Historical Society Undertakes Project To Restore Original Fort Gibson

Friday, April 11th 2014, 5:34 pm
By: Craig Day

A National Historic Landmark in Oklahoma is undergoing major restoration. It's one of the largest restoration projects ever undertaken by the Oklahoma Historical Society.

Long before Oklahoma became a state, Fort Gibson was built in Indian Territory, serving as a starting point for several military expeditions that explored the west.

"All of the structures at what we call the bottom of the hill have something done to them," said historical site director, David Fowler.

They're removing logs from some of the structures, but saving history in the process.

"If we don't preserve our history, then we have no idea where we're going or where we came from," said Fowler.

Based on original drawings and maps from the 1830s a century later, as part of a WPA project in the 1930s, replicas were built of what the original Fort Gibson might have looked like.

But, time has taken a toll on those structures. Historians first thought they'd need to replace about 500 logs.

"Of course, once the restoration guy got in there and started taking those logs out they found a whole lot more than that so, we'll put a little bit of a dent in a forest somewhere," Fowler said.

New logs are carefully notched to fit into place. Roofs, windows and doors will also be replaced. Drainage work must also be done.

"This being the start of our state, it's almost a natural fit for the Historical Society to be here and to be doing what we're doing in preservation of this," said Fowler.

It will take until October to finish the $1.9 million restoration project. For those who love history, it's an Oklahoma investment, well worth the cost and the effort.

"They definitely should be proud of this place. And it's definitely, as far as we're concerned, well worth preserving," said Fowler.

An ODOT highway enhancement grant plus about $200,000 from the Oklahoma Historical Society and federal "Saving America's Treasures grant" from the National Park Service are paying for the project.