Friends of Fort Knox
P.O. Box 456
By Tanya Mitchell
VillageSoup/Waldo County Citizen Reporter
PROSPECT (Aug 3): Antiques are the best features of the newly refurbished officers quarters at Fort Knox, as they give the display its historic quality, said Michael Celli, chairman of the Friends of Fort Knox board of directors.
Michael Celli, chairman of the Friends of Fort Knox
board of directors, opens the dedication
ceremony for the newly refurbished officers' quarters.
(Photo by Tanya Mitchell)
"Some are re-created pieces, but most are actual pieces," Celli said. "... A lot of these different museums use all re-created things for these kinds of displays, and they make nice displays, but they're not historical."
For the last three years, members of Maine's Daughters of the American Revolution made the officers' quarters the DAR state regents project. DAR members joined Tim Hall of the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands Northern Regional Office and FOFK Executive Director Leon Seymour on Friday, July 27, for the official dedication of the fort's newest attraction.
DAR Honorary State Regent Donna Hoffman said over the last three years the Maine chapter donated $6,500 toward the project. Hoffman delivered the dedication speech during Friday's ceremony, after which she unveiled the plaque of donors to be displayed near the entrance of the officers' quarters.
Hall said the completion of the officers' quarters, which features a 19th-century writing desk and a seated mannequin in period clothing, was not sponsored by tax dollars â€” it was done solely through the generosity of DAR and the work of the FOFK Board.
"It is particularly touching to do so in memory of the men and women who served our country," said Hall.
"We are really appreciative that DAR are involved in the project," said Seymour. "The reason the fort's here dates back to the Revolution ... Your ancestors fought to get this country up and running, and now you're a part of that history."
Celli, who secured many of the antiques, explained the measures he took to make the officers' quarters as authentic as possible. A mother's pouch on a trunk at the end of the re-created soldier's bed carries needle and thread, buttons and patches and a kit the United States government eventually mass-produced for use by the soldiers. The books at the writing desk are authentic from the late 1800s, said Celli, as are the hand-powered coffee grinder and a ceramic jug made in Portland.
A portable checker set is also part of the display. It is designed to roll up into a small pouch that would fit in a soldier's pocket. The officers' quarters also includes an old photo of an unidentified woman.
The man who oversaw the fort from 1887 until his death in 1900, Sgt. Leopold Hegyi, was espoused to a woman, due to an arranged marriage in his home country of Romania.
Hegyi, who spent much of his time in the officers' quarters, was known for drinking one beer a day. A 19th century beer bottle was unearthed when masonry work was done in 2004 in the officers' quarters. Celli said Hegyi's wife would visit him at the fort once or twice a year.
"He drank a little bit more when she was around," laughed Celli. He said historical accounts recalled the sergeant's wife traveled to the fort to collect his belongings and money after his death, but showed little concern that her husband has passed.
For more information, visit fortknox.maineguide.com or call 207-469-6553.
PROSPECT — Twenty-four-pound flank howitzer cannons once again guard the Penobscot River from their rousts inside the granite battlements of historic Fort Knox.
On Tuesday, three of the 1,500-pound cast iron cannon tubes and the white oak traversing carriages they sit in were positioned inside the fort’s main bastion. A fourth operational 24-pound flank howitzer cannon is located inside the Visitor Center at Fort Knox.
According to Maine State Historic Site Specialist Tom Desjardin, with the addition of the four howitzer cannons Fort Knox now has more of this type of cannon on display than any other historic site in the country.
“This is a big day for the people of Maine because history is coming home and it will be here for generations to come,” said Friends of Fort Knox Executive Director Leon Seymour.
The Friends organization raised in excess of $40,000 to fund the restoration project of the four cannons, $30,000 of which came from a Davis Family Foundation grant. The four cannons had been held in storage at the fort since 1998.
Informational panels will soon be placed next to the three cannons inside the fort, which would have been used for short-range antipersonnel defense. The positioning of the cannons represents a strategic defensive position that would have guarded against a ground assault, specifically guarding the entrances to Fort Knox and repelling ground forces from trying to storm the fort through the defensive ditches.
John Wedin of Orrington, a Friends of Fort Knox member, rescued two of the cannons in 1998 from the Oak Hill Cemetery in Bucksport. The cannons and several cannonballs were part of an aging Civil War monument, which featured a statue of a soldier that is still located in the cemetery. Wedin offered to restore the cemetery in trade for the cannons and cannonballs, which he donated to the fort. The two other cannons had been in storage at Fort Knox for a while.
“We could prove by documentation that they really came from [Fort Knox],” said Wedin. Using serial numbers, the cannons were traced back to a foundry in Watervliet, N.Y.
Gordon McCrae of McCrae’s Welding in Eddington restored the four cannons over the past eight months. McCrae said he had to rebuild 60 percent of the iron hardware on the cannons and completely replace the wooden carriages.
“It was a fun project. They were in real good shape,” said McCrae, who believes that none of the four cannons had been fired or even set up in a carriage but had mostly sat in storage.
McCrae said he’s done about a dozen similar projects to this.
Seymour said the Friends organization will be gearing up for its next restoration project this fall, which will involve repointing the brickwork in the fort. Much of the mortar holding together the brickwork has eroded over time and Seymour said the organization wants to start up a masonry program at Fort Knox.