Rivers are each a Quarter of a Mile, or more, across, and run here very near at right Angles: Aligany bearing N. E. and Monongahela S. E. The former of these two is a very rapid and swift running Water; the other deep and still, without any perceptible fall."

By George, he was right!

During the mid-1700s, the armies of France and Great Britain vied for control of the Ohio Valley. Four different forts were built at the forks of the Ohio within a period of five years.

In 1754, French forces captured an outpost known as Fort Prince George at the Point that had been erected by a force of Virginians. George Washington led British forces to recapture the fort, but suffered his first and only surrender at Fort Necessity, 50 miles to the south.

The French then built Fort Duquesne at the Forks, which gave them control of the Ohio Valley. In 1755, General George Braddock led the British to capture the forks, but was defeated at the Battle of the Monongahela, eight miles from the fort.

In 1758, a British army of 6,000 lead by General John Forbes, marched west from Carlisle. Forbes stopped at Fort Ligonier, 50 miles to the southeast and made final preparations for the assault on Fort Duquesne.

The French, realizing they were badly outnumbered, burned the fort and departed two days before the British arrived on November 25, 1758. The British built a temporary fort called Mercer’s Fort which was used until construction of Fort Pitt began in 1759.

Fort Pitt, named in honor of William Pitt, secretary of state of Britain, was to be the most extensive fortification by the British in North America.

The French were never to regain control as their other outposts in the region fell to the British. The only further action at Fort Pitt was in 1763 when it withstood American Indian attacks during Pontiac’s Insurrection.

Fort Pitt was sold in 1772 and then reclaimed in 1774 by the Virginia Territory. In 1777, the Continental Army used Fort Pitt for its western headquarters.

Troops and supplies were stockpiled to defend the new United States. The first Peace Treaty between the American Indians and the United States was signed at Fort Pitt in 1778.

Fort Pitt was finally abandoned in 1792 due to its deteriorating condition. It had served to open the frontier to settlement as Pittsburgh became the ‘‘Gateway to the West.’’

Development of a Park

Once a busy industrial zone, the area had deteriorated into a commercial slum by the 1940s. The development of a state park was authorized in 1945 and the first parcel of the 36-acre property was purchased the next year.

The park was completed and dedicated in 1974. In 1963, the Forks of the Ohio, what is now Point State Park, was designated a National Historic Landmark.