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CONTEMP-HIST-ARCH  August 2007

CONTEMP-HIST-ARCH August 2007

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Subject:

Fort Ruckman, the Battery Augustus P. Gardner

From:

David Gordon <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

David Gordon <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Wed, 15 Aug 2007 22:26:01 +0100

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (192 lines)

Some members may be interested in this post from SUBBRIT - there seems to be
a lot of oral history in there, so hopefully someone's doing some recording!

David Gordon

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Martin Briscoe" <[log in to unmask]>


> >From the Boston Globe
> http://www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2007/08/12/nahant_underground/
>
> There seem to be some pictures of Fort Ruckman here
> http://www.iussa.org/index.php?cat=buildings&sub=nahant&page=nahant
>
> Plans of the fort here as well as loads of other plans
> http://www.nae.usace.army.mil/library/flatdownloadinfo.asp
>
>
>
> Martin Briscoe
> Fort William
>
>
>
> Nahant underground
> As a town opens up a World War II-era bunker for boat storage, it also
> closes a traditional teen getaway holding decades of stories
>
> By David Rattigan, Globe Correspondent  |  August 12, 2007
>
> When town employees wheel the first sailboat into storage at the former US
> Army bunker near Bailey's Hill later this month, they will be touching on
> a
> bit of military history, and the town's social history as well.
>
> Part of a larger facility called Fort Ruckman, the Battery Augustus P.
> Gardner was built into a hill, with wide apertures for two 12-inch
> military
> guns. But the structure's most frequent use since the 1960s has been for
> underground social activities.
>
> Locals say there may not be a single native who didn't explore "the
> tunnels"
> as a teenager. It is the place, they say, where many a Nahanter had a
> first
> cigarette, first beer, or first romantic encounter.
>
> "Not only was it a coast artillery site but it was a training site as
> well,"
> said Gerald Butler, standing outside the casemate on a recent day. A
> Nahant
> resident and author of local histories, including "Military Annals of
> Nahant, Massachusetts," he's well acquainted with both the official and
> unofficial uses of the fort. Walking through the remnants, he pointed out
> the plotting room, munitions storage, the winter kitchen, and even
> dormitories. "They could fit about 120 men here," and sometimes did, he
> said.
>
> There are casemates like this all along the coast, Butler said, built when
> the country was concerned about protecting its shoreline from threats such
> as German submarines, one of which was spotted in Boston Harbor in 1942.
> The
> nearest to Nahant are those at the former Fort Dearborn in Rye, N.H. Now
> part of Odiorne Point State Park, one of the two batteries is occasionally
> opened for tours.
>
> Although planning for the Nahant battery began in 1915, it wasn't
> completed
> until 1922, after World War I, and the first "proof firing" of the guns
> didn't take place until training exercises in April 1942. The installation
> had been put into caretaking status from the early 1920s until 1940, when
> the United States activated the National Guard and staffed the fort with
> 250
> men, Butler said, "most of them from the North End."
>
> They were housed in tents on Bailey's Hill at first, but between 1941 and
> 1943 more than 90 buildings were built on the property, which expanded to
> several acres. The ranks of troops would swell to 2,500 by 1943.
>
> After the war, the guns were removed from the bunker and many of the
> buildings were torn down or sold. One became the Johnson Elementary
> School,
> another became the town fire station, and others storage buildings for the
> Department of Public Works.
>
> There was a Nike Ajax missile tracking center on Bailey's Hill from 1955
> until the early 1960s, Butler said. When that was removed, what remained
> was
> the deserted bunker
>
> The decision to open the bunker followed progress on another
> town-sponsored
> project, the renovation of the former Coast Guard Life Saving Station. For
> several years the building housed sailboats for the town recreation
> program,
> but as the renovation progressed, the building's interior became valuable
> for other uses.
>
> Rehabbing the bunker was seen as a solution to finding another place to
> store the sailboats.
>
> "I had thought about it before, and other people had mentioned it, and the
> selectmen encouraged it, so we decided to open it up," said Town
> Administrator Mark Cullinan. "I don't think we can find better storage
> space."
>
> Cullinan estimated that there are 10,000 to 12,000 square feet of space in
> the tunnels, only a portion of which will be used for now. He was still
> waiting for an estimate on the price to install heating and ventilation
> units -- expected to be the major cost. A very rough estimate, he said,
> would be $20,000 to $25,000 for the entire bunker.
>
> Putting the building to an official use might also end its unofficial
> uses,
> Cullinan said. It's also part of a larger plan to open up the area for
> passive recreational uses, such as walking trails and observation
> platforms.
>
> "We want to get more people up there, to enjoy the scenic vistas of Nahant
> Bay," Cullinan said. "We've got 8-foot barbed-wire fences around it, and
> it's one of the most beautiful places in Nahant."
>
> If Nahant needs a model for renovating the space, it only need look as far
> as Northeastern University's Marine Science Center at East Point, less
> than
> a mile from the Fort Ruckman site. The property was an unnamed Army
> facility
> with two batteries during World War II, and one of them now hosts the
> university's K-12 outreach center, which draws about 5,000 children each
> year. There are also aquatic tanks, research labs, and storage, including
> an
> impressive collection of museum-quality bones from marine mammals, fish,
> and
> terrestrial vertebrates.
>
> "It's not good for everything, but for research with no vibration, you
> can't
> beat this place," said lab manager Ted Maney, noting that the walls are 12
> feet thick. "It's like being in a cave."
>
> But, he said, it's also important to have a good dehumidifier.
>
> For the Nahant project, the first step was to dig up the entrance, which
> had
> been buried under a pile of dirt long ago. That didn't stop generations of
> enterprising teenagers from chipping a hole through a thinner section of
> the
> concrete wall to provide a new access point; the opening has since been
> blocked by a sheet of metal.
>
> Tim Lowe, Scott Frary, Mike Collins, and Chuck Jessome, employees of the
> town's Department of Public Works, also cleaned out beer cans, candles,
> spray-paint cans, and other debris, and pressure-washed the interior. The
> graffiti-covered walls gave them a chance to stroll down memory lane.
> Among
> the things they found were messages and names from as far back as the
> 1960s
> -- many of them people they knew.
>
> After it had been opened and cleaned, the workers were given a reminder
> that
> the social legacy persists when Lowe took sons Zak, 7, and Jimmy, 13,
> through the tunnels to share its history. Collins did the same with son
> Kurt, 12.
>
> Kurt pointed up at a spot on the ceiling where vandals had removed some
> old
> brackets and asked, "Where are the metal things hanging from the ceiling?"
>
> "And I said, 'How do you know this?' " Collins said.
>
> C Copyright 2007 Globe Newspaper Company.
>
>
> _______________________________________________
> subbrit mailing list
> [log in to unmask]
> http://www.subbrit.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/subbrit
>

--------------------------
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