Friday, April 13, 2007

New discoveries of old things

We call it the French & Indian War but Europe knows it as the Seven Years War. Battles took place not only here in North America but also in France, Portugal, Germany, Eastern Europe, North Africa, India and the Philippines. And all that started right here with France and England squabbling over who would control this point of land at the confluence of three rivers.

The City and DCNR decided last year that they would fill in the Music Bastion of Ft. Pitt to better facilitate the use of Point State Park, not as a state historic park but as a concert venue. This burial of history would be completed just in time to celebrate the fall of the previous colonial fort to stand at the point, Ft. Duquesne, and the founding of the City of Pittsburgh. Their first rationalization was that the bastion wall had no historical significance because it was a merely a reconstruction. In point of fact, it was a restoration, original and new brick rebuilt on the period, intact foundation. Next, they claimed that burying it would protect it from damage. Of course, that would also prevent anyone from studying it or even knowing it was there, save for the historic markers which seem to be all we have left of the great French & Indian War. Finally, they said they had made these plans known several years before and no one had submitted any opposition. Sorry, but I remember those plans. I remember the outcry and I remember specifically submitting my own personal opposition.

When they found human remains last year, they tried to pooh-pooh the
archaeological significance by saying they were probably scattered by previous excavations, had lost their historical context, they had no way of knowing if they were from the period and thus there was no reason the delay construction any further.

Well, now they can't use that excuse anymore. Excavations have uncovered a powder magazine that was part of Ft. Pitt's main wall facing the Allegheny River. There it is, right where it has lain covered for over two centuries, full of nothing but historical context. And if that survived all the development and redevelopment that has gone on at the point over the centuries, what else could still be down there?

The "Forks of the Ohio" is a National Historic Landmark and the City, with their 250th anniversary theme of progress, seems intent on burying Pittsburgh's past. In their zeal to forget that the steel industry collapsed and financially wrecked the region, they are taking down all of history. They are robbing us of our history. And not just our history but the world's history. The City is just hoping that they don't uncover any other surprises so they can get on with the important business turning the point into an underutilized concert stage.

I would encourage you to contact the City and State to prevent them from lobotomizing our sense of history except that they didn't listen to us the first time, ignored us the second time and probably aren't listening even now.

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