Press-Republican

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July 28, 2008

Fort considers collection sales

Fort Ticonderoga considers selling collection assets

TICONDEROGA -- With Fort Ticonderoga millions in the red, its Board of Trustees held a closed session to look for ways to escape financial chaos.

Fort President Peter S. Paine Jr. had seven possible scenarios for raising money.

His ideas, outlined in a memo, are:

Applying for short-term loans.

Starting a new capital campaign to raise $3 million to $5 million.

Asking the state for a bailout or to take over ownership of the fort.

Getting the Essex County Industrial Development Agency to finance a $3 million to $5 million loan.

Selling property or collection assets, such as paintings.

The fort owns numerous valuable paintings by artists such as Thomas Cole, Hugh Reinagle, William Guy Wall and Jacques Gérard Milbert.

Closing next year. The fort would either close for the year or until its financial issues were resolved, Paine said.

ALMOST BROKE

The construction of the fort's Deborah Clarke Mars Education Center cost $23 million, and fundraising fell short by at least $1 million.

"The fort is running through its available endowment funds to pay the Mars Education Center bills, and, in the absence of a major infusion of funds, the fort will be essentially broke by the end of 2008," Paine said in the memo.

He specifically mentioned selling Cole's painting, which is worth millions of dollars.

The fort is in possession of Cole's 1831 painting "Ruins of Fort Ticonderoga," but the painting's ownership is in question.

It was turned over to the fort by Stephen and Sarah Pell, along with land and other collection items owned by the Pells. The 1944 agreement between the Pells covers only the real estate, however.

The Pell family, which loaned many paintings and artifacts to the museum, has notified the fort it may not sell any of those items. It was the Pells who acquired the fort in 1816, and opened it to the public in 1908. Operations were turned over to the non-profit Fort Ticonderoga Association in the 1930s.

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