Supporters Work To Re-Open Fort At No.4

05/05/10 7:34AM By Susan Keese
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(Host) One of the casualties of the recession has been a popular historic attraction on the banks of the Connecticut River.

Until it closed in 2008, the Fort at Number Four in Charlestown, New Hampshire, offered a taste of life in the British colonies' northernmost outpost during the French and Indian War.

As VPR's Susan Keese reports, things could be looking up for the site.

(Keese) The Fort at No. 4 was built in 1744 to protect the settlers of what was then known as Land Grant Number Four in what is now Charlestown, New Hampshire.

The Fort at No. 4 Living History Museum is a historical recreation of the fort, built by local volunteers beginning in the 1950s.

(Truax) "A group of people realized how important the fort was in the 1740s and they wanted to tell the story of what happened then, and they joined together and started creating a fort."

(Keese) Paul Truax is a member of a new board of directors, which wants to bring the private, nonprofit living history site back to life.

Truax is also grand master of the Masonic Lodge of Chester, Vermont. The Masons have agreed to merge with the Fort at No. 4 board, to get the attraction back on its feet.

Truax says Masons have always been interested in historic preservation and he says this important re-creation shouldn't be allowed to fall by the wayside.

(Truax) "It's one of the only historic sites in the Connecticut Valley and it's been there for over 50 years, providing education about our colonial history. In today's world, the economic world particularly, the sites that are providing that type of history and background are threatened."

(Keese) By way of example, Truax says New York is looking at closing 14 historic sites - including the Bennington Battle site - to help balance the budget.

Matt Blanc is a long time member of the Fort at No. 4 Board and a member of the new board as well. He says the fort was serving 6,000 school children a year -- until the recession took its toll on donations and admission fees.

Blanc says the fort and its reenactments helped visitors grasp a neglected piece of U.S. history - the French and Indian War.

(Blanc) "They could feel touch and experience life in the 1700s. And the site is set on 15 acres over the Connecticut River so they were able to see some of the boats that the natives used and how they were able to move themselves around the lower Connecticut River Valley."

(Keese) Truax says the new board's priorities are marketing, fundraising, and attracting the kind of volunteerism that built the fort.  He hopes to involve Masonic Lodges in both New Hampshire and Vermont.

Truax expects it will cost about $200,000 to reopen the fort. The site may host a few events this summer, and then open officially in the spring of 2011.

For VPR News, I'm Susan Keese.

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