11 Most Endangered Historic Places
Year Listed: 2011
Location: Dauphin Island, Alabama
Threat: Natural Forces
A place of spectacular beauty and stirring history, Dauphin Island is home to Fort Gaines, a fortress pivotal to the Civil War Battle of Mobile Bay. On August 5, 1864, Confederate troops holding Fort Gaines rained down cannon fire on Union Admiral David Farragut’s fleet. With French fortifications existing on the island as early as 1707, the massive brick fort was completed in 1861 and with slight exception, the fort structure is almost exactly like it was during the Civil War. The fort has original cannons used in battle, a restored blacksmith shop and kitchens used for living history demonstrations, as well as a tunnel system leading to corner bastions with vaulted brick ceilings.
Now Fort Gaines faces an even more formidable adversary: the relentless erosion of its Gulf of Mexico shoreline. Four hundred feet of historic battlefield have already been lost, and the eastern end, where Fort Gaines is located, is eroding at a rate of approximately nine feet per year. This is the result of more frequent and intense storms, climate change-related sea-level rise and dredging of the Mobile Ship Channel. All of this has been compounded by the effects of the Gulf of Mexico Deepwater Horizon oil spill response. Eventually, Fort Gaines could wash away, destroying a vital piece of our nation’s historical and architectural heritage, and an important monument to the brave soldiers who fought, sacrificed and died in the American Civil War.
A comprehensive engineering feasibility/design study concluded that shoreline stabilization and beach nourishment will alleviate shoreline erosion and stabilize the island. Such intervention, however, carries significant costs.