AUGUSTA — Hefty cedar logs called king posts are taking their positions outlining what by mid-May will be new palisades surrounding Old Fort Western.

The old walls were removed this summer because many of the cedar logs in them were rotten. They are now being replaced as part of a $100,000 project that also included some archaeological exploration, since the soil of the historic fort was being dug up anyway to replace the walls.

Linda Novak, director and curator of the 1754 National Historic Landmark fort, said archaeologists’ efforts to dig at the site as part of the project have concluded.

Now toiling at the site are Aroostook Fence Co. workers, who Novak said have until May 15 to erect the new walls around the riverside fort. Their focus now, she said, is getting the imposing king posts in place, into the ground, before the ground freezes solid.

“They’re trying to get all the king posts in, which have to be buried 4 or 5 feet into the ground, while the weather holds,” Novak said. “The rest of the stuff can be done after. Some of it, like the plank walls, you can do in winter.”

The king posts — structural posts to which the rest of the walls will be connected — are cedar logs. The bark of the logs is being left on, which Novak said is expected to make them last longer. It also makes the fence appear more authentic. Eventually the bark probably will fall off on its own. She said the cedar logs don’t need to be treated with chemicals to preserve them, saving money.

Novak said the original walls probably were made of whatever wood was available nearby.

The walls will be built in the same spot as the walls they’ll replace, which the archaeological dig revealed appeared to be in the same spot as the fort’s original walls, with one exception.

The east wall, when it was last replaced in 1988, was placed 2 1/2 feet off from the original location so it would line up with a blockhouse that was rebuilt there previously. Rather than move the blockhouse to realign everything, the newest wall on the east side will be replaced in the location of its most recent predecessor.

One significant change being made as part of the palisade replacement will be the creation of a new double gate on the south side of the fort. The main gate to the fort in the most recent wall alignment was on the front, Cony Street side. But a historical map with a sketch of the fort on it shows what appears to be a main gate on the southern side of the fort. So that’s how the latest walls will be built.

The 1754 Johnston map, which was created the same year the fort was built, shows an outline of the fort, with two 24-by-24-foot blockhouses on opposite corners and two 12-by-12-foot watch houses on the other two corners, and a main gate on the south side, closest to the best spot to obtain access to the Kennebec River. It also shows the still-standing original main building on the site, which housed a store and blacksmith shop and is the only remaining original structure.

The surviving original building later became a house. It was converted into tenement housing until, around 1920, the Gannett family bought it, fixed it up and gave it to the city to become a museum, which it has been since 1922. The blockhouses at the site now also were built in 1922.

The main visitor entrance will remain on the Cony Street side of the fort.

The old cedar logs, many of which are still in usable condition or only partially rotted, are being put aside for now.

Novak said people have expressed a lot of interest in the old pieces of wood, to make their own fences or for other uses. She said she probably will seek permission of the Augusta City Council to offer the old wood for sale to the public, perhaps to help raise money for programming at the fort.

Old Fort Western opens back up to the public on Memorial Day, by which time the new palisades are expected to be in place. Novak said school programming scheduled to begin the last week in April should not be affeacted by the work on the fort walls.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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