National Geographic : 1949 Jul
The National Geographic Magazine city has been taking in its own history, thanks to the Buhl Foundation, the Uni versity of Pittsburgh, the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania, and other organi zations. After all, it was the youthful George Wash ington who fixed the location of the city by reporting to Governor Dinwiddie of Virginia that the "land in the fork"-that is, the apex of the Triangle-should be fortified. Wash ington had been sent to warn the French to stay away from this region, and he shared in British defeats which followed, the worst under General Braddock. But finally on November 25, 1758, the vic torious Gen. John Forbes, with Washington as one of his lieutenants, marched into the smoldering ruins of Fort Duquesne, which the French had built on the remains of a former British fort and had now abandoned. City Named for William Pitt Forbes wrote, "I have taken the freedom of giving your name to Fort Duquesne," thus naming the future city after England's great statesman, William Pitt. Being a Scotsman, Forbes used the "h," as in Edinburgh. Al though there are some 20 Pittsburgs in the United States, there is only one Pittsburgh. On this site the British built Fort Pitt, a very extensive fortification, the best-designed and the most important frontier fort in the West. It was never used against the French, because Forbes's victory at Pittsburgh and finally Wolfe's at Quebec the following year ended the imperial designs of France upon the Ohio and Mississippi Valleys. But Fort Pitt was for a long period a protection to what was perhaps the greatest natural gateway to the West. It fought off Indian attacks and was also an important western outpost during the Revolution. By 1790 Fort Pitt was no longer needed. It fell into ruins, city streets were extended through it, private owners took up the prop erty, and early houses in Pittsburgh were said to have been built of bricks from the fort. Though covered up by the city for a cen tury and a half, not all the foundations were destroyed; recent archeological excavations have disclosed extensive remains. In addi tion, one entire redoubt, that built by Col. Henry Bouquet, has remained intact, the rea- son being that it was used for many years as a dwelling, and, indeed, had another large house attached to it. Ultimately this section of the city became a slum and later a forlorn district of railroad sidings and warehouses. Eventually Mrs. Mary E. Schenley, one of Pittsburgh's first benefactors on the grand scale, inherited the redoubt and in 1894 gave it to the Pittsburgh Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, the first chapter to apply for a charter in that organization. Block House Reminder of Frontier At once the attached dwelling and the tumble-down tenements which covered the ground around the redoubt were removed and the name changed from Redoubt to the Block House. One of the great railroad systems planned to buy and raze the Block House. It was saved only by the spirit and determination of the DAR chapter, especially of one of its members, Mrs. Samuel Ammon, who spent months in Harrisburg fighting the railroad. Today the Block House is in an isolated spot, almost hidden and surrounded by ele vated railroad tracks. Yet many patriotic visitors find their way there. It is a little building built of brick, five sided, and with two floors. It has a squared oak log with loopholes for rifle fire on each floor. It is a simple but authentic and vivid reminder of one of the most important and romantic chapters in colonial history, a chap ter of struggles which went far in changing the fate of a continent. The east- or west-bound motorist sees in Pittsburgh a traffic bottleneck. But this is temporary, because the Penn-Lincoln Park way is under construction from the terminus of the great Pennsylvania Turnpike at Irwin, Pennsylvania, to the point of the Triangle. It will tunnel through the Pittsburgh hills, drop to the bank of the Monongahela, cross on a new bridge near the Point, and thus start the traveler on his way into West Vir ginia and Ohio. Already the State has acquired virtually all of the land to make a 36-acre Point Park (page 130). But no one need wait for these improvements to visit the Block House, the only remaining vestige of frontier Pittsburgh. INDEX FOR JANUARY-JUNE, 1949, VOLUME READY Index for Volume XCV (January-June, 1949) of the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE will be mailed upon request to members who bind their copies as works of reference.