Wednesday, June 11, 2003

Fort Wright trying to preserve Civil War battery

By William Croyle
Enquirer contributor

FORT WRIGHT - It was built 140 years ago to protect Northern Kentucky and Cincinnati from the Confederate Army. This city is now trying to protect it from an army of bulldozers.

Hooper Battery - an earthen wall built by the Union to stave off rebel forces during the Civil War - sits on 14 acres on Highland Pike owned by the Northern Kentucky University Foundation.

The city made an offer to the school this week to buy the property, hoping to turn it into a park and save the battery from developers who have destroyed others in the area.

"The fact that this is the last, large, undeveloped tract in Fort Wright makes it important for us to get before it's developed," said City Administrator Larry Klein.

Klein would not disclose the amount of the city's offer. He said he hopes to get a response from NKU in the next couple of weeks.

Mike Baker, interim executive director of the NKU Foundation, had not seen the offer Tuesday afternoon, but was glad to hear there is one.

"Fort Wright is the only one we're working with at this point," said Baker. "If we could (sell it to them), it would be a win-win situation for all parties."

The property includes the battery and a two-story brick home, which was owned by Fern Storer for 61 years.

Storer died 13 months ago and bequeathed the property to the university.

Debra Read, vice president for university advancement at NKU, said Storer outlined in her will that the proceeds from the sale of the property were to be used to establish an endowed scholarship fund.

If the city buys the property, Klein said, it will become a signature-type park, something the city has always lacked.

"In February 2002, city council made a vision committee," said Klein. "There were three focus groups of citizens, and each group's highest-ranked item was a signature-type park. That's a pretty good testament that this is what the citizens want."

Hooper Battery is a U-shaped wall made of soil, about 30-40 feet long and 5-6 feet high. Two 32-pound cannons and a rifle pit were stationed behind the wall during the war, Klein said.

According to archaeologist Jeannine Kreinbrink, it was one of 28 batteries built in Northern Kentucky between 1861 and 1863. Only six remain - four in Kenton County and two in Campbell County.

A seventh, Perry Battery on Amsterdam Road, was razed by developers last week.

"Saving this would be a way to show history, make it come alive, and make it more tangible," said Bethany Sterling, education director for the Behringer-Crawford Museum. "If Cincinnati and the Ohio River had been taken, it could have changed the war."


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