April 3, 2009

Stone walls collapse at Fort Ti

[-BULLET-] Officials say no danger to public; fort slated to open May 21


TICONDEROGA — Two stone walls have collapsed at Fort Ticonderoga, but officials there say the fort will open as scheduled this spring.

Two sections of the northwest bastion at the fort gave way at the end of March, fort Acting Executive Director Kelly O'Neil-Teer said Friday.

She said there is no danger to the public, and the fort will still open as planned on May 21.

"We've been watching that area for a while. It's reinforced. It doesn't pose any danger to our guests."

The sections that fell in are on the left as visitors enter the fort, she said, and aren't normally seen or accessed by the public.

The national historic landmark was built by the French in 1755 and has had trouble in recent years with stone walls eroding. Most of the fort's walls were reconstructed from 1913 to 1925, when the Pell family rebuilt the fort and opened it to the public.

Fort Board of Trustees President Peter S. Paine Jr. said he'll be working with O'Neil-Teer and the staff to formulate repair options.

He said the west and northwest sides of the bastion are what collapsed.

"This is in an area we have been watching for a number of years, so it doesn't come as a surprise. It's veneer, as opposed to structural. It's stone over a concrete foundation."

The area was already fenced off to prevent public access, he said.

"At this time of year, it's not unusual to have problems from the spring freeze-and-thaw cycle."

The west demi-lune wall at the fort collapsed in April 1997 and cost $475,000 to rebuild. The demi-lune is an outer triangular wall used as a first line of defense.

O'Neil-Teer said the current wall collapses aren't as severe as the demi-lune and are structurally reinforced.

"It's not nearly as problematic."

She said once they have repair estimates, they can ask for funding to restore the walls. The fort had already applied for federal stimulus money to work on the bastion's north wall.

Ryan-Biggs Associates of Troy will inspect the walls and furnish estimates.

In the meantime, the fort will probably issue requests for proposals to move the cannons that sit atop the northwest bastion, she said.

"They're (the cannons) not in any danger, but we probably will move them."

The cannons are sitting on a strong foundation, she said.

"They're so heavy it requires a special company with a special crane. The company will move them."

The loose stone from the collapsed walls will also be removed and inspected to see if it can be reused for the repairs.

Paine said the fort probably won't be able to apply for grants that require matching funds, since it doesn't have the money to pay the match.

The fort came up $2.5 million short when its $23 million Mars Education Center was completed last year.

Fort officials say that although the deficit has been made up, they're still in financial difficulty. The fort laid off four people, closed buildings and set a late opening to save money.

The south wall at the fort was reconstructed in 2003, and the fort's long-range planning committee has identified other sections as priorities for rebuilding to prevent future problems.

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