What is a Blockhouse?

The term blockhouse is most likely derived from the German word blochaus which means “a house which blocks a pass.” Blockhouses were almost entirely an American innovation as they were mainly used on the frontier as a way to defend European settlers from Native American Indian attacks. While blockhouses were commonly stand-alone structures used by settlers for defense and/or shelter, they could also be found as part of larger fortifications. Similar to redoubts, blockhouses could take many different shapes and be constructed out of many different materials. To use the words of historian Brian Leigh Dunnigan, “a blockhouse was not necessarily a redoubt, [but] it could serve the purposes of one.” While it is no question that the Fort Pitt Block House was originally called and built as a redoubt for Fort Pitt, its appearance was so similar to a traditional blockhouse that it officially became named as such by the end of the nineteenth century. (Brian Leigh Dunnigan, Forts within a Fort: Niagara’s Redoubts, pages 5-8.)