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North Hills Monthly

Braddock’s Battlefield History Center Reopens Under Stewardship of Fort Ligonier

Jan 27, 2020 03:21PM ● By Kathleen Ganster

The history of western Pennsylvania is rich and varied, and fortunately, well preserved through historical sites, monuments and museums. A relative newcomer to the scene is the Braddock’s Battlefield History Center (BBHC) located in North Braddock on the site of the July 9, 1755 Battle of the Monongahela.

The BBHC was started by Robert T. Messner in the 1990s out of the Braddock Carnegie Library, according to Erica Nuckles, director of the History & Collections of Fort Ligonier and BBHC. It had been Messner’s hope from the beginning to house the museum at the battle site and in 2012, his dream became a reality.

“Mr. Messner moved the museum to its current location, on the spot where the first clash of the battle began. Now 81 years old, he was ready to pass the torch and approached Fort Ligonier to carry on his legacy,” explained Dr. Nuckles.

Fort Ligonier’s senior staff accepted the stewardship of the museum from the Braddock Carnegie Library and Messner on Dec. 28, 2018. 

The partnership between Fort Ligonier and BBHC is a natural. According to Dr. Nuckles, both Braddock’s Battlefield and Fort Ligonier represent British campaigns to take the French stronghold at Fort Duquesne. While General Edward Braddock’s army failed in 1755 in their quest, General John Forbes was successful with his troops in 1758, and he gave Fort Duquesne a new name–Pittsburgh.

After updating museum exhibits, BBHC reopened on Memorial Day weekend, introducing several new events. “The museum used to average about 35 visitors a month; in our first six months, we have already welcomed over 1,000 visitors,” she said. 

The role of the BBHC is important to the region. 

“Our goal is to introduce visitors to the extraordinary world history that happened in 1755 and how it connects to the story of Pittsburgh today,” Dr. Nuckles said. 

One of the new events included a Brews & Bites on the Battlefield event as the museum partnered with Braddock-based Brew Gentlemen and Superior Motors.

“We want to partner with local businesses to become part of the community. They are both nice anchors in our community, and that was a great way to introduce folks to the museum,” Dr. Nuckles said. 

Education is a major focus for BBHC. Mary Manges, director of education, is welcoming school groups and other organizations, meeting local educators, and introducing the Cannonball Club for children.

“One of the keys to getting people to understand and appreciate history is through their kids,” Dr. Nuckles said. 

One of the major focuses of the nonprofit is to highlight and explain the diversity of those involved in the Battle of the Monongahela and how it relates to the diversity of the region.

Using historian David Preston’s findings in his book, Braddock’s Defeat, Dr. Nuckles explained. “The battlefield was very diverse with 20 different Native American cultural groups represented as well as free and enslaved black men. Even women were caught in the crossfire,” she said. 

Moving forward, BBHC plans to continue to expand and enhance the facilities.

“We also want to create green space to interpret the original battlefield on the museum's grounds as well as create programming space and hands-on exhibits,” Dr. Nuckles said.

Braddock’s Battlefield History Center is located at 609 Sixth Street, North Braddock, PA 15101. The BBHC is open Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, visit www.braddocksbattlefield.com or its Facebook page www.facebook.com/HistoryCenter1755