Thursday, March 18, 2010
LOCAL HISTORY - BENT'S FORT
We recently did a Local History segment on Bent's Fort. Here is some information from their website: www.bofha.org
It is a close drive from the Springs, and you will feel like you have walked back in time. Check it out.
THE FOLLOWING IS FROM THEIR WEBSITE:
If you should be lucky enough to spend a quiet evening in the fort, perhaps with a full moon casting its pale light into the placita, you maybe can even sense the spirits of those that have gone before. I know, I have. Reconstruction of Bent’s Old Fort:
Following its abandonment in 1849, the fort was used at intervals successively as a stage station, a post office, line camp and cattle stockade. By the 1880s, settlers along the lower Arkansas River in Colorado found that what remained of the structure was an excellent source of ready-made building materials and hauled off adobe bricks by the wagon-load. By the turn of the 19th century the fort was little more than rubble and ruin.
Because of the important role the fort played in the development of Colorado and the American Southwest the historical significance of the site was recognized hardly more than 60 years after the structure had been abandoned by William Bent. The La Junta Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution erected a stone archway, which still stands, near the site’s entrance in 1912. Then in 1920 the DAR was granted 4.5 acres of land which included the fort ruins.
The State of Colorado purchased the property in 1954 for the Colorado Historical Society. That same year the Historical Society funded a 42 day archeological investigation of the site.
The National Park Service became interested in the site in 1957, recognizing the importance of the site in association with the period of westward expansion. On June 3, 1960, President Dwight D Eisenhower signed the legislation that created the Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site. There followed a period of intense historical investigation by Dwight E Stinson, Jr. Stinson was able to locate 20 written accounts which described the fort, or portions of the fort, as well as ink drawings and watercolor depictions completed in 1845 and 1846 by James Abert of the United States Topographical Engineers. The above drawing is one of Abert’s drawings as-built engineering plans of the Fort. To see the full size image click on the drawing. It has been estimated that approximately 30 percent of the information necessary for reconstruction of the fort was provided by James Abert’s drawings.
A second archeological investigation was commenced in 1963, lead by Jackson W Moore. This investigation lasted for three years, and revealed the first floor layout of the fort and determined the most likely use of each of the ground floor rooms. The archeological investigation provided another 30 percent of the information used in reconstructing the fort. The remaining one third of the design was provided by intelligent speculation and common sense.
The National Park Service convened a blue-ribbon committee in 1965 to decide whether or not to rebuild the fort. Objections to reconstruction centered on obliteration of the archeological site and on the large amount of conjecture that was required for reconstruction, especially for the upper levels of the fort. Eventually a decision to rebuild was reached, and President Gerald R. Ford signed legislation authorizing reconstruction on August 31, 1974.
Construction work commenced on May 27th, 1975 on the exact same floor plan and on exactly the same site occupied by the original structure. Adobe, consisting of clay, sand and straw, was mixed by front end loaders in a 30 by 50 foot pit. A custom designed and built brick machine was used to manufacture the 4 by 9 by 18 inch adobe brick used in the reconstruction. This machine was capable of producing 4,000 bricks per day and by the end of the project had manufactured 160,000 bricks.
Craftsman skilled in historic woodworking techniques hand cut and shaped the cottonwood and ponderosa pine logs used for the beams and supports. Handcut lumber was used for the doors, doorframes, window sills and shutters. Hinges, latches and other iron hardware was forged inside the reconstructed blacksmith shop.
Acquiescencing to modern building codes and for safety reasons, the reconstructed fort was built on a foundation of concrete rather than directly on the ground, and the ground floor rooms were provided with cement floors instead of packed clay. The reconstructed structure also hosts a bookstore/gift shop and park administrative offices.
The reconstruction effort was completed and the fort was opened to the public on July 25, 1976.