South Park is one of nine Allegheny County Parks in the Pittsburgh vicinity. South Park is located along Route 88 and borders the municipalities of Library, Bethel Park, Curry and South Park. It is a short drive from Brookline and offers a wide variety of recreational facilities. The other Allegheny County Parks are North Park, Boyce Park, Settlers Cabin Park, Deer Lakes Park, Harrison Hills Park, Hartwood Acres Park, Round Hill Park and White Oak Park.
The 2013-acre South Park was established in 1931. Many of the park's features were built during the Great Depression, carved out of the hills by the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps). The results were magnificent. Today, South Park is full of long scenic drives, rustic picnic groves, vintage stone architecture, and several picturesque memorials. It is the second largest of the nine county parks.
Among the many recreational attractions located throughout South Park are the skating rink, roller-blade park, miniature golf course, tennis courts, basketball courts, sand volley-ball court, children's playgrounds, walking and bike trails, horse stables, wave pool, BMX track, outdoor DEK hockey and inline skating rink, model airplane field, nine and eighteen-hole golf courses, an outdoor theatre, a Girl Scout cabin and the Boy Scout's Camp Rolling Hills.
There's also a large fairgrounds complex with ballfields, a race track, and outlying structures. The park is dotted with over sixty picnic groves, nestled among the trees along the winding road network. There are also twenty lodges and rental buildings for large gatherings. The South Park Nature Center contains various exhibits along with several species of wild birds and small animals. The Nature Center is also home to a small herd of buffalo.
Post Gazette Article - June
During its long history, South Park has undergone several changes. Most notably, during the 1960s, an automated mass transit project known as the Westinghouse Transit Expressway, or Skybus, was tested in the park. An experimental track was built along Corrigan Drive and the system was in operation for several years. The test ended in May of 1972 and the transit expressway program came to a halt.
For several years the rusting rails remained along Corrigan Drive and around the Fairgrounds complex. Many old-timers were dismayed by the park areas compromised to build the elevated guideway. Eventually these remnants of Skybus project were removed from the park. Although initially unsuccessful in the Pittsburgh market, the Skybus system went on to become a major transportation breakthrough. The South Park trials ushered in a revolutionary technology that is now seen as a historic Pittsburgh achievement.
Other major South Park attractions that have since been removed or discontinued over the years include two large swimming pools and a picturesque valley, known as the Vale of Cashmere, that included a small pond surrounded by magnificent stone architecture. The Stone Manse Cascades, next to the Oliver Miller Homestead, was also a popular place.
These attractions were created by legendary Swiss architect Paul B. Riis, who favored blending his creations into the existing landscape. The Corrigan Drive pool, which opened in 1933 and closed in 1977, mirrored the terrain. The Vale of Cashmere and Stone Manse Cascades were built using large stones excavated during the creation of the park. The stones, some as heavy as five tons, were strategically placed to form either the border of the Vale or the cascades at the Stone Manse. Natural springs provided the water to create the ponds.
After several years the Vale of Cashmere and the Stone Manse Cascades fell into disrepair and were abandoned. The ponds dried up and the landscape became overgrown with vegetation. The rocks are still there and can be still be seen, but the water no longer flows.
A recent initiative by the Allegheny County Parks Department is to restore the Stone Manse Cascades to their former brilliance. As of the Fall of 2018, that effort is currently underway, with bids placed for the restoration work.
Beginning in the early 1930s, the South Park Fairgrounds was host to the Allegheny County Fair. The week-long event, which attracted over 500,000 visitors a year, was loaded with activities for young and old alike.
There were various livestock shows, farming exhibits and a wide variety of competitions and stage performances. As the farming community in the region dwindled, the Allegheny County Fairs ended in the late-1960s.
Although there is no longer a County Fair, the South Park Fairgrounds complex is alive on Labor Day Weekend with the annual South Park Rib and Wing Challenge. The event includes assorted activities and stage performances, as well as a wide variety of food vendors.
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