Work begins to preserve Block House, Pittsburgh's oldest known building
The Fort Pitt Block House today begins a 10-month preservation and restoration project. Built in 1764, the Block House is all that remains of Fort Pitt.
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Work began today to preserve original timbers in the Fort Pitt Block House, the oldest known building in Pittsburgh.
The Fort Pitt Society, which owns the historic structure, said the 10-month project is being funded by an anonymous donor and the Colcom Foundation.
The block house was built in 1764 as part of Fort Pitt, which was located on what is now Pittsburgh's Point. Built in the last days of the French & Indian War, the fort was the largest British fortification in North America.
Much of the stone foundation, bricks and timber in the two-story building are original. The solid walls of the structure are punctuated by wooden gun loops that gave defenders stationed in the block house a 360-degree view around the building.
"Our highest priority is to insure the stability of the gun loop timbers," project architect Ellis Schmidlapp, of Landmarks Design Associates, said in a statement.
TUV Rheinland Industrial Solutions Inc. will carry out radiographic inspections of the original wood in the fort.
The entire effort will be done to "assure that this preservation project is managed conscientiously to preserve the maximum amount of the original timbers," Mr. Schmidlapp said in the statement.
The first priority will be conservation, he said.
The soldiers in the block house and other similar outbuildings, known as redoubts, kept watch over the fort and provided its first line of defense. The series of gun loops allowed them to fire their muskets at enemies trying to attack.
Work on the block house, which has stood in the same location for almost 249 years. will be completed in time for the 250th anniversary of its construction.
After Fort Pitt was demolished the block house was used for multiple purposes, including serving as a private residence.
Given to the Fort Pitt Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution of Allegheny County in 1894, it has been open to visitors for more than a century.
First Published January 23, 2013 11:51 am