Several original timbers from a British Colonial fort that were ripped out accidentally by Hudson River dredgers four years ago are back home and going on public display after being preserved at a Vermont museum.
The six wooden remnants of Fort Edward were recently hauled by truck from the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum in Vergennes, Vt., to the Rogers Island Visitors Center in the village of Fort Edward, on the Hudson 45 miles north of Albany.
A dredging crew removing PCB-contaminated sediment from the river as part of General Electric’s ongoing cleanup project dislodged some of the timbers from the bank in August 2009. The timbers were the last visible remnants of a fort that was Britain’s largest in North America during the French and Indian War (1755-63). The artifacts are among the few surviving original remnants of the military outposts Britain built along the upper Hudson River-Lake George-Lake Champlain corridor in the Colonial era.
“It’s exciting for us to see this project come to a culmination and to share it with people,” said Chris Sabick, Maritime Museum’s archaeology director.
The six timbers, ranging in length from 2O feet to about 20 feet, were kept in a chemical solution for more than two years to keep them from drying out and deteriorating after being submerged in the river or partially buried along the Hudson’s east bank for more than 250 years. They were removed from the solution in March to begin the drying process, Sabick said this week as he and other museum staffers set up displays for a new exhibit at the visitors center that will focus on the timbers’ origins, removal and preservation.
Local officials said the timbers will be available for public viewing during a community event Saturday and remain on display until mid-October, when the center closes for the season. They’ll be on permanent display when it reopens in the spring.
Neal Orsini, a local restaurant owner who also owns the riverside property where the timbers were located, was initially angered when dredging equipment tore out the old beams. But he eventually supported the effort to preserve the artifacts, which he is donating to the publicly owned visitors center.
“It’s a thing that shouldn’t have happened but it happened,” he said of the timbers’ accidental removal. “It’s going to wind up being a good thing for Fort Edward.”
About 15,000 British and provincial American soldiers were posted at Fort Edward, which included an encampment on neighboring Rogers Island that was the base of operations for the famed Rogers’ Rangers. Local officials are in the process of buying a privately owned section of the island and plan to turn it into a historical park.