The reconstruction of Fort Stanwix is one of the National Park Service's major Bicentennial efforts. It also illustrates the successful combination of history, archeology, and historical architecture in the accomplishment of a major preservation project.
The British first built Fort Stanwix in 1758 to guard the strategic portage between the Mohawk River and Wood Creek from the French. Following the French and Indian War and the British conquest of Canada the fort was abandoned and gradually fell into disrepair. Its site became strategically important again with the coming of the American Revolution, however, and the Patriots rebuilt the fort in time to thwart a British invasion of New York by way of the Mohawk River Valley. The wood and earthen structure fell into disuse and was abandoned for the last time in 1781. Buildings of the City of Rome, New York eventually blanketed its site.
In 1935, at the request of citizens of Rome, the Congress authorized Fort Stanwix as a national monument. Years passed and there was no further Federal action. In 1963 the Secretary of the Interior designated the site a national historic landmark; coincidently it fell within the boundaries of an urban renewal project. The city received urban renewal funds in 1965, began to clear the site, and requested the National Park Service to prepare a master plan for Fort Stanwix.
The Fort Stanwix master plan, approved on March 14, 1967, called for the reconstruction of the former fortprematurely perhaps, for studies that would indicate the feasibility of the proposal had not been made. The plan noted that reconstruction would require the removal of existing structures, donation of the site to the National Park Service, archeological investigation, historical research, and the preparation of plans.
The extensive study and documentation needed to reconstruct a structure of the magnitude and character of Fort Stanwix is presented in the historic structure report. This report for Fort Stanwix consists of four basic sections: a historic data section, an archeological data section, an architectural data section, and an administrative data section, the latter immediately following this foreword.
A historical data section provides available pertinent information on a structure's construction and use together with appendixes containing copies of appropriate documents and illustrations, a bibliography, and recommendations for further study. Historian John F. Luzader prepared such a section for Fort Stanwix in 1969. It contains not only data on the fort's history but a history of the 1777 military operations around Fort Stanwix as well. Although not necessary for reconstruction itself, the latter was needed for interpretive purposes and was included with the structure report as a matter of convenience. A single comprehensive study is the result.
An archeological investigation was essential to the reconstruction of Fort Stanwix. Although the surface remains of the fort had been obliterated by city streets and some 70 buildings, extensive remains were believed to exist beneath ground level. A preliminary archeological investigation explored a small portion of the site in 1966 and a major investigation took place between 1970 and 1972. The results of these investigations are presented by Archeologists Lee Hanson and Dick Ping Hsu in the archeological data section of the Fort Stanwix report. The National Park Service has published this report separately under the title "Casemates and Cannonballs."
Beginning in 1971, Historical Architect Orville W. Carroll worked closely with the archeological team and maintained contact with Historian Luzader as the work progressed. His report is a synthesis of his own investigation of written and graphic sources and information provided by the other disciplines. The results of his work and his recommendations are presented in the text and drawings of the architectural data section.
After the professional reports are submitted and analyzed, the area superintendent or regional director completes the report by adding its administrative data section. This brief section states the significance of the structure, its Order of Significance as recorded in the Service's List of Classified Structures, and its proposed treatment. The section also outlines any cooperative agreements, legislation, or documents having a bearing on the use of the structure. In short, the administrative data section is an administrative summary of the professional reports and recommends action for preservation, restoration, or reconstruction.
After the proposed treatment is determined and funds to support it are available, a historical architect prepares needed working drawings and specifications and work can begin. The project should close with the preparation of a historic structure preservation guide to direct site managers in the structure's care and maintenance.
Reconstruction of Fort Stanwix alone would be insufficient to make it meaningful to most visitors. Furnishings are needed. The initial step in providing such furnishings is the historic furnishings study, gathering and presenting pertinent evidence on the contents of a structure in its historic period. (Furnishings at Fort Stanwix include its armament and military equipment.) This study is usually prepared by a historian or curator. When data on the furnishings of a specific structure are not available he seeks comparable data from similar structures. Historian Louis Torres prepared the Fort Stanwix furnishings study in 1974. His study, though not a section of the historic structure report, is included as a fitting companion to the other sections.
This publication is presented less for its information on Fort Stanwix than for the process of restoration directed research within the National Park Service that it illustrates. Each section appears here as an entity as it was prepared by its author. Thus, though there is some duplication in texts and illustrations, this juxtaposition makes the role of the individual reports and their continuity readily apparent. We hope that others committed to the vital but difficult task of preserving this Nation's heritage will find it useful.
Fort Stanwix National Monument was authorized by an Act of Congress approved August 21, 1935 (49 Stat. 665). A master plan for the monument approved on March 14, 1967 recommended that it include 18-acres of the historic fort site and that events that had taken place there be interpreted through a reconstruction of the 1777 fort.
When completed the reconstructed fort will be proposed for listing on the List of Classified Structures as a structure of the First Order of Significance.
The site contains 16.2 acres. Apart from easements given to local utilities for lines which traverse the monument, there are no formal cooperative agreements governing its administration.
Last Updated: 26-Dec-2008