Battle of Rhode Island Association continues efforts towards restoration of Butts Hill Fort

07/24/2023

Butts Hill Fort (BHF) in Portsmouth, RI, was built by British, American, and French troops during 1776 – 1781. It was the headquarters for General Sullivan during the Battle of RI on August 29, 1778, in which the Patriots successfully retreated from Aquidneck Island to the mainland. It is the largest remaining Revolutionary War fortification in southeastern New England, more than 80% intact, and owned by the Town of Portsmouth.

Jay Waller, Senior Archaeologist at The Public Archeology Laboratory, Inc., and a consultant to the Battle of Rhode Island (BoRIA) Board, prepared a memorandum providing guidance on which activities might be undertaken at the Fort prior to having an approved Master Plan. The recommendations are consistent with standard best management practices for the protection and management of historic properties recognized by the Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission, which functions as Rhode Island’s State Historic Preservation Office. As the Fort is a National Historic Landmark, many approvals will be required as restoration and reconstruction occur. His memo “Technical Memorandum – Butts Hill Fort Master Plan Implementation” can be viewed at https://battleofrhodeisland.org/technical-memorandum-butts-hill-fort-master-plan-implementation/

Informed by Mr. Waller’s comprehensive report, the Butts Hill Fort Restoration Committee (BHFRC), chaired by Col. Paul Murphy USAF (Ret.), worked with Landscape Elements LLC of Warwick, RI, to develop a landscape restoration plan. The report “Landscape Restoration Master Plan”, furnished by landscape architect Elena Pascarella, RLA, can be viewed at https://battleofrhodeisland.org/butts-hill-fort-landscape-restoration-master-plan/

This concept plan includes an analysis of existing conditions, proposed measures to remove invasive vegetation, restoration of native plant species, earthwork restoration and protection, public safety, pathways, parking options, visitor access, and a notional implementation phasing plan. “Work at the fort will continue through the rest of the year in coordination with Portsmouth’s DPW and appropriate town officials”, said Murphy. “Our BHFRC’s all-volunteer efforts, both inside and outside the earthworks, have unlocked the potential of what can be accomplished going forward”. BoRIA plans to apply for funding in early 2024 of an American Battlefield Protection Program master plan addressing the Fort as recognized by the National Register of Historic Places.

BoRIA is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit committed to raising awareness of Rhode Island’s role in the War for Independence. Donations may be made payable to “BoRIA” at PO Box 626, Portsmouth, RI, 02871

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