Fort Massachusetts Memorial Park
I feel that the most feasible approach to preserving the site of Fort Massachusetts is through having it memorialized as a park. After the installation of the bronze tablet by the Fort Massachusetts Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution in 1976––commemorating the fort and its defenders––the employees of the former Price Chopper created a small park in the portion of the site where that monument sits. And they've done a fine job at maintaining that small portion. Hopefully, one day we can improve upon their efforts and utilize that quarter-acre site––shuttered behind a fence and tree overgrowth––and create an aesthetically pleasing area, while also providing information about the history of Fort Massachusetts through informational boards and events.
This isn't the first time the idea of a public park was explored. Below is an article from The North Adams Transcript, dated 1895.
INTEREST IN FORT MASSACHUSETTS.
That there is a general pride and wide interest taken in the site and history of Old Fort Massachusetts throughout Western Massachusetts and eastern New York is evidenced by the attention paid by the press of our larger community to an editorial on the subject recently appearing in these columns. Yesterday we reprinted an editorial from the Troy Times discussing the historic value of the site located just west of our town, and we here give the Springfield Republican's comment in regard to the plan of marking in some fitting way this historic spot. The Republican says: The North Adams board of trade is ready to co-operate with the authorities of Williams College in preserving the site of old Fort Massachusetts, where Col. Ephraim Williams commanded before he marched to his death at Lake George, and where he made the plans which grew into the founding of the Berkshire college. The thing ought to be done in a handsome way. It is the one place in that region of largest historical importance, and the men who will unite to bring it within the compass of a large public park to be held forever for the use and benefit of the people of North Adams, Blackinton and Williamstown will earn the popular gratitude forever. Such a park should include the hillsides of the east whence the Indians came to attack the fort, and as much more as can be provided for. Williamstown and North Adams are attracting some residents of large means and such might well give generous assistance to a project of this kind. It is an idea to be welcomed by those who are able to give. After a park project has been started it is very apt to grow, just as Forest Park in this city has expanded from the initiative of O. H. Greenleaf. Who will lead off in a big way? Fort Massachusetts Park would give a very dignified name that means something. Often times it is by the opinions and judgment of those somewhat removed from the immediate scene that a community can best learn the value and worth of things that to itself seem common-place and "commmon-ground." And this seems to be the case with old Fort Massachusetts. In our midst is one of the land-marks of New England history. Its site is a fit object for this community's veneration and pride, and sometime, not far distant, we believe the people of Berkshire will find ways and means to mark and perpetuate the scene of so much that was of value and service in the early settlement and life of Massachusetts.
[Source: The North Adams Transcript, North Adams, Massachusetts · June 25, 1895, page 2]
The historic significance of this site cannot be overstated. It is the origin of our community.
Funding for such a project could be made by donations, fund-raising efforts, and through other funding and grant sources allotted to the preservation of historic sites, such as the Preservation Massachusetts, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and the Daughters of the American Revolution, just to name a few.
Below are some ideas that I have come up with, under its current state, on improving the site:
- Information board center; utilizing technologies available, such as the Open Heritage project, QR codes, or apps such as OnCell, -- just to name a few -- to be included with the information so that visitors can learn more about the history.
- Fencing: enclose the north and east side of the lot with a tall wooden fence. And enclose the portion of the front (that is currently fenced with plastic fencing), and west end of lot with split rail fencing. This fence arrangement would help to block out the mess on the other side of the property to the north, and block the path leading in from the storage facility at the east, and open up the site more in the front.
- Remove deadwood/prune trees and brush.
- Establish a small walking path -- (one is already somewhat created).
- Create an open space, extending from the area around the memorial, in the front portion of the lot.
- Install a couple of park benches and a picnic table -- (Inground / Surface Mount.)
- Install a small gazebo, pavilion, or informational board center that partially encloses the fireplace and chimney (the fireplace remaining non-operational -- having a wrought iron gate secured to front of fireplace.) Within the gazebo, at either side of the fireplace, and where the mantel used to be, have informational boards educating the visitor about the site's history. Benches along the interior for seating. On the outside, a sign prominently displaying "Fort Massachusetts Memorial Park". This would be aesthetically pleasing, and yet functional. And a great place to hold the annual memorial service. I can see class trips to such a destination.
- Mini fort wooden playground set for children.
- Signage: A general sign pointing out that smoking, and littering, are prohibited.
- Carry-in/Carry-out policy
- Move the lamp post to the corner of the lot.
The back portion of the lot.
The front portion of the lot.
Picnic table; similar to the ones on the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail.
Informational Board Center
This is a proposed mockup incorporating the chimney.
- Spring Clean-up Day
- "Fort Day" (a family summer event, featuring period costumes, a musket demonstration, storytelling, live period (folk) music, etc.).
- The annual commemorative ceremony on the anniversary of the siege of Fort Massachusetts held in mid-August.
- Fall Clean-Up Day
- Snow Sculpting in the Park Day.