A visit to the Fort Pitt Blockhouse provides an opportunity to step back in time, not in a manufactured, Disney-style recreation but into an authentic space from Pittsburgh's past, where real soldiers kept watch for the advance of potential enemies.
For generations, Western Pennsylvania schoolchildren, as well as adults interested in the region's history, have been able to enter the quiet interior of the two-story, brick-and-timber structure and peer through the wooden-framed gun ports, imagining what it was like for soldiers to do the same thing during the last years of the French and Indian War.
Fortunately, the Fort Pitt Society, which owns the structure, the Colcom Foundation and an anonymous donor recognize the importance of preserving the oldest documented building in Pittsburgh. They will spend an estimated $140,000 on a 10-month preservation and restoration project of the building, which contains some of the same components that were used in its 1764 construction.
First on the agenda is a radiographic inspection of the original wood in the blockhouse, which was built as part of Fort Pitt. That will help preservationists understand the condition of the wood around the building's gun loops and whether they require reinforcement. Masonry and French drain repairs will be completed, as well as work on the interior, in advance of the structure's 250th anniversary.
This crucial work should keep the Fort Pitt Blockhouse, the real thing, accessible for future generations.