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Growing Forward

Photos of the Pavilion taken in the summer of 1931 and just last week showing a similar angle of the building. That little twig of a tree in 1931 has grown into a large shade tree over the course of nearly a century.
Photos of the Pavilion taken in the summer of 1931 and just last week showing a similar angle of the building. That little twig of a tree in 1931 has grown into a large shade tree over the course of nearly a century.

Restoring the Pavilion goes beyond the building itself. Utilities installed in 1909 need to be updated, the drainage and grade around the foundations need to be addressed, and the collection of fine, decorative, and folk art from the Pell family need to be processed. Given the necessity for physical distancing and restricting access to the site, recent updates have highlighted ongoing cataloging taking place behind the scenes to make these objects accessible through exhibitions and by inclusion in the Ticonderoga Online Collections Database. Now that the North Country has progressed through the first three phases for reopening outlined by the CDC and New York State, we can share some of the progress taking place at the Pavilion itself.

This postcard of the front of the Pavilion from the early 1940’s shows a low hedge framing the brick walkway, shade trees, and bigger bushes closer to the house.
This postcard of the front of the Pavilion from the early 1940s shows a low hedge framing the brick walkway, shade trees, and bigger bushes closer to the house.

The interior has been transformed since last fall—floors have been repaired or replaced, lathe and plaster repaired, sheetrock installed, walls rebuilt, and the north and south porches are being reconstructed. Now that most of the major utility work has been completed, research has turned to the landscaping in front of the building. Unlike Marian Cruger Coffin’s detailed plans for the King’s Garden and the scrapbooks full of photographs that show how the landscape evolved over time, finding information about the plantings elsewhere on the property is a challenge. Sifting through Pell family scrapbooks and countless snapshots of garden parties to find photographs taken in front of the Pavilion yielded limited results. While guests are frequently photographed in front of the building, the focus remains on the people rather than their surroundings, and plants are either cropped out or obscured behind long skirts.

Other reliable sources for work taking place around the property between 1910 and 1914 are the cash book and ledger book maintained by museum co-founder Stephen H. P. Pell documenting expenses for the Pavilion, the King’s Garden, the reconstruction of the Fort itself, and the various farms on the property. A few lines record payments for trimming hedges, weeding around the building, and maintaining the lawn but do not go into detail. Most of the large trees around the Pavilion were either planted by Stephen’s great grandfather William Ferris Pell, who purchased the property from Colombia and Union Colleges to preserve the ruins of Fort Ticonderoga and build his summer home, or by the various tenants that operated the Pavilion as a hotel between 1840 and 1900. Very little archival material survives from this period, mainly letters documenting repairs and negotiations over rent, but nothing about trees or bushes.

We will glean what we can from these sources and work with the restoration team to develop a landscaping plan for the front of the Pavilion that takes both the historic appearance and the preservation of the building into account. Visitors will be able to see the ongoing transformations taking place around the Pavilion Tuesday-Sunday as Fort Ticonderoga is now open for the visitation season!