Inside the Block House

Photo credit – Roy Engelbrecht

Photo credit – Roy Engelbrecht

The interior of the Block House today is arranged for use as a historical site and small museum. Upon entering the building, visitors will instantly see many of the original gun loops in which the soldiers of Fort Pitt kept watch over the fort almost 250 years ago. A corner of the lower room of the Block House has been equipped with a reconstructed firing step. Visitors can step onto the firing step and look through some of the Block House’s gun loopholes – just like the soldiers in 1764!

Sibby Powers' Candy Store exhibit

Sibby Powers’ Candy Store exhibit. Photo credit: Roy Engelbrecht.

The lower room also features small exhibits relating to the history of the Block House. Some of the exhibits are permanent displays while others are changed throughout the year. Permanent displays include digital screen slideshows on the history of the Block House, reproductions of items used by the soldiers, and a reproduction of a candy store operated by Sibby Powers, one of the last inhabitants of the Block House. Current slideshow presentations featured in the Block House are “Living in the Block House: 1785 to 1894,” and “The Daughters of the American Revolution and the Fort Pitt Block House: The Fight to Preserve Pittsburgh’s Colonial History.”

Historical objects and artifacts are displayed along with the exhibits; however, due to the humidity levels inside the Block House, artifacts and historical objects have to be displayed carefully and cannot always be displayed year-round or permanently.

The Kennedy Clock currently on display at the Block House.  Photo credit: Fort Pitt Society.

The Kennedy Clock currently on display at the Block House.

Now on display is an early 20th century silver traveling clock (pictured on the left), on loan from the Michael H. Kennedy Family.  The clock was presented by the Pittsburgh Chapter NSDAR to State Representative Michael H. Kennedy in 1907 in recognition of his efforts in helping to pass legislation which saved the Block House from removal by the Pennsylvania Railroad.

New display of historical objects at the Block House. Photo credit: Roy Engelbrecht.

New display of historical objects at the Block House. Photo credit: Roy Engelbrecht.

 

Displayed alongside the Kennedy Clock is a beautiful scale model of the Block House, on loan from Joanne Ostergaard, as well as a selection of items of Block House memorabilia, including a Pittsburgh Bicentennial plate and an 1890s advertisement for an E. P. Roberts and Sons souvenir spoon.  Also currently on display are a sampling of the artifacts unearthed during the archeological dig conducted in the summer of 2013 on the grounds of the Block House.

While the main purpose of the Block House site today is to inform visitors of its history and that of early Pittsburgh, the building also features a small display of souvenirs and gifts for guests to purchase as reminders of their visit. The proceeds collected from these items go directly to the preservation and operation of The Fort Pitt Block House. The Block House receives no federal or state funding toward its operation, and the site has been actively preserved and maintained by the Fort Pitt Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution since 1894. Admission to the Block House is free of charge, courtesy of the Fort Pitt Society.

What is Upstairs?

Second Floor

Second Floor. Photo credit: Roy Engelbrecht.

The upstairs of the Fort Pitt Block House is closed to visitors due to safety and preservation concerns. Many of the wooden timbers which hold up the second floor are original to the structure. The age of the timbers (nearly 250 years) makes them unsafe for visitors to walk across. If visitors were allowed to walk over them every day, year-round, the timbers would eventually fail with the potential for the entire building to collapse.

In order to allow our guests a glimpse of the second floor, while at the same time protecting the original timbers, we made an opening in the second floor so that guests can look into the upstairs without actually accessing it. When looking through the opening, visitors will see our “Soldiers’ Exhibit” which features authentic reproductions of items used by the British soldiers stationed in the Block House. Other notable features of the upstairs room include a reproduction of an 18th century British flag (to remind visitors of when the Block House was built and who constructed it) and a glimpse of the upper gun loops which encircle the second floor.