Summary Fort Lee, located between Fort Ave and Memorial Drive, pre-dates the Revolutionary War and was rebuilt during the Civil War to contain a four gun battery. It was added to the Most Endangered list in 2001 due to neglect and deferred maintenance. It is currently considered Endangered.
A historic photo showing Fort Lee looking toward Winter Island.
History and Significance Fort Lee, pre-dates the Revolutionary War and was rebuilt during the Civil War to contain a four gun battery. It is a star shaped earthworks, and was manned during the Spanish-American War of 1898. Threat, progress and setbacks In 1900, Fort Lee was free of all vegetation and covered only with grass, open vistas extended down to the sea. At the time of the bicentennial in 1976, a great deal of work was done to clear over grown vegetation and to make the historic site accessible to the public. Granite steps were installed along the hillside from the parking lot on Fort Avenue to the top of the fort. Two bronze tablets detailing the history were set into boulders, and yews were planted along the main path. In 1994, the fort was renovated and cleared again and was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
In 2004, an HSI volunteer effort cleared over-grown vegetation and helped make the site more accessible. In 2007, the fort area was listed on a gay Internet site sparking an increase in illicit activity, teenage drinking parties and encampments for the homeless (including the discovery of a dead body) leading to neighborhood complaints and a police crack-down. Several neighbors joined together to try and keep the area cleared of brush.
A visit to the site on April 1, 2012, revealed vegetation had recently been cleared along the pathway around the top of the fort and most other pathways are open and accessible; one of the bronze tablets has disappeared. The earthworks remain intact with the exception of one path on the back-side of the fort where there is erosion all along the embankment, including the site of the geological elevation marker.
The park continues to be used by the homeless and there are concentrated areas of debris and litter including articles of clothing, a barbecue grill, blankets and sleeping bags. Litter is scattered among the bushes.
The entrance to the granite stairs is partially blocked by piles of sand and construction debris placed there by the Salem Public Works Department. The parking lot is chained-off and not accessible to the public except by foot.
Recommendations: - Have the Boy Scouts spend a day picking-up debris and litter working with the Public Works Dept. - Get the city to stop dumping sand and dirt in the parking lot at the main entrance to the park - Find someone to fully research the history of the site - Work with neighbors to develop a Friends of Fort Lee and provide support for the volunteers clearing the site - Apply for a grant to develop a comprehensive plan for preservation/restoration; (maybe Society of Colonial Wars)
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