December 14, 2016. Courtesy of The State Port Pilot. http://stateportpilot.com/
By Lee Hinnant
Saving one of three sites on the National Register of Historic Places in Caswell Beach could cost $30,000 to $50,000, a new engineering report estimates. The non-profit Friends of Fort Caswell Rifle Range are looking for sponsors to help with the cause.
The range is a curved concrete pit used to train soldiers at Fort Caswell in long-range riflery before they shipped overseas during World War I. Nearly 100 years old, the pit is now in the shade next to Oak Island Golf Course at Caswell Dunes subdivision.
During the past few years, volunteers have cleaned out the pit, shored up the walls with timbers and removed a few trees that were threatening the structure. The friends group has also added signs and holds an annual fundraiser at the clubhouse. Money raised so far will cover the costs of the engineering report and insurance, but leaves room for little else, said Norma Eckard, a founder of the group.
The rifle range was once part of the larger Fort Caswell complex, listed on the National Register along with the former lifesaving station and Oak Island Lighthouse.
Fort Caswell is privately owned by the N.C. Baptist Association and hosts thousands for retreats, camps, classes and performances. The lighthouse also draws thousands of visitors and the former lifesaving station is a privately owned residence. The rifle range and land around it are owned by a homeowners association, although the street passing by is open to the public. This lack of public access, required by the association, complicates some efforts to raise money for preservation and restoration, Eckard said.
The biggest job will be removing backfill and straightening the north wall with hydraulic jacks. Steel supports should be added to three places, Eckard said. During the past century, the poured-in-place concrete wall has shifted about six inches south, the report by Ross Linden Engineers stated. Plumbing the wall is important to keeping it structurally sound, an engineer determined.
Repairing cracks, replacing the lintels over two doorways and sealing the concrete are other needs, the report stated.
“While the majority of the existing structure is in adequate condition, there are certain areas that have experienced extensive cracking and are in need of repair,” wrote Brian Ross, vice-president and structural engineer.
Ross first suggested keeping the floors clear of leaves and other debris on a regular basis. The next step would be to repair hairline cracks on the low wall facing the road and grout the joints. After that, crews should repair cracks and grout the 10-foothigh back wall in the target pit portion. Removing some of the backfill behind another 10-foot back wall and straightening it would be the next task.
Repairing other cracks and the beams or lintels is another important job, as is waterproofing the concrete, the engineer suggested.
Eckard said the friends group could use help from people interested in preserving a unique piece of history. “We’re pedaling as fast as we can, but we need more people,” she said.
Persons may reach Eckard at email@example.com, or Friends of Fort Caswell Rifle Range at 5 Foxfire Trace, Caswell
Beach, NC 28465.