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Museum - Historical Articles

Posted on: September 28, 2020

The Block House

The Block HouseThe “Block House” (pictured) was one of the most distinct structures in Spotsylvania’s history. How it acquired its name is subject to speculation. One account in the museum’s archives said it was built as a fort to protect against attack from Native American tribes. This seems unlikely since the threat had passed before its construction. A second and more likely scenario comes from the large wide boards used in the exterior construction which gave it a formidable appearance. In any case the “Block House” first appears in Spotsylvania deed records by name in 1833. At that time Gabriel Long (1787-1865), noted surveyor and businessman, acquired the property from the estate of Claiborne Wiglesworth. The Wiglesworth family owned multiple tracts of land in Spotsylvania in the 1700 and early 1800’s. Long sold the property to Richard L. Stevenson (1783 – 1835), who at the time was Clerk of Court for Spotsylvania County. Stevenson met a tragic death by accidentally shooting himself while crossing a fence hunting near the Courthouse. The house and its 140 acres from records changed landowners at least 14 times over the course of time.

The house gave its name to today’s Block House Road (also known as the Old Courthouse Rd) which runs southwest from Brock Road to Partlow Road with an interruption due to the modern day Lake Anna Parkway (Virginia 208). It also gave its name to the bridge over the river Po, a short distance away on today’s Robert E. Lee Drive. The bridge by name appears on the 1820 map of Spotsylvania.

During the War of the Rebellion, the “Block House” was located at the critical road juncture of Blockhouse Road and Shady Grove Church Road (today’s Robert E. Lee Drive). On May 8, 1864 the site became the left anchor of the Confederate lines as the southern troops utilized Block House Road to establish their main defensive line on the ridgeline known as Laurel Hill which meandered west to east culminating at the famous “Blood Angle.” On the night of May 8th, Generals Lee, Ewell and Anderson bivouacked at the site.

After the war the house and its 140 acres changed owners at least 14 times. On December 19, 1979, a fire was reported at the house at 3:58 a.m. The structure was completely destroyed by 8:00 a.m. The property was eventually acquired in a reduced state of acreage by the Catholic Diocese of Arlington, VA., who constructed St. Mathews Catholic Church on the site.

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