FORT JOHNSON — Old Fort Johnson will be fortified to ensure its lasting preservation through a $286,389 state grant awarded to the Montgomery County Historical Society.
The funding to support exterior restoration work at the historic site was included among the $24.3 million awarded by the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation to 56 projects across the New York through the Environmental Protection Fund.
“Communities across our great state have felt and will continue to enjoy the benefits of these grants that will go towards improving quality of life, promoting tourism, and restoring local landmarks and waterfronts,” said Gov. Kathy Hochul in a prepared statement.
The grant is expected to cover around half of the total cost of repairing and restoring the roof and associated structures to the former home of Sir William Johnson — constructed in 1749.
“This is what you have to do to a house that is almost 275 years old, it doesn’t last forever,” said Rachel Bliven, director of the Montgomery County Historical Society. “Our generation is the one that gets to pick up the baton and save it for the next one.”
The project will restore the historic site to its 18th century appearance, while protecting against future deterioration. Work will include the replacement of the existing roof — nearing the end of its life, and wooden shingles that are cupping and breaking.
Woodwork around the five dormer windows lining the roof and cornices developing holes will be restored. New gutters, downspouts and flashings used to waterproof the perimeter of the roof will be installed. The work will ensure the building envelope is secure and remains intact.
“This grant will be transformational in our efforts to preserve historic Fort Johnson and protect the collections from the effects of weather,” said Ryan Weitz, president of the Board of Trustees, in a prepared statement.
Building needs and related estimates were determined through a comprehensive roof condition assessment conducted last summer by Thaler Reilly Wilson Architecture & Preservation. Bliven acknowledged escalating construction and material costs could drive up the price of the project.
“We tried to factor in an inflation amount,” Bliven said. “Whenever you bid out any construction, you don’t know until you get out there what it will cost.”
In recent years, the historical society has been raising funds in anticipation of the needed work at the site it has maintained and operated as a museum since 1906. The house was listed as a National Historic Landmark in 1972 for its architectural significance and its relevance to colonial history.
“We’ve been doing fundraisers for five to seven years knowing this was coming,” Bliven said. “This grant is a great boost.”
A major fundraising campaign to match the grant award and move forward with the restoration work will be launched in the coming months. Bliven said community support is vital to the nonprofit that does not receive any federal, state or local funding for operations.
The limestone building is among the oldest in Montgomery County and with its many remaining original elements is one of the most intact homes dating back to the French and Indian War era.
“We would like to go to construction this summer, but we need to have the money in hand” Bliven said. “We’re so grateful to the state for this grant and opportunity.”
Final designs are being drawn up now to potentially complete the restoration project before the site’s 275th anniversary in 2024.
To learn more about the historic site or to make a donation, visit oldfortjohnson.org.
Reach Ashley Onyon at [email protected] or @AshleyOnyon on Twitter.