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Home’s link to past focus of PBS program

Home’s link to past focus of PBS program

A historic home in the Stockade that may have been used as a defensive blockhouse during the French

A historic home in the Stockade that may have been used as a defensive blockhouse during the French and Indian War will be featured on a PBS program on Monday.

The show, “History Detectives,” made a documentary about the house, located at 9 Front St. at the western border of the original Stockade. It will air Monday at 9 p.m. on WMHT Channel 17.

City Historian Don Rittner said he has been researching this house for about two years. He said people would not know it was a blockhouse because it looks like a late Victorian, stucco-covered house. One day, he noticed stonework between the buildings, which he thought was unusual because there are no stone houses in Schenectady.

His did some research of maps, which showed a block house a few hundred yards away from the building. He believed that it made sense that another one would be built nearby. He said the original structure was 24 feet by 24 feet but was later added onto in the rear.

“I figured it wasn’t a house at all, but it was actually a blockhouse that was built shortly after the massacre in 1690,” he said.

The English were building blockhouses to protect themselves from Indian attacks as they fought the French in Colonial America throughout a series of wars in the 1700s.

“That’s where your sentries or your guards or soldiers would stay and look out and protect the villages,” he said.

Last fall, some researchers from Cornell University dated the building’s construction to 1727.

A great fire in 1819 destroyed about 150 houses in that section of the city, Rittner said. All that remained were the walls. Someone purchased the property in the early 1820s, tore down the front section and constructed an addition.

Rittner said there are no other blockhouses in the city or in the immediate area. The History Detectives program will give the city some prominence, he believes.

“It’s shown around the world. It’s international PR for Schenectady and the county,” he said. “It’s interesting because the Schenectady County bicentennial is coming up next year. It’s kind of a precursor or a prologue to our bicentennial.”

Rick Reynolds, an adjunct professor at Union Graduate College and historian for the town of Ballston, said he and his wife, Joanne, were part of a group that was filmed at the Crailo Historic site in Rensselaer as part of a historic recreation for the Stockade piece.

He said the Rensselaer location was chosen because producers wanted a home that had a basement that would resemble a house in the 1700s and the Stocakde home does not have an original basement area.

He is not sure if some or any of this footage would be incorporated into the final show.

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