POINT PLEASANT, W.Va. — With the coming renovations to Fort Randolph, tourism officials hope it will become more of an “anchor” to the local industry.
The fort currently operates on the weekend, and by receiving the Kanawha Gateway grant, the Mason County Tourism plans to build a period-accurate forge and bellows and hire a full-time blacksmith that will keep the doors open every day, said Denny Bellamy, director economic development for Mason County Tourism.
The River Museum, the Mothman Museum and the Farm Museum are all big attractions for tourists, mainly because each is always accessible. Each anchors a particular area of tourism in the county, and the renovations to the fort will make it more of an “anchor” in local tourism, Bellamy said.
The woodwright shop is receiving new cabinets for storage. The shop will also get some new tools. Soon, the space in the shop will be shared with a gunsmith.
In the future, the committee is looking to replace the timbers on the stockade, which have been in place since the fort was constructed in 1973. The price of replacing the stockade is very expensive, said Craig Hesson, Fort Randolph committee chairperson.
Hesson installed a new pillory in the fort, which was used to publicly punish someone by confining his or her hands and head in a wooden vice in an open area of the fort. The old pillory was made with plywood, a historically inaccurate material.
The committee also plans to enlarge the fort store and offer more items for sale.
“The word’s getting out of what a great resource we have in the fort,” Hesson said. “It’s an exciting time for the fort because we’re experiencing more growth and more use. It’s great for Point Pleasant because it’s another opportunity to share our rich history.”
Fort Randolph has hosted an event the first weekend of every month since May. May featured the annual Siege of Fort Randolph; June was the Native People of the Point; Liberty, held last weekend; August will have the Long hunters and Land Grabbers event; September will feature the Militia Muster event; and in October, the fort will host Harvest Festivals and Seminar Studies.
Volunteers and re-enactors give the fort tremendous support, Hesson said. Nearly 30 re-enactors visit at each monthly event or help the committee.
Re-enactors love coming to the fort now, because of the changes that have been made to make it more period-accurate, Bellamy said.
“It’s a valuable asset for tourism in the area,” Hesson said. “The Fort Randolph committee has worked hard to try to make things historically accurate and accessible.”
Last weekend’s Liberty event brought around 200 people to the fort and all other monthly events have been well-attended.
“Anytime you open those doors out there, people come in,” Bellamy said. “It’s amazing.”
Fort Randolph is a replica of the first Fort Randolph, built in 1776. It was the most western military outpost in the colony, Hesson said.
It provided back-door defense for the colony of Virginia, he said. It was originally located just inside the flood wall near Tu-Endie-Wei State Park.
It was decommissioned in 1779 and immediately upon evacuation, it was burned to the ground, Hesson said. The second Fort Randolph was built in the 1780s and was a haven for settlers.