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Cash-strapped Ft. Ticonderoga In Trouble


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  • Cash-strapped Ft. Ticonderoga In Trouble

    It's our heritage, our historical moment in the history of the Founding of America. And we fail to preserve it. Shame on us.


    Deborah Clarke Mars Education Center in the reconstructed magasin du Roi, Fort Ticonderoga.
    View from the Place d'Armes, 2007.

    Historic New York

    Fort Ticonderoga

    During the 18th century, when nations fought to control the strategic route between the St. Lawrence River in Canada and the Hudson River to the south, the fortification overlooking the outlet of Lake George into Lake Champlain was called "a key to continent."

    The French constructed here in 1755 the stronghold they named Carillon and made it a base to attack their English rivals. In 1758, Carillon, under Marquis de Montcalm, withstood assault by superior British Forces. The next year, Jeffery Amherst's troops captured Carillon and forced the French to retreat from the Lake Champlain. The British renamed the fortress Fort Ticonderoga.

    During the American Revolution, Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys captured Ticonderoga in a surprise attack, May 10, 1775. Cannon hauled from Ticonderoga to Boston helped George Washington drive the British from that city. In July 1777, General Burgoyne's invading army overwhelmed the American fort and Ticonderoga became British. Americans unsuccessfully attacked the fort in September 1777; later the British abandoned it.

    In 1816, William Ferris Pell acquired the fort. His descendants began its restoration and in 1909 opened Ticonderoga to the public. Now the Fort Ticonderoga Association maintains the historic fort and its military museum.


    Cash-strapped Fort Ticonderoga weighs selling art
    By Chris Carola
    Associated Press Writer / August 9, 2008

    TICONDEROGA, N.Y.—Fort Ticonderoga, one of the nation's oldest and most significant historic sites, is so financially strapped that its trustees are considering selling off some of the fort's vast collection of artifacts, including artwork believed to be worth millions.

    The move comes after the fort lost the support of billionaire Forrest E. Mars Jr. amid disagreements with Fort Ticonderoga's longtime executive director, Nicholas Westbrook.

    Besides being a privately owned tourist attraction operated as a not-for-profit, Fort Ticonderoga is also a state-chartered museum. Museum charters are granted by regents who must approve any sale of artifacts or artwork.

    Peter Paine Jr., the new president of the board of trustees for the Fort Ticonderoga Association, sent a memo last month to board members outlining the financial crunch and listing several options to try to erase about $2.5 million in debt. Among them was closing next year and selling "Gelyna, View Near Ticonderoga," painted by Thomas Cole after he visited Ticonderoga in the 1820s. Other Cole works have sold for more than $1 million.

    Fort Ticonderoga, a National Historic Landmark, played a key role in North American history from its construction by the French in 1755 through the American Revolution, when it changed hands three times. The bloodiest battle of the French and Indian War was fought there 250 years ago, and Benedict Arnold, along with Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys, famously captured the fort from the British in 1775 without firing a shot.

    Now, shaky finances -- not warring nations -- threaten one of America's earliest tourist destinations. Annual attendance has declined by 33 percent from 2001 to 2007.

    The drop-off in attendance had been countered by millions in financial support given by Forrest Mars, former chief executive of Mars Inc. and heir to the family's candy fortune, and his wife, Deborah, president of the fort's board of trustees.

    With museums everywhere scrambling for benefactors of any kind, the fort had a big home-field advantage: Deb Mars was born in Ticonderoga.

    But in February, Forrest Mars sent an e-mail to Westbrook, telling him the couple would no longer support the fort.

    Forrest Mars' e-mail, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press, contains a litany of complaints about Westbrook's management skills, including infrequent communication with Deborah Mars about the new education center and "running away from decisions."

    "The ride is over," Forrest Mars wrote. "Deb and I are out for good. I wish you and the Fort the best of luck."

    Forrest Mars did not respond to Associated Press requests for comment made by e-mail and through Mars Inc. headquarters in McLean, Va. Calls to the Mars ranch in Birney, Mont., went unanswered.

    Westbrook didn't elaborate on his relationship with the Marses, who also have a home in Wyoming.

    "I think they found that trying to play a close-hand role in Ticonderoga from Wyoming or a house in the south of France or on a yacht in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean was very, very difficult," he said.

    Last edited by Stormy; 08-10-2008, 10:44 AM.

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