- Associated Press - Sunday, March 6, 2016

FORT MADISON, Iowa (AP) - Part of Old Fort Madison has a new look for the approaching tourism season.

With the first $5,000 installment of a Midwest One grant the fort received last year, site curator Eugene Watkins and site employee Franz Hoenig have been creating more accurate depictions of rooms in the soldier’s barracks, including bunk beds and white-washed walls and decor.

“We’ve decided to stick to one era of the fort, so we decided to make it look close to what it was in late 1811, early 1812,” Watkins said.

The Hawk Eye (http://bit.ly/1OROJrk ) reports that Watkins has not painted the floors since there is no record of that being done in soldier barracks. He also is installing a washing station with towel racks by the door and a weapon rack at the end of each bunk bed.

“The weapon racks would have needed enough room for four guns. There’s not much recorded on what the beds looked like during this time, so we’re going off of what we know from surrounding eras,” Watkins said.

Hoenig added ladders to the bunk beds since they know ladders were used by the time of the Civil War, and they can be removed if later evidence shows ladders weren’t used.

Watkins said the decision was made since the replica fort features portions of the fort that didn’t exist before 1810. Those areas include the factory, which is being used as the gift shop and welcome area.

The improvements allow the fort to reopen the Smithsonian display in the west elevated blockhouse. It was closed last year because the deck was deemed unsafe.

“We don’t like to do this type of stuff during the season, but sometimes we have to. We really lucked out with the weather this year that we could get this done,” Watkins said.

During colder days, the duo was able to work on projects such as building tables or the bunk beds at Hoenig Organ.

Watkins added the fort is getting its hands on more old telephone poles to continue updating the fence. He wants to create a more accurate fence, including a star shape around blockhouse three.

He said other projects done this year will be determined by how much money the parks and recreation board approves. According to Parks and Recreation director John Luna, the recommendation is to give the old fort $65,000 in the upcoming year.

“We have earmarked funds to be used for repairs with Viking Cruise coming,” Luna said.

He said the exact amount will be determined at the meeting.

“They’ve been working really hard down there to get the place ready,” Luna said.

Repairs started last year when a wind storm destroyed a portion of the fencing. The site received about $18,000 from insurance for those repairs.

Watkins and Hoenig are doing all the work to the fort. But some of the remaining tasks, such as replacing part of the fence, will require other city workers to help.

During the next two years, the fort will receive two more installments of the $15,000 grant from Midwest One Bank.

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Information from: The Hawk Eye, http://www.thehawkeye.com

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