Originally created 01/19/01

Civil War site, state park undergoes renovation



RICHMOND HILL. GA . - Nearly 100 years after the end of the Civil War, a replica of an overseer's house opened as a museum at Fort McAllister Historic State Park in Richmond Hill.

For the past few months, park officials have limited access to the museum, with artifacts of the Civil War fort's construction, maps and books about its history. It only opens for organized groups and special events.

"We can't run it and the office and campers can't get to the (old) museum," park Manager Danny Brown said.

Vehicular access to the old museum has been blocked by a new museum, being built about 100 yards away. It sits in the roadway visitors once used to get to the fort and the old museum.

The fort is still open, but instead of driving up to the fort and old museum, visitors must walk up to it. That is how it will be after the museum is finished, too.

In fact, the next project is for crews to redesign the old access road. The yellow stripes on it will be erased, half of the road will be covered with topsoil and grass, and the power lines on the road will be buried underground. The idea is to recreate the fort's 1860-era look.

Workers will also turn an area in front of the new museum used by park staff as office space into parking.

The museum, about twice the size of the old one, will house the fort's staff, audio-visual theater, gallery and work area.

When the museum is opened, the second story of the old one will become a place for dignitaries to stay and the first story will become an officers' quarters, just as it would have been during the Civil War.

Kenny Murray, the construction supervisor, expects to be finished with the new museum in three months, well ahead of the June completion date.

Mr. Brown hopes to be able to replace the displays at the old museum. The fort has Indian pottery shards, blacksmith tools, ship parts of the CSS Nashville - a Confederate blockade runner and photos of auto magnate Henry Ford's days in Richmond Hill in storage.

Mr. Brown wants to put them on display, but he doesn't have any funds for new exhibits.

"That's our biggest stumbling block," Mr. Brown said.

Last year, the state awarded $650,000 to the state historic park for its new museum and another $500,000 for four furnished cabins, which have not been built yet, but construction is expected to start soon.

State Rep. Terry Barnard, R-Glennville, who represents part of Bryan County, said getting funding for the museum's exhibits is one of his top priorities.

A living history

Fort McAllister will hold a candle lantern tour at 7 p.m. March 3. Admission is $2 for adults, $1 for children ages 6-18. The tour is limited to 100 people and reservations are required. Civil war re-enactors will portray the soldiers who served at the fort and scenes from that era. To make a reservation, call (912) 727-2339.