WWAY TV 3
For nearly 260 years Fort Johnston has been in Southport. But a recent decision by the US government could change the fort into housing for the homeless. A group of concerned citizens is fighting to keep that from happening.
"The garrison house is the last structure remaining from the original Fort Johnston, built in 1748, the oldest military installation in North Carolina, one of the oldest in the country."
Sitting at the mouth of the Cape Fear River, Fort Johnston has withstood every major war, served in every war.
In a letter written in late March, the Department of Housing and Urban Development declared the six acres suitable for homeless housing. Jack Fryar and the newly formed Friends of Fort Johnston don't want that to happen.
Mr. Fryar said, "We want to ensure that it's preserved for posterity. Not just for people now, but for future North Carolinians who come down the pike who are interested in their heritage."
Fryar says HUD must not know the history that exists there; a history that predates the revolutionary war, that begins before the nation was a nation, before North Carolina became North Carolina.
"It would be akin to putting homeless dormitories at Guilford Courthouse or a tent city at Bentonville Battleground. All of these properties, I guess, could be used to house the homeless, but it's certainly not an appropriate use of a place that has such history behind it," Mr. Fryar said.
The group is calling Congress members and state legislators in an effort to get the state's historic sites division or the federal government's Depart of Interior to take over the land and turn it into an official historic site and museum.
"We think they would be the best stewards of this property and that's where we'd like to see it go," Mr. Fryar said.
As of now HUD has no official plans to actually turn Fort Johnston into housing for the homeless. The Friends of Fort Johnston group wants to prevent it from getting that far. They have a petition and would like more involvement from citizens across our area.