By Evamarie Socha
The Daily Item
SUNBURY — Shovels plunged and dirt flew Tuesday at the Hunter House as Northumberland County Historical Society board members broke ground on a scale model of Fort Augusta. The model, which eventually will be 32 feet wide, will be one-sixth the size of the original fort, constructed in 1756.
Scott Heintzelman, society president, said he is “thrilled to bring this project to life after 10 years of planning and negotiations.”
Fort Augusta was the largest fort built by Pennsylvania’s colonial government during the French & Indian War. It originally was built as part of the British defense system against French raids. The tables turned several years later when the fort was used as the military headquarters for the Americans in their fight against British forces.
Fort Augusta gradually deteriorated following the Revolutionary War. In 1930, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania purchased the land. Nine years later, the federal Work Projects Administration built a scale model of the fort, but the model was removed by the state in 1981 after years of neglect.
Heintzelman said the reconstruction of the model will be a good thing for the historical society as well as the community. “It will allow the museum to have a much better story to tell to our visitors and will help bring in tourists who love history,” he said.
Connie Tressler, a society board member, agreed. “The fort model was here when I grew up,” she said. “It will be nice to see it put back up into existence so that young people can also see it and appreciate its history.”
Visitors will be able to walk around the model and use an observation deck to look inside the walls of the fort. The model will include the original Work Projects Administration buildings. The model is part of the historical society’s mission to protect, interpret and educate members of the community on the rich history of the area.
Construction of the fort will begin next week. The model, designed by Baer Wolfe Architects, of Sunbury, is based off old plans and diagrams of the fort. Rocky Baer, principal architect, said he is excited to be a part of the revival. “It is not a typical project,” he said. “It’s nice to be part of something that is going to give back to the community.”
A minimum of $125,000 must be raised in order to complete the project. “It will be the largest financial undertaking in the 85-year history of the historical society,” Heintzelman said. The society will use some of its own funds to get the project started and has begun a grass-roots appeal, selling “Get Fort-ified” T-shirts, sweat shirts and other memorabilia to raise funds. The Degenstein Foundation, which provides financial support to organizations that benefit the community, will match every dollar contributed to the campaign.
The model is expected to be completed by September. A formal dedication will be held next spring during Mother’s Day weekend.
The Hunter House, home to the society’s museum and future home of the model, is at 1150 N. Front St.