S H O R T S H O R T S • •
STRETCHING OUT THE TENT STAKES
A Two-Story Fort Fisher Welcome Center
THE rapid growth in numbers of visitors to the Fort Fisher State Historic Site has triggered plans for a new $23 million
welcome center and other renovation projects at the Civil War battleground on the southern tip of New Hanover
Construction of the 220,000-square-foot, two-story welcome center could begin as early as 2020, depending on state
funding. About $3 million is expected to be raised by the Friends of Fort Fisher, a nonprofit group that supports the site.
The North Carolina General Assembly is considering funding for the lion’s share of the project.
More than 150 years after the end of the Civil War, the state’s first historic site has seen tremendous growth in popularity.
When the museum opened in 1961 it had capacity of 25,000 visits per year. Traffic has grown to 949,000 to become North
Carolina’s second- most-visited historic site.
“Tourists, school children, military groups and history buffs are all drawn to the attraction, with many spending money at
area hotels, restaurants and gas stations,” says Christine Divoky, executive director of the Friends group.
The new center would include extra classrooms, exhibits, storage, space for buses to offload passengers, and exhibits to
help visitors understand the fort’s history. The funding also would be used to re-create three earthworks that were originally
at the site but have been lost to erosion and damage when the site was used as a World War II training facility. The re-created
mounds will feature gun placements with a walk-through tunnel. Visitors will be able to walk on these new mounds, which
they cannot do on the legally protected surviving earthworks.
An additional $500,000 is earmarked to construct a new center for the Underwater Archaeology Branch, also on the site.
The UAB’s mission is to explore, protect and recover shipwrecks and other underwater treasures. — Edward Wills
The Fort Fisher State Historic Site’s new welcome center would include extra classrooms, exhibits, storage, space for buses to
offload passengers, and exhibits to help visitors understand the fort’s history.
CONCEPTUAL DRAWINGS COURTESY OF NCDNCR
WBM january 2020