Upcoming Changes at Fort Hawkins May Bring In More People
A local historical landmark will be undergoing new changes in the upcoming future.
Caretakers at Fort Hawkins have plans to take the historical landmark from obscurity to notoriety by building a new visitor center and making the fort more accessible to the public off Emory Highway. They are trying to energize the public about the city’s roots and recreate the fort to how it looked when it was built in 1806.
"We've always called ourselves the forgotten fort, on the forgotten frontier from the forgotten war," Fort Hawkins Project Coordinator, Marty Willet, said.
Willet has been running the historic landmark for more than 20 years. Even though he has been battling cancer and is currently in remission, he said keeping the fort alive is his toughest test.
"The fort is just important that we don't forget this history,” he said. “This is Macon's birthplace."
Fort Hawkins was the army headquarters for the south during the War of 1812, but these days it only sees about 50 visitors a weekend.
"The crowds may not be huge but they seem to be dedicated and steady," he said.
Dedicated, steady and soon plentiful if a plan made by Willet and the Fort Hawkins Commission can draw in more crowds. Willet said the plan involves bringing the fort back to life.
"About ten new outdoor interpretive displays on the grounds," he said. "(A) living history program and the archeology will help be the engine that drives success at the fort."
The plan also involves a new visitor’s center. A two story log cabin trading post will be built on the old basketball court about fifty yards away from the fort. Adjacent to that will be a parking lot right off Emory Highway which Willet said will make it easier and convenient for tourists to come visit the historical place.
"This will be a regional and national educational center where patriotic education program takes place year round."
Willet said he hopes the new facilities not only draw in more visitors but also teaches them the true historic meaning of Macon's birthplace.
"We need to redefine the fort because there's too many people in Macon that think this is Fort Hawkins but this is a 1930's replica of one of the two original block houses and it had a ten foot wall around it," he said.
However, until construction breaks ground, Willet said he'll just do what he can now to keep people coming back.
"We're just doing little things now so the visitor can enjoy it more when they come back."
Willet said he hopes construction can begin by next year. Fort Hawkins is free to the public and will be open every weekend until December.