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Fort Ligonier to get $13M facelift

| Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2015, 10:51 p.m.
Architectural renderings from  The Design Alliance of Pittsburgh of the  renovation, restoration and expansion of Fort Ligonier on on Dec. 1, 2015.
Sean Stipp | Trib Total Media
Architectural renderings from The Design Alliance of Pittsburgh of the renovation, restoration and expansion of Fort Ligonier on on Dec. 1, 2015.
Executive Director Annie Urban announces plans for a renovation, restoration and expansion of Fort Ligonier on on Dec. 1, 2015
Sean Stipp | Trib Total Media
Executive Director Annie Urban announces plans for a renovation, restoration and expansion of Fort Ligonier on on Dec. 1, 2015

Fort Ligonier will undergo a $13 million renovation and restoration as part of a plan that includes the addition of a history education center.

“This is truly an exciting time at Fort Ligonier,” Executive Director Annie Urban said at a news conference Tuesday. “We welcome 25,000 visitors annually. The results of this project will enable us to expand programming, improve each visitor's experience, encourage scholarly research and engage a wider audience in this global history.”

The multi-phase project will include the development of “The Washington Gallery” to house the fort's collection of George Washington artifacts in one area and the addition of a research library.

“The new history gallery will really help highlight the exhibit,” said Erica Nuckles, director of history and collections.

“By exhibiting Washington's ‘Remarks,' along with his saddle pistols and the current video in one gallery, it provides us the opportunity to fully interpret his early military career and time at Fort Ligonier, as well as the transition from the French and Indian War to the American Revolution,” she said.

Audio and visual enhancements include an introductory video installed at the museum's entrance. Other additions will be audio tour technologies to assist in guiding visitors through the galleries and a reverse time line from present day to the 18th century.

“Every visitor will be able to actually step into history as they depart the museum and enter the fort area,” Nuckles said.

To accommodate more education programming and the future expansion of programs, including workshops, symposiums and lectures, the addition of an education center is key to attaining the ultimate goal of developing Fort Ligonier as a year-round, world-class learning center, Urban said.

“Our education department has expanded dramatically,” said Urban, adding that 6,000 students visited the fort in 2015.

The new center will be adjacent to the existing museum building and will offer an inspiring view of the fort itself.

Brad Mooney of Heritage Restorations, who has led all major historic reconstruction projects at the fort, will oversee the restoration and reconstruction work.

The “Fortifying Our Future” campaign will encompass necessary electrical and communication system updates to the building and grounds and include the addition of a collection storage area, a large terrace for social events and a picnic area for school groups.

“These plans are a direct result of our strategic and interpretive planning process with key stakeholders,” said Edward R. Weidlein III, president of Fort Ligonier's board of trustees. “Over the years we have taken a thorough, comprehensive look at our facilities, programs and staffing, as well as analyzing our services from the visitor's perspective.”

Fundraising for the campaign is in the “quiet phase,” still soliciting support from foundations. To date, $5.8 million has been raised.

With the guidance of Teeter Associates of Greensburg, staff and trustees have developed a plan to raise $13 million, with $8 million dedicated to the immediate capital projects and the additional $5 million earmarked for long-term goals to go toward the organization's endowment.

John D. Ong of Hudson, Ohio, and Stahlstown is serving as honorary chairman of the campaign. Joseph M. Byers of Ligonier is chairman.

“We are extremely pleased with the enthusiastic support of this campaign and with the Richard King Mellon Foundation for providing the lead gift of $3.5 million,” Ong said.

The changes are slated to begin in the spring.

“All the improvement will be an enhancement to what the fort already has to offer,” Nuckles said.

Cami DiBattista is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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