The Point: Vandals at the Block House
Eternal Vigilance Is the Price of Preserving the
Historic Old Redoubt. Plans for Its Betterment by D. A. R.
From The Pittsburg Leader, 30 June 1901.
Mrs. Mary Golden, who has charge of the old block house at the Point, has her cup full of troubles. She must be constantly on the alert against that veritable fiend, the relic-hunter, who, if he were left to his own sweet will, would soon carry the historic redoubt away. Only last week three men were arrested for trying to chip off a piece of one of the logs in the block house.
Since Mrs. Golden has had charge of the latter in the interests of the local D. A. R. [Daughters of the American Revolution] who eight years ago installed her as a protector of their property, she only remembers of one other arrest. This was a man, who meandered around to the block house at 5 o'clock in the morning and with ax and chisel attempted to take away one of the bricks in the wall. A blue-coated minion of the law was promptly called and before the vandal had time to insert his chisel in the mortar he was collared and led off to the patrol wagon. When his hearing before the police magistrate came up he got a salty dose, for the dispenser of justice was one who has proper veneration for historic spots, consecrated by sacrifice and suffering in the interests of liberty and progress. Mrs. Golden always sleeps with one eye open and the visitor who sneaks around the block house expecting to carry away a relic, may as well count his efforts as lost. Several times men have come around armed with axes or hatchets prepared to capture trophies. Most of them use knives. Some prefer a little bit of rotten log which they can break off with their fingers, while others' taste runs to mortar.
In most cases all that is necessary is to make the relic hunters desist, but occasionally one of an obstreperous nature is met with.
Mrs. Golden never leaves any visitors to the block house prowl around without her knowledge or out of her sight, for they are sure to mutilate the timbers of walls. In the second story of the redoubt there are numerous places where vandals' knives created havoc. The timbers in the wall being cut for gun holes afford good opportunities for slicing out splinters. The worst case of vandalism in Mrs. Golden's recollection was when four men removed a piece of wood six inches long and about three wide from one of the port holes. Had every relic hunter succeeded in doing this there would have been precious little of the old block house left for the present generation to see.Some idea of the number of persons visiting the spot may be gained by glancing at the three registry books. During the eight years that Mrs. Golden has been in charge, three such books, each containing about 150 pages, with 24 names to the page, have been filled. This makes 10,800 persons who have signed their names. Mrs. Golden says, however, that two out of every three do not sign. On this basis at least 32,400 people have visited the block house in 8 years, or an average of 4,000 a year. Last Wednesday fourteen visited the place. This is a fair average. When a convention or other large gathering composed of persons not Pittsburgers, assembles in the city, the influx to the block house is greatly increased. A hasty perusal of the registry books shows that about half the visitors are Pittsburghers. This seems to show that interest in historic spots is not a sin of omission in this city, despite the spirit of commercialism rampant here.
Mrs. Golden says that the fair sex are as eager after relics as the
men. Some of them are worse. If they can't get a splinter of wood
surreptitiously, they gather up a pebble or piece of clay of bunch of
grass from the yard. Before the present flagstone pavement was laid
around the old house, there was a gravel walk. At times it was almost
denuded by relic hunters taking the pebbles away.
Were Colonel Bouquet, who built the redoubt in 1764, to come back to earth he would scarcely recognize the old place. He would find the house itself just as he left it, except for a new roof and a few minor repairs made absolutely necessary by the wear and tear of time. In the sturdy walls are the same stones--cut from former surrounding quarter--possibly on Grants Hill or Boyds; on top of these are the same timbers cut with port holes, out of which old flint-lock muskets poured forth volleys of death to redskins; above these are the identical bricks imported from France, then another rim of port holes just above the second floor. The heavy hewn beams of the floor are still intact and as good as new, but a new flooring has been made. Instead of the rude ladder or other means of ascent and descent the D. A. R., who hold the property as a legacy to posterity, have built a neat walnut staircase.
Since 1764 the stone wall has been pointed with mortar several times. Prior to 1893 Mrs. Flaherty lived in the downstairs and a had a little candy store. Her goods were displayed in the window to the left of the door that had been cut for her especial use. When the D. A. R. secured the block house from the Carnegie museum would find a peculiarly fitting resting place.
The block house or officers' redoubt, was built by Colonel Bouquet, the commandant at Fort Pitt in 1764. This officer, one of the ablest that ever crossed the Alleghany mountains in colonial days, was a terror to Indians. At Bushy Run he fought the bloodiest and most stubborn battle in Indian warfare and broke the power of the local tribes of redskins forever. He also gained decisive victories against the Indians of the Muskingum district in Ohio. When General James Forbes marched to Fort Duquesne in 1758 Bouquet was second in command. The army reached the fort only to see it in ruins and the French fleeing down the Ohio. On the ruins For Pitt was built. With additions this formidable work stood until 1770 when it was demolished as it was believed there was no further use for such a large and expensive work.
Fort Lafayette, a smaller post, at the foot of Ninth street, Allegheny river, was built and stood for a number of years. After it was demolished the Allegheny arsenal remained as the only military work hereabouts.