Sen. Reed ‘impressed’ with recent improvements at Fort Adams
Fort Adams may be located in Newport, but the nearly 200-yearold defender of Narragansett Bay relies on a couple of Jamestown residents to help keep things operating smoothly. Jack McCormack of Jamestown is the site manager for the Fort Adams Trust, and his son Rob is the director of marketing.
When U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, who has a home in Jamestown, toured Fort Adams Tuesday to inspect the recently completed improvements, the McCormacks were on hand to ensure that the senator’s visit went smoothly. He liked what he saw.
“I was very impressed,” Reed said. “Fort Adams is a great national treasure, as well as a Rhode Island treasure. What is impressive, too, is the way that the Fort Adams Trust has mobilized volunteers to make significant contributions to the upkeep, and opening up the facility more to public view.”
Reed said that the trust is doing it in a way that makes it even more valuable, not only as a historic place, but also as potential economic development for the state.
“And for both Jamestown and Newport,” Reed added.
In 2010, Rhode Island voters passed an open-space bond that committed funds to improve three properties in the state. The properties were Rocky Point, the former Shooter’s site in Providence, and Fort Adams. The fort received $1.75 million. Another $250,000 was added from the state of Department of Environmental Management. The money was used for improvements to the fort, which have now been completed.
According to Rick Nagele, executive director of the Fort Adams Trust, the improvements were made in three areas. The first goal was to secure the parade field inside the fort so that people would be able to take self-guided tours. Prior to the repairs, several of the interior portions of the fort were considered unsafe. Now those spaces have been secured by the installation of stainless steel wires inside the windows to keep people out of any unsafe areas. Other interior spaces have been intentionally open to visitors.
“Now we’re much more flexible about letting people onto the parade field,” Nagele said.
The second part of the project involved stabilizing certain walls that were falling down. Along the west wall, for example, timber supports were added to stabilize it. In other places, facades had been weakened by water seepage. Those granite facade pieces were removed, marked, packaged and stored. The brick to which the facade adhered to was stabilized with new mortar and grout, and gutters were added to redirect water. Then the facade pieces were put back in place.
Finally, 50 years worth of trees, poison ivy and scrub brush that had weakened the fort’s outer defenses were removed. “We are the only coastal fortification in North America with the outworks primarily intact,” Nagele said.
Jack McCormack has lived in Jamestown since 1985. He has been working at Fort Adams for six years. His responsibilities include the groundskeeping, organizing volunteers and overseeing special events on the property. “I pitch in wherever possible. There is always lots to do.”
According to McCormack, he currently has about 20 regular volunteers and 30 more who come from time to time. He also gets help from the Navy Supply School, which brings some 40 students and staff to work around the fort each month. Bridges in Jamestown also brings help twice a week to work for three hours. (To volunteer, send McCormack an email at jmccor firstname.lastname@example.org.)
McCormack said now that the most recent improvements have been completed, they need to be maintained. That involves work like weed wacking, mowing, cutting brush, painting and general repairs.
The summer of 2012 has been particularly busy at the fort, with the addition of the America’s Cup World Series to the traditional summer events. McCormack said it was pretty crazy.
“It was quite the production with the America’s Cup,” he said. “All in all, it went smoothly. Everybody really loved the boating part of it, and it was deemed quite a success.”
Rob McCormack, Jack’s son, is proud of his Jamestown heritage, especially given the tattoo of Conanicut Island that graces his calf. The marketing director’s responsibilities encompass the fort’s tour operations, as well as the overnight programs like those that are run for the Boy and Girl scouts.
He started out as a tour guide at the fort in 2004 and moved up to his present job two years later. His job also involves the many special events that take place at the fort each year. Those include happenings like the recent Civil War reenactment that drew a lot of visitors, summer ghost hunts, and the annual Halloween event. Another special event, the annual luau to benefit the Fort Adams Trust, will take place on Saturday at the fort.