Monday, February 21, 2011

Pic of the Day: Pickens--Bastion 'B' South

It's scenery like this that makes going to Fort Pickens worth the effort.

This is the south gallery of the southwest bastion. This part of the fort has some of its most elaborate architecture; the gallery is 18 feet wide, the arched ceiling has a 9-foot radius, and this is just one of the three big rooms here. The doorway straight ahead leads to the west gallery; the one to the right leads to the north gallery.

The open-roof view is courtesy of a 1916 blasting project. Engineers were trying to take a bit off the top of the fort's south and southwest fronts to open up the field of fire for Battery Pensacola's two big guns.

They took a little too much. The blasting ended up cracking the arches of the southwest wall, collapsed almost all of the rooms along the south wall, and destroyed the arch of Bastion B's west gallery.

It makes for good photography, but it bugs me that such a beautiful old building was treated this way, especially given this fort's history. It was one of only 4 southern forts never taken by the rebels during the Civil War. My favorite part of that--and the part that always makes me chuckle--is that because of its location on an isolated island, right at the entrance to Pensacola Bay, Fort Pickens kept those scoundrels from using the bay and navy yard as effectively as they might have. In y'all's FACE, Johnny Reb.

This corner of the fort is probably my favorite. It's the most remote point from the entrance, so when there's not a little group of tourists wandering in it's pleasantly quiet. I don't mind the tourists, though, don't get me wrong. I WANT people to visit Pickens and all the other forts. I WANT them to look at the brick work, the sheer craftsmanship. I want them to understand that much of the labor that went into building it was done by black men who had no say in the matter, then I want them to think about the black man in the White House and think about how far this country has come.

On the last trip I made to Pickens, I experienced something that I've seen at other forts. I was in my car, parked, eating breakfast. A car pulled in a few spaces away; a young couple got out and went into the fort.

Ten minutes later, they came back out, hopped in the car, and left. Ten minutes. I wish I'd followed them to see where they went. It wasn't the restrooms (those are outside, in a separate building). There's not a lot of appreciating one can do in such a place in so short a time.

They paid eight bucks to enter the park! It takes at least ten minutes to get TO the fort from the ticket booth! But they were done and ready to go in ten minutes.

They didn't see that quiet corner. They didn't see the remains of the south wall, where Geronimo (yes, THAT Geronimo) spent 2 years as a prisoner. They didn't see the cracks, the limestone leaching out of the mortar, the small plant growing in a drain, the sun heating bricks nearly 2 centuries old, the same stairways where Union troops fought a 2-day battle against the South's treason.

I don't know what they saw, but they missed EVERYTHING!

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