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Dream realized at Fort Ticonderoga

TICONDEROGA The scaffolding is down and the sheetrock is up in the Deborah Clarke Mars Education Center at Fort Ticonderoga. The dream of returning the fort to its original grandeur has been realized nearly 250 years after its destruction with an exact replica of the magasin du roi, the Kings warehouse, rising on the eastern flank of the parade ground. Initially funded by a gift from Deborah C. and Forrest E. Mars, Jr., the building will reopen almost 249 years from the day it was leveled by its own French troops to keep the stores and ammunition out of the hands of advancing British forces. Duplicated down to every detail on the exterior and housing state-of-the-art exhibit, meeting, and education spaces, the Mars Education Center marks the beginning of a new century in visitor experience at Fort Ticonderoga. Dedication of the Deborah Clarke Mars Education Center will take place at a July 6 ceremony during the forts 12-day celebration of the 250th anniversary of the French & Indian War. The center will open with a new exhibit and expanded school and family programs. The climate-controlled space allows Fort Ticonderoga to exhibit artifacts that have never been seen by the public and to borrow from other collections. The exhibit, Face of War: Triumph and Tragedy at Fort Ticonderoga, will feature life-size figures in a series of vignettes along with demonstrations of 18th century military tools and functions, many captioned with the entries from the diary written by David Perry, a Provincial soldier from Massachusetts in the French & Indian War. Working with Michel Chartier de Lotbini_s original 1755 plans, architects and engineers have been able to position the Mars Center on its original footprint and have incorporated the original cornerstone found during excavation. Looking as if it has just been beamed-in from Quebec City, the Mars Center says French in every exterior detail. The straight courses of the stones, the cedar bell-shaped roof and the royal-red trim color distinguish it from the two barracks with which visitors are already familiar. Those have been restored over the years in a British tradition and sport distinguishing black trim and tile roofing. Over four years of archeological site work was needed before any construction could take place. During the excavation process an original wooden firing platform was uncovered. It remains protected and undisturbed in ground along with the two original brick ovens waiting for a technological advance that will allow their restoration, too. Entering the building from the parade ground one is struck by the contrast of the bright smooth surfaces with the hand-hewn stone exterior. The center is heated by two geothermal wells drilled 400 feet into bedrock and has qualified for L.E.E.D. Certification in many other aspects including handicap access and the reuse of native stone in the construction. Another engineering feat needed to bring the Mars Center online included burying electric, fiber-optic, and telephone cable two miles around the fort grounds. Unseen by visitors, an underground tunnel crosses the parade ground and a third drilled hole connects all the waste systems together. To preserve as much of the new centers 15,200 square foot interior as possible for public and office spaces, all the mechanical systems for the building were placed under the north demi-lune and service the Education Center via another tunnel. Fort Ticonderogas dedication to preservation and historic accuracy has propelled it to the forefront of American museums. Items from its extensive collections continually enrichen other institutions exhibits and can now be made available to the public at their original location. For more information on Fort Ticonderoga, the new education center, the 12-days of events and more visit www.fort-ticonderoga.org .

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