Fort McHenry to receive $1.3 million for repairs Congressional delegation will announce funds today

December 15, 1997|By Liz Bowie | Liz Bowie,SUN STAFF

Fort McHenry's old walls may not be crumbling, but they are in need of repairs since the last restoration in 1939 when the site was designated a national monument.

This morning, Maryland's congressional delegation will announce a $1.3 million appropriation to complete the next phase of a major restoration begun in the early 1990s.

"From 1939 until 1991, it has been done on a catch-as-catch-can basis," said Kathryn Cook, the fort's superintendent.

Fort McHenry -- 200 years old this year -- was maintained most of its life by the Army, which as Cook pointed out, "had a repair service living there on site."

But the mortar used in the late 19th century was a variety much harder than the bricks, with less give and take. Over the years, as water got behind the bricks during freezes and thaws, bricks popped out.

In the first phase of the project, Professional Restoration Inc. removed the mortar with a diamond-tipped drill from sections of the high, brick scarp walls that surround the entire site.

In some cases, excavation took them three and four feet into the walls down to the original bricks laid two centuries ago.

The walls visible today are later additions. The U.S. Park Service has tried to maintain the fort's somewhat patchwork appearance by using bricks that vary in color, made for the fort in North Carolina.

The latest appropriation is the largest of the $3 million restoration and will involve repairing the Civil War powder magazine, water battery walls and chest-high walls within the larger scarp walls, Cook said.

The repairs will involve designing storm drain systems that will keep water away from the subterranean foundations of the walls, because 50 percent of the surface area of the walls is below ground.

Pub Date: 12/15/97

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