Historic Structure Report
APPENDIX A. The Fort Stanwix Historical Center A Preliminary Report
A preliminary report was prepared by Mr. Charles M. Stotz, Architect from Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, on November 18, 1963, outlining in detail a proposal for the partial reconstruction of Fort Stanwix. The report's recommendations were either adopted or were so necessary to reconstruction of the fort that the Park Service's master plan addressed the same points made by Mr. Stotz. A copy of the following report was given to the writer by Mr. Stotz in August 1971.
To make the Rome region a better place in which to live by fostering in the residents the desire for a full and true knowledge of and pride in their cultural heritage so that both they and visitors to the region may better understand the planting and development of civilization in the region.
To accomplish this, it is intended to memorialize and to instill an understanding of the events, personalities, military installations and other historical aspects of the French and Indian, and Revolutionary Wars that transpired in the region of modern Rome, New York, with emphasis on the principal fortified stronghold, Fort Stanwix.
To also present later phases of military activity in the War of 1812, to memorialize the life of Francis Bellamy and his Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag, to develop a knowledge of all phases of the social and economic life of the region from its geological origin and prehistoric residents to its leading role in road, canal and steam transportation of the early 19th century, by comprehensive modern museum techniques. This calls for emphasis on interpretation and a major effort in exhibit preparation.
The site is bounded by Black River Boulevard, an un-named alley east of North James, East Liberty, and East Dominick Streets. Under the basic proposal all of this land is to be utilized except the business properties fronting on North James Street. It is further proposed that a portion of the parcel lying between East Dominick Street, Erie Boulevard and North James Street be considered. See site diagram herewith.
The basic site would be cleared of all buildings except the Rome Club, North Spring Street, East Willett Street and the un-named alley would be abandoned and the land absorbed in the plot.
The Rome Club is a good example of a Corinthian Order of the Greek Revival period and this building, with some restoration, could serve a useful purpose in the project plans.
The existing museum building is of combustible construction and is unsuitable to modern museum use as well as unattractive in design. The cost of rehabilitation would not be justified. We recommend that it be razed.
There are in this site several buildings of some historic and architectural character, the preservation of which might be desirable. However, from our experience in this field we believe that their rehabilitation and maintenance would present a major charge on the community in cost and management and would constitute a serious distraction from the essential purposes of the project. The only exception is the facade of the American Legion Building, an excellent example of an Ionic Order of the Greek Revival period. It is a possibility this portico, that is, the columns and the pediment over them, with some restoration might be preserved as a museum exhibit.
The Empire House is said to have been built in the early thirties but its exterior character shows considerable alterations of a later period and is not judged to be worthy of preservation from an historical-architectural point of view.
It is suggested that the museum contain an area devoted to the early architecture of Rome in which would be displayed pictures and drawings of buildings in their original unspoiled condition together with exhibits of details or portions that have been preserved.
While we do not yet have a topographical survey of the site, there appears to be little variation in grade and we visualize no hazards in layout from this source.
The several physical elements of the program, as shown on the site diagram and to be discussed in detail later, are as follows:
1. Full size reconstruction of the southeast quarter of Fort Stanwix.
Full-Size Reconstruction of Fort Stanwix
The principal source of information on the original condition of Fort Stanwix is the military engineer's drawing made in 1758, and now preserved in the Crown Collection of American Maps in the British Museum. It was a simple square with bastions at the corners. The walls were of horizontal logs. There is adequate information to accomplish a reasonable faithful reproduction.
The 18th century frontier forts were made of the materials most readily available, earth and wood. They deteriorated readily under the effects of rain, frost and rot, as we have learned in the reconstruction of the contemporary Fort Ligonier 50 miles east of Pittsburgh. It is therefore recommended that reconstruction be restricted to the southeast quarter of the fort. This includes the flag bastion with its cannons and the powder magazine beneath it, half of the east and south curtain walls, each backed by a barracks building and several buildings within the parade ground. The life of the wood may be lengthened by certain precautions in treating the wood with preservatives. The moat with its picket line is to be built around the restored portion of the fort. Thus all of the essential and typical features of the fort may be examined by the visitor. The trace of the remaining portion of the fort will be shown by a narrow stone path on the ground, except of course where concealed by the buildings.
As will be described later a small scale model of the entire fort is to be built in a location that will afford a view both of the model and the full size portion. While the bastion will be visible from the surrounding streets, visitors will be admitted to the fort area only from the museum building, after viewing the model.
Restoration of the Rome Club
The Rome Club will form a distinguished background for the exhibit of typical furnishings of the early homes of Rome. Additional uses for this building have been recommended but this aspect of the program remains to be defined. It must be recognized that the fire and panic laws of most states, including New York, restrict the use of residences as places of public assembly. Any use of the second floor by the public requires drastic alterations to provide fireproof stairways at extreme ends of the building, although it is likely that quarters for a resident caretaker would be permitted on the second floor without such construction. The degree of restoration needed to return the building to its original condition must await further study and research. Access to the building will be provided from the adjacent museum, as all persons must enter and exit through the main lobby for reasons of security.
New Museum Building
The existing museum building was originally constructed as a tennis court, later altered by the introduction of a second floor of wood construction, and finally adapted to use as a museum, utilizing the first floor only. In a project of such importance and permanence as we are now considering it would seem shortsighted to reuse or extend this building which is inadequate in size, combustible in character and undesirably located.
A new building is proposed in the general area shown on the site diagram. It would be a one-story building of fireproof construction, with a flexible plan that will permit readjustment and extension of museum exhibits as required. As in modern museums of this type, lighting will be artificial and subject to control to suit the exhibit needs. However, windows will light the offices, lobby and certain staff areas while a large open landscaped central court will provide a welcome foil to the interior areas. This court would provide a dramatic setting for the principal theme, our flag, with a memorial to Francis Bellamy or other feature as determined by the committee. It is important to maintain simplicity and unity to achieve an effective memorial.
The entrance to and exit from the buliding is by a spacious lobby on the western front, accessible by a new street. The lobby will be served by public rest rooms. A gift sales area opens off the lobby. This facility provides important funds for the maintenance of the project as has been amply demonstrated in many similar institutions throughout the country.
This lobby also provides direct access to one of the principal features of the museum, an Information Center, or Theater of History, to seat 300 persons, provided with a large stage or exhibition area. Special techniques are contemplated by which all phases of history represented in the museum may be presented here in synoptic form and with telling dramatic effect by an interesting new method conceived by your curator, Gilbert Hagerty. As at Williamsburg, Virginia, this Information Center will prepare the visitor for a full appreciation of what he will later see. The use of this center for groups of school children will provide a vital regional educational feature as well as a visitor attraction of great value.
The important adjuncts of storage and preparation workshops will be provided with a separately controlled delivery entrance off East Liberty Street.
As one reaches the southeast corner of the museum he enters an elevated room looking down through a large window directly on the restored portion of the fort. This room will contain a model about 20 feet in diameter of the entire fort and its immediate environs at the scale of 3/8 inch to a foot. Here the significance and character of the restored fort will be fully explained so that when the visitors walk out of the model room they are prepared for the visit to the restoration.
Similar models might be considered for the historic portage area from the Mohawk River to Lake Oneida. Also a model of the Mohawk Oswego military route would explain why Fort Stanwix was a fortified place of strategic importance.
In addition to the exhibits pertaining to the French and Indian and Revolutionary Wars and the War of 1812, there is a significant story to be told of water transportation from the early bateaux to the canal days. A model of the early Erie Canal, including the Black River branch, may do much to help the modern visitor visualize structure, as well as the social and economic impact of this vanished system.
It is desirable to establish a building that may be operated with a minimum staff and suited to year-round operation.
It is presumed that the Urban Renewal Agency will require adequate parking to serve the museum. We recommend a parking compound of 75 to 100 cars on the western extremity of the property as shown on the site diagram.
The borders of the project area are to be planted in a park-like manner and the entire lot surrounded by an attractive fence or barrier that will prevent access but yet afford an uninterrupted view from the bordering street.
It is suggested that appropriate outdoor exhibits be distributed through the area surrounding the museum, including a garrison garden and such fort adjuncts as a forge, outdoor bake oven, saw-pit, and the like.
It may be desired to consider a light and sound program now so popular at historic sites throughout Europe, and presently being considered for Point State Park in Pittsburgh. If so, provisions must be made for a proper installation.
We recommend that an intensive archaelogical program be conducted before construction of the new building. It is likely that valuable artifacts, essential for the new museum exhibits, may be recovered from the ground, as at Fort Ligonier and other fort sites.
It is not possible to make a reliable estimate of cost until the completion of preliminary studies, showing the plans, elevations and sections of the buildings, layout of the grounds and outline specifications. When this is known, revisions may be made to accommodate a practical budget. We suggest now that an outside figure of one and one-half million dollars be considered for the construction cost of the above described project including architect's fees but exclusive of land acquisition and exhibits. It is impossible at this stage to estimate the cost of the exhibits themselves which, except for the fort model and possibly the museum cases, lie outside the architect's responsibility. We suggest tentatively that the sum of $250,000 be allocated for exhibits. Thus the total cost would be approximately $1,750,000.
If land acquisition is not disproportionally high in cost, we suggest inclusion in the project of the strip of business properties fronting North James Street.
Land Between Dominick Street and Erie Boulevard
It is suggested that consideration be given to the acquisition of the area east of Montgomery Ward, leaving in place the more valuable buildings on the western portion. The eastern section would be graded and made into a landscaped public parking area which would provide an open, dignified foreground to the project. We assume that the cost of this would not be borne by the Fort Stanwix Historical Center project.
This report is provided without obligation to the committee and as an assistance in resolving the main features of the project. Our firm now proposes that we be engaged to perform the necessary architectural services and submit a schedule of fees for such work. We base these fees as percentages of contract cost according to the schedule adopted by the Pennsylvania Society of Architects of The American Institute of Architects.
For the museum building, the fee would be 7-1/4 percent of the contract cost, while the remainder of the work, including the restoration of the Rome Club, reconstruction of Fort Stanwix, and site development would be at 10 percent of the contract cost.
The standard form of agreement as issued by The American Institute of Architects is submitted herewith for your inspection. You are encouraged to raise any questions concerning the details therein. This project will be handled in the name of Charles M. Stotz on behalf of the firm of Stotz, Hess and MacLachlan.
Upon execution of an agreement the architects will proceed with preliminary studies, which, as mentioned above, will provide a clear statement of the project by plans, sections, outline specifications, perspective views and detailed cost estimates. Upon review of these studies and after making any alterations or budget adjustments after consultation with the client, the final working drawings and specifications may be prepared.
Throughout this process, the architect will consult with the client through a building committee to establish a well-defined program, acceptable to the Urban Renewal Agency. The architect will likewise consult the local and state building codes and secure all preliminary approvals that may be required.
To expedite the work and simplify communication, we suggest the work building committee be restricted to three persons. Of course all decisions, as represented by the architect's drawings and data, will be presented for ratification by the committee as a whole.
We believe the project has a sound and justifiable basis for becoming a civic asset of great worth, Our impression is that the citizens who conceived this worthy enterprise have developed an enthusiastic backing among the people of Rome. We trust that the momentum thus produced will carry us to an early and successful accomplishment of the project. In sharing your enthusiasm, we will bend every effort to this end.
Charles M. Stotz/lw
Charles M. Stotz
Last Updated: 26-Dec-2008