Fort McCoy News September 13, 2013

Historic Stone Gates undergoing renovation

Public Affairs Staff

The historic Stone Gates on Fort McCoy's South Post off of State Highway 16, originally built in 1941, are being renovated to bring the structures back to their original appearance. The gates were determined eligible for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) in 1996 for their historical significance as one of Fort McCoy's only remaining Works Project Administration (WPA)-era structures.

Photo for Stone Gates article
Mark Langrehr of Artisan Restoration Company of La Crosse, Wis., does tuck pointing on the historic Stone Gates on Highway 16 at Fort McCoy. The work is part of a project to restore the area back to its original appearance.

Mark McCarty, chief of the Fort McCoy Natural Resources Branch, said the last repair work was completed in 1996 when broken and collapsed stone areas and concrete caps were repaired. The cause of the damage was a high groundwater table.

Water infiltration and the freeze/thaw cycle are believed to have affected the gates, necessitating the current repair and maintenance to preserve the historic structure, he said.

The damage consisted of cracked and broken cement capstones, degrading mortar, inappropriately hard mortar in some areas, weather staining, moss growth, mineral efflorescence that caused discoloration and possible interior erosion, McCarty added.

TCI Engineers, Architects and Contractor of La Crosse was hired to oversee the repairs, said Dan Hanson, a Directorate of Public Works project manager. The contract directs the firm to restore the Stone Gate area as close as possible to its original condition.

As a condition of the contract, the firm conducting the work was required to have at least five years experience in historic masonry projects.

All work must meet the standards in the contract and the preservation standards listed in the Secretary of Interior's Standards for the Treatment, he said.

The work began in mid-August and is expected to be completed by the end of September.

The structure consists of two stone walls with concrete caps, each approximately 250 feet in length with stone pillars spaced about eight feet apart along the wall. Each of the walls has a concrete bench and a Fort McCoy sign at the interior ends. The exterior end of each wall has a set of pillars with a keystone arch.

Fort McCoy archaeological contractor Stephen Wagner, who works for Colorado State University, said he and McCarty prepared the scope of work to repair the stone gates. McCarty helped coordinate the procedure to develop a contract to do the work.

McCarty said the work had to be done with the same materials originally used or accepted modern methods that replicate the original methods as closely as possible.

"The Stone Gates are one of the more-notable features we have at Fort McCoy," Wagner said. "We wanted to keep the repairs as close to the original appearance as possible, and have an experienced company do the work correctly. This work should last into the foreseeable future."

According to McCarty and Wagner, the WPA constructed many projects from 1935-41 to support the nation's defense efforts.

According to the Fort McCoy publication "History and Heritage," within the state of Wisconsin this program provided much needed Depression-era economic support to the communities in the Monroe County area.

The WPA constructed the Camp McCoy stone entrance gates off of State Highway 21 in December 1940. The gates were built in response to construction of State Highway 21, which began in 1940 and was completed in 1941. The gate road, however, had existed since Camp McCoy first opened for military training in 1909.

The South Post Stone Gates, both off of State Highways 16 and 21, are the only remaining structures constructed by the WPA remaining at Fort McCoy. The Stone Gates off of Highway 21 aren't in need of repair at this time.