They’re uncovering the remains of an 18th century fort called Fort Richmond. And they have to work fast, at least by archaeological standards.
“We are certainly racing against time,” says Leith Smith. “It’s been sort of rescue archeology, which is a term that’s been around since the 60s. This is very much a rescue project trying to gather as much information as we can.
Smith, with the Maine Historic Preservation Commission, is in charge of the dig. He and his crew have until mid-June – or maybe July, if they’re lucky – to finish it. That’s because this summer, the state will begin building a new bridge over the Kennebec (the old bridge is in the background, right). And the new road will go right over the Fort Richmond site.
“It’s 80 years old. It’s lived its 75-year-old bridge life,” says project manager Nate Benoit. Benoit says the old bridge – a steel truss bridge – is corroding, and is too narrow for modern traffic.
“This is a critical crossing,” he says. “It’s over the Kennebec, it’s a long way around. North all the way to Gardiner and all the way down to Bath and it’s important to the communities to use this bridge.”
“When the first garrison was built in 1721 by the Presumscot proprietors they were attacked, but we don’t know what that attack meant – whether the Indians yelled obscenities at them or they fired at the fort or approached the fort in a big group and then ran away,” Leith Smith says. “But needless to say in 1721 and 1722, the fort was, in theory, attacked.””
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