EATON — The Fort St. Clair Association presented a proposal to city council last month detailing an eight-year plan to restore the fort. The plan, which currently does not have a firm cost estimate but would utilize private donations and federal grants, includes an archaeological dig on the site and a full reconstruction of the original fort for tourism and educational purposes. If implemented, the six-phase project would complete in 2024.
Dating back to 1791, the fort was named for Gen. Arthur St. Clair, commissioned by Lt. Col. James Wilkinson; President William Henry Harrison, serving in the army at the time, helped erect the fort. It was the site of a bloody and costly battle with area Native Americans, and later served as a major support post for Gen. “Mad” Anthony Wayne’s troop advancements in 1793.
Proposal documents obtained by The Register-Herald show that phase one, set for the next six months, includes establishing the Fort St. Clair Association as a nonprofit and forming a board of directors, hiring a grant writer, and developing partnership with a state college or university anthropology department to help with excavation. Phase two involves fundraising, strategic planning, scheduline a site plan, and historical research.
2017-18’s phase three may see delays as the proposal states it “may take several years to establish where the original fort was located, where the battle took place, and any artifacts that may be located during the area. During that phase, however, a nonprofit director will be hired, grants will be applied for and obtained, and ground penetrating radar and metal detectors will be used to locate the original fort and battlefield along with any possible artifacts that may remain. The archaeological dig will begin, along with cataloging of any artifacts discovered.
Phase four, reaching through 2023, will see archaeological studies conducted during summer months, with main focus on the locations “where the museum center will be built and where the original fort stood,” according to the proposal. The phase includes the hiring of an administrator, construction of the museum center, and development of a marketing plan.
The end goal includes the addition of an educational center as well. “The park will be transformed into a living historical park,” said the proposal, “which will include … operational and seasonal staff; live reenactments in the fort during the summer and on weekends in the off season; festivals celebrating the history of Fort St. Clair; educational tours for school groups, organizations, and families; continued archaeological digs in the park and adjacent properties; and construction of an outdoor amphitheater for plays, history lectures, and music events.”
Once completed, sustaining funds for the park will be raised through ticket sales, retail products, special event fees, private donations, and grants.
Ohio has several operating forts that are open to the public. The largest, Perrysburg’s Fort Meigs, sees 25,000 to 30,000 visitors annually with a budget of $350,000. A short drive away in Michigan, Fort Mackinac hosts 81,000 visitors a year with a budget as large as $5 million.
“We anticipate that this project will attract thousands of history enthusiasts, families, school field trips, and tourists to our area,” said the proposal documents, “as we publicize the events taking place during each of the phases. This will in turn bring additional commerce to the City of Eaton as visitors utilize our local and county services during their stay.”
Reach Duante Beddingfield at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @DuanteB_RH.