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Weighty History

The oxen Mick and Mack aren’t the only team doing heavy lifting on Ticonderoga’s campus. A few yards away from Public History staff building a batteau, crews are deep into the restoration of the 1826 National Historic Landmark Pavilion. A large component of the adaptive re-use of the west wing of the Pavilion is a high-spec kitchen and cafe prep area, which takes up one continuous space on the ground floor. This space will offer food and beverages to visitors and events across the Pavilion and King’s Garden area.

The massive I-beam, as it was found, supporting the entire second floor of the West Wing of the Pavilion.
The massive I beam as it was found supporting the entire second floor of the West Wing of the Pavilion

In order to create this open space, plans call for removing a large 20th-century brick wall. When we removed plaster on the ceiling we discovered that an enormous steel I-beam was about the only thing holding up the second floor—and was, unfortunately, resting on the brick wall.  The wall and the beam, sadly, had to go. The discovery of a massive steel beam is not what one would expect in a structure dating to 1826. Indeed, it was installed during the first restoration of the Pavilion in 1909, when museum founders Stephen and Sarah Pell began restoring both the fort and this stately home for future generations.

Even more interesting, on the beam was a painted inscription indicating who put it there! “Wm. A. Gale” of Addison Junction, New York is William Austin Gale, a longtime Ticonderoga resident. In addition to his work at the Pavilion, Mr. Gale’s name appears throughout the Pell’s 1911-1914 Cash Book, including a contract to build the expansive stone garage located nearby. Later in his career, Ticonderoga Pulp and Paper Company hired his firm to build worker homes on Butler Avenue and Lake George Avenue in Ticonderoga, listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1989.

Gale’s name also appears in this October 5, 1912 entry for work done to the Pell’s stately stone Garage.
Gales name also appears in this October 5 1912 entry for work done to the Pells stately stone Garage

For structural reasons, the I-beam has been removed from the Pavilion, but the section with Gale’s Signature has been preserved to help tell the story of the building’s evolution over the centuries.

Stay tuned here and on Fort Ticonderoga’s Facebook page for updates on the restoration of the Pavilion, new discoveries, and more from Fort Ticonderoga every week.