Remains discovered of 18th century French fort

world | May 15, 2007 | By Spero News

Careful archaeological observation and research at Point State Park in Pittsburgh have identified remains of a drainage system that apparently once serviced Fort Duquesne in the mid-1700s, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources officials announced today.

"A historical discovery like this, perhaps the most notable archaeological find at the park in decades, justifies the painstaking process under way to document and preserve any artifacts unearthed during our park improvement work," said DCNR Secretary Michael DiBerardinis. "This discovery is an important link to the structure that preceded Fort Pitt and it will be documented and preserved as recommended by on-site archeologists and in consultation with the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission."

Unearthed recently during an exploratory dig in preparation for electrical line installation at the park, the drain is believed to be part of a series of brick-lined channels drawing water away from a storehouse or munitions magazine built in a south outwork of Fort Duquesne, the fortification established by the French in 1754. At the junction of the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers in what is now downtown Pittsburgh, the fort was destroyed by the French as the British advanced in 1758 during the French and Indian War. The British, in turn, built Fort Pitt between 1759 and 1761.

"The new information provided by this discovery -- that the site does not appear to have been destroyed by the industrialization of the Point, and that significant archeological resources are present -- is extremely exciting," said Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission Executive Director Barbara Franco.

"This discovery represents one of considerable importance to the archaeological and historical heritage of Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania," said DiBerardinis. "Extensive research by our engineers and on-site archeologist, including reviews of fort building plans and correspondence dating back to 1754 and written by Fort Duquesne's commander during construction, lead us to conclude that archaeological evidence of Fort Duquesne has been identified."

Lying roughly 2 and one-half to 4 feet below the surface, the drain is lined with hand-made bricks, constructed of four courses of brick, and capped with sandstone slabs. It is located about 40 feet south of where Fort Duquesne is believed to have stood, and now is in the southeast side of Point State Park's Great Lawn area.

"During planning for renovation of Point State Park we worked closely with the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission to plan for the possibility of finds of this nature," said DiBerardinis. "As a result, DCNR employs an on- site archaeologist who is present during all excavation.

"As they have in the past whenever anything of historical significance has been unearthed, work crews are proceeding cautiously to minimize any disturbance of the fort's remnants. The proposed electrical line will pass through at a depth of 2 feet below grade and this will not disturb evidence of the fort at this location."

Ground-penetrating radar has been used to further explore areas surrounding suspected historical finds. Archeological crews will uncover more of the drain for a short period of time to determine exact locations and document its condition.

"These professional archaeological practices, although very costly and labor intensive, will ensure the condition of this find is protected for the future," DiBerardinis said. "As the much-needed park improvements are undertaken, we are taking the proper steps now to supply needed data for the future should further historical investigation be pursued."

After documentation, the small portion of the drain that has been exposed will be filled with clean sand. A layer of geotextile fabric -- a thick, felt- like blanket to protect and delineate the area above the drain -- will be laid over it and covered with c


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