Fort Massachusetts Gets Attention From Preservation Team

There's a battle underway at Fort Massachusetts on Ship Island.

Historic preservation experts are working brick-by-brick to save the historic structure from decades of decay caused by wind and waves.

A nearly 100 thousand dollar project is the first step in a plan to preserve the fort for future generations.

The intricate brickwork of Fort Massachusetts is getting some expert attention from a historic preservation team.

Dominic DeRubis is the lead mason keeping a critical eye on the progress of this meticulous work.

"And the other masons who look at this will say, 'well, that guy kind of knows what he's doing'," said DeRubis.

Work on the northwest wall of Fort Massachusetts involves replacing the mortar that keeps thousands of bricks in perfect place.

"To do preservation type work, you have to use the original materials. And we've tried to save the original brick, if at all possible, because that's the original fabric of the building," said DeRubis.

Before this team went to work, leaders did their homework about the building of Fort Massachusetts.

Chris Robinson is project supervisor.

"All the background information that needs to be obtained. Discovering things as we go along. The work itself is unlike modern construction methods, so we have to look at how things were done historically."

Along with maintaining historic detail and appearance, another factor became a project priority.

Safety concerns are a consideration.  The team is replacing those bricks that could come loose from the structure.

One of the many challenges of the project is to find matching replacement bricks for the 140 year old fort. Members of the preservation team managed to find several suitable replacements after digging around at another nearby site on the island.

"These bricks we actually went over to the lighthouse, where the old lighthouse was, and dug 'em up," said DeRubis.

The lead mason says pride in workmanship means something special here.

"Someday my grandchildren may come here and say, 'Pappy did that'," said DeRubis.

By Steve Phillips