Gateway to Pittsburgh: From Then to Now

Gateway to Pittsburgh: From Then to Now

The view of the Pittsburgh skyline is quite a sight when you come out of the Fort Pitt Tunnels, but unless you take the ramp straight into the city, you might miss Gateway Center. 

Gateway Center is a compilation of four buildings that was originally supposed to contain a total of ten buildings: eight office buildings, one residential building, and one hotel. It is the first thing you see when you enter the city, and surprisingly enough was probably the same land that individuals saw if they ventured away from Fort Pitt in 1792.

What was Fort Pitt you may ask?  If you venture to Point State Park, located next to Gateway Center – you will see the fountain and, across the river, the home of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Acrisure Stadium. But if you look at the ground in the park, there are gray inlays in the grass that serve as an everlasting memory of the original gateway to Pittsburgh, Fort Pitt.

Fort Pitt was a dominant mainstay for many travelers and traders that ventured into Pittsburgh. It was not only a fort, but also a community.

To see an original rendering of what the Gateway Center area once was, there is a map within the sidewalk that lies within the shadows of the aluminum towers that are currently located there.

Although the city is not as bustling as it was prior to COVID-19, hundreds pass this map every day and probably don’t even realize it is there and how critical the Gateway Center area once was. It helped to shape the history of the city as well as the country.

Plans were developed during World War II to redevelop the dense and “blighted” forks of the Ohio River into both Point State Park and a “Gateway” of offices. It was announced as fully financed on September 21, 1949, when the Equitable Life Assurance Society agreed to underwrite the project after securing lease agreements from Westinghouse, Mellon Financial and other major corporations. On May 8, 1950, work began to clear the Gateway Center site for the new development. The first three office buildings, One, Two, and Three Gateway Center, were completed in 1952. Eggers & Higgins, architects of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial in Washington D.C., were the architects for these first three buildings. The Wyndham Grand Hotel was added in 1959, and Four Gateway Center was completed in 1960.

The Fort Pitt Museum contains a diorama of what the fort looked like in its prime. The fort was built from 1759 to 1761 during the French and Indian War (“Seven Years’ War”), next to the site of the former Fort Duquesne. It was built in the popular pentagram shape, with bastions at the star points, by Captain Harry Gordon, a British Engineer in the 60th Royal American Regiment. 

So when you venture into town for DOORS OPEN Pittsburgh: Downtown 2022 on October 1, be sure to walk through Gateway Center into Point State Park and think of the original adventurers that experienced the city as it once was. It has transformed from a fort that protected the rivers to a gateway containing businesses, restaurants and a hotel.

Kim Reilly

Kim Reilly is a member of the Docent Corps Team for DOORS OPEN Pittsburgh. She has lived in Pittsburgh for over 30 years and assists with various guided walking tours that are supported by DOORS OPEN. Kim currently resides in the South Hills, has a passion to support the history of the city and works at PNC Financial Services. She enjoys live music, sports and volunteering.

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