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The rebirth of Point State Park: a before and after gallery

By May 31, 2013December 8th, 2020Blog

Riverlife note: This post was published in 2013 in the weeks leading up to the return of the Point State Park fountain and the conclusion of a six-year, top-to-bottom renovation of the Point. Let’s look back on the remarkable transformation of one of the city’s most iconic riverfront parks.

The Point State Park fountain returns to the Pittsburgh skyline on June 7, 2013, marking the conclusion of a top-to-bottom renovation of the Park. The reconstruction is the largest such park project in Commonwealth history.

Why was it needed? After officially opening to the public in 1974, the Point has seen nearly constant use over the past 30 years. The impact of 3 million annual visitors takes its toll: many surfaces throughout the Park were cracked and crumbling, the benches, trash cans, and lighting fixtures were damaged and dated, and the infrastructure of the Park was struggling to accommodate the growing festivals and events that make the Point a special place in the summertime.

Restoration of the Point, a National Historic Landmark, was determined to be a community priority and the renovation began in 2007 as part of Pittsburgh’s 250th birthday celebration. The renovation has been overseen by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Allegheny Conference on Community Development and Riverlife.

When the fountain rises again on June 7, it marks the final phase of a complete overhaul of the entire 36-acre Park, which included reconstruction of both the City Side Lawn and Great Lawn, riverfront promenades, woodland areas and the addition of Café at the Point.

Check out the incredible transformation below.

Above: The old entrance to Point State Park wasn’t exactly the most welcoming experience. With revised Park guidelines that included dropping the restriction on bicycles, and new signage and landscaping, visitors experience a new Point when entering from Commonwealth Place.

Above: The City Side Lawn (the grassy space across the street from the Wyndham Hotel) has long been downtown Pittsburgh’s premiere event space for the Three Rivers Arts Festival, Pittsburgh Marathon, Venture Outdoors Festival and many other beloved events. By preserving the replica of the Ft. Pitt music bastion and leveling the lawn, and adding new infrastructure to accommodate staging, electrical and vendor needs, the City Side Lawn has increased its capacity for hosting these growing events. On any sunny day you can see students playing frisbee golf, exercise fans doing their Cross Fit workouts and yoga classes enjoying the new lawn.

Above: Renovations to the seating and landscaping along Commonwealth Place included new benches, lighting, trees and a curb drop-off for park visitors.

Above: Point State Park’s woodland areas flank both sides of the Great Lawn, the grassy expanse on the “fountain side” of the portal bridge that bisects the Park. When originally planned by landscape architects Griswold & Stotz in the 1950s, the woodlands were one of the first urban landscapes to feature plantings entirely native to Western Pennsylvania. Over the decades, however, the woodland areas were removed, died out or overtaken by invasive species. The renovation of the woodlands in 2008 brought back the beauty of blooming flox, dogwood, redbud, honey locust, blueberry, hydrangea, wild phlox, mayapple, wild geranium and hay-scented fern, just to name a few.

Above: Existing stonework was replaced, polished or reused in the renovation of the majestic riverfront promenades, making them ideal staging areas for river-based events like Venture Outdoor Festival.

Above: Renovations to the promenades include new seating, light fixtures, paving, landscaping and refurbished restroom facilities with an added second story.

Above: The addition of a graceful arc of benches, water fountains and the Cafe at the Point make the City Side Lawn a favorite destination for downtowners eating lunch in the Park on a sunny day.

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