Repair of Fort Gorges in Portland may not be coming soon enough

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PORTLAND — Fort Gorges is scheduled to get some much-needed attention and maintenance next year.

But Paul Drinan, executive director of The Friends of Fort Gorges, said May 6 that more of both is needed even sooner.

“I’m anxious to have the city stay focused on the fort,” Drinan said as the Friends prepare to launch a fundraising drive, the nonprofit’s second to preserve the Civil War-era fort on Hog Island.

On April 25, City Councilors approved an agreement giving the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers the right of entry to the fort, a step necessary to allow hazard mitigation work to begin in 2017.

The scope of the project was presented May 4 to the city Historic Preservation Board, which must also sign off on the work.

By covering cisterns, barricading exposed window areas, removing old cables and adding railings to stairwells, the Army Corps project will make the fort a safer place for visitors.

The Army Corps project is funded by the Defense Environmental Restoration Program for Formerly Used Defense Sites, and does not require city funding. Army Corps spokesman Tim Dugan said cost estimates are still being developed.

But Drinan said there are other serious needs that are not part of the Army Corps’ plan.

“Some of the brick archways have really begun to deteriorate rapidly,” he said. “If these things go, I suspect the fort may just be boarded up.”

Drinan said the Friends will soon embark on an $80,000 capital campaign to pay for a study of a “catastrophic collapse intervention” and to fund an executive director position.

The Friends of Fort Gorges was formed about 15 years ago, but the group lost its nonprofit status before Drinan and others renewed the preservation cause in 2014.

The Friends are also within about $3,500 of a needed 100 percent match of a grant of $22,000 awarded to the city from the Maine Historic Preservation Commission, Drinan said.

The grant and match will fund the beginning of a restoration master plan. Included in what the Friends raised is a $5,000 grant from Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit National Trust for Historic Preservation, and a 100 percent match from a local donor.

Deb Andrews, manager of the city’s historic preservation program, on Monday said the Friends will have to donate what it raised for master planning to the city, and she will approach the City Council about forming a task force for the process. Both are expected to happen next month.

Named for Fernandino Gorges, the first colonial proprietor of Maine, the fort was militarily obsolete by the time it was completed in 1865.

Mother Nature has done far more damage than the dogs of war to Fort Gorges, and Drinan said some archways need bolstering after years of water and ice seepage, even before a master plan is completed.

He estimated the master plan process could cost as much as $180,000, but expects it will cost less based on comparable plans to restore Fort Adams in Newport, Rhode Island.

Some initial study has been done by architect Pamela Hawkes of city-based Scattergood Design and engineer Al Hawkes of Resurgance Engineering and Preservation, also of Portland.

Andrews said master planning and ensuing preservation work will not be awarded strictly on a low-bid basis.

“We want to make sure people have relevant expertise and experience to do the highly specialized work we envision there,” she said.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

A recent photo at Fort Gorges shows hazardous slippage in brick archways in the 150-year-old fort. The Friends of Fort Gorges are launching an $80,000 fundraising drive to make needed repairs.

Repair of Fort Gorges by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is expceted to begin in 2017.

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Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.