A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America
A Revolutionary War-era blockhouse has been discovered largely intact near a small neighborhood in western Pennsylvania. Floyd Eiseman, of the Latrobe Area Historical Society, and other local people knew of the structure and had been looking for it, using a map dated 1783 from the Historical Society's collection. What Eiseman didn't know was that it had been transformed into a family home during the Great Depression with clapboards and interior wallboards. A cellar had been dug under it, and asphalt shingles applied to the roof. A chance meeting between Eiseman and a relative of someone who had lived in the blockhouse led to its discovery.
"I knew it had to be there," says Eiseman. "There were bushes all over it--it had been abandoned 30 years ago, and had been vandalized. We had to take it down, fill in the cellar, replace the four logs at the foundation that had rotted out, and then reconstruct the blockhouse to its 1780s appearance. Its chestnut logs have been chinked, and it's been given a cedar shake roof. Now it just needs doors and windows."
Much of the restoration work has been done by students led by Derry Area High School history teacher Robert Reintgen. "Professional carpenters worked on the roof, masonry, and finishing, but senior students did much of the restoration--from documenting the site and removing the siding and wallboards, to some carpentry work on the floors and trim. Not only do we talk about architecture in class, they've been able to complete their community service requirements, or in some cases, work off detention time."
Eiseman conducted a title search on the property, tracing ownership of the land back to the eighteenth century and confirming that the blockhouse had been built on land owned by Colonel Archibald Lochry. The colonists on the Pennsylvania frontier had been vulnerable to attack by Shawnee, Delaware, and Sandusky Indians, necessitating the blockhouse as an armory and safe haven between the forts at Hanna's Town and Ligonier. Lochry died in 1781 while leading an expedition of militiamen to Ohio against the Indians, who were aided by the British.
The 25 acres around what is now known as Lochry's Blockhouse have been designated as the Winnie Palmer Nature Reserve. The last previous owners of the property on which the Blockhouse was rediscovered were the Nakles and Boyle families, residents of the area. When they sold the land to the nonprofit corporation for its use as a major part of the planned nature reserve, the Historical Society decided to dismantle the Blockhouse and have it moved and rebuilt on a tract of land a mile or so away that is a recreational center for the local school district. The nature reserve's board suggested, however, suggested that, in the interest of preserving of the Blockhouse's historical significance, the restoration take place at the original site and agreed to assume all of the costs involved, relieving the Historical Society of this financial burden. The creation of the nature reserve is ongoing and contributions are still being accepted (Winnie Palmer Nature Reserve, P.O. Box 52, Youngstown, PA 15696).