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New visitor centre for Fort Fisher Historic Site

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Fort Fisher Aerial

Architects Clark Nexsen set to build a new 20,000-square-foot centre in Fort Fisher, North Carolina.

Fort Fisher was a confederate fort during the American Civil War.  It was captured by the Union in 1865.  The old visitor centre has been under severe strain in the last years.  When Fort Fisher Historic Site hosted its 150th anniversary celebrations in 2015, 23,000 people flooded into the centre in just 48 hours.  That was nearly as many as the centre was intended to accommodate in a whole year.

“Talk about overwhelmed,” says Keith Hardison, Director of N.C. Historical Sites for the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.

“We felt a bit like the defenders of Fort Fisher, with the Union forces coming over, around and through. That underscored the need. The need is great, it’s only going to get larger.”

Last Friday it was announced that Virginia-based architects Clark Nexsen will be responsible for the design of the new visitor centre.  Plans include a 150-seat great hall, an auditorium of a similar size, an indoor classroom and an expanded gift shop.

“We’re going to set a really incredible example about how to build a new visitors centre to accommodate the public,” says Susi Hamilton, Secretary of the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. “And do it in a way that is engaging and open and accessible to everyone.”

The project has already secured $5 million in funding from the State.  However it will still need support from private donors.  It’s also likely it will require another appropriation in the next budget. Hamilton’s hope is that the news will bring in potential donors. “This is very serious, this is going to happen, and this is a great place to make an investment now,” she says.

Pat O’Keefe of Clark Nexsen says that advance planning will be completed late 2017 and will be handed to the state construction office in early 2018. If plans are approved, the detailed design and blueprint process will then begin.

“From a historian’s standpoint, this is big,” says Historian Chris Fonvielle of the University of North Carolina. “It’s going to allow the story to be told much more effectively.”

Image courtesy of Visit North Carolina

http://www.starnewsonline.com/news/20170804/new-fort-fisher-visitors-center-takes-first-step

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