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Fort site needs money for dig

The foundation of an 18th-century British fort, unearthed by utility workers, might be reburied until money is obtained for a full-scale archaeological dig and site preservation, officials said Thursday. The state's Historic Pensacola Preservation Board has requested a $200,000 appropriation from the Florida Legislature for the Fort Pensacola project, but lawmakers will not adopt the state budget until late May at the earliest.

"If we can't do it right, maybe we should pave it over," said John Daniels, the preservation board's director.

However, paving over the brick foundation is not an option, said Carlton Proctor, a spokesman for this Florida Panhandle city.

It is likely that the site will be reburied and sodded over to protect it from the elements and vandals until money is available to complete archaeological work begun with $18,500 in city money, he said.

The fort foundation is under a street running between the city's Plaza Ferdinand and the T.T. Wentworth Jr. State Museum, which belongs to the preservation board.

The utility workers, who are replacing gas, water and sewer lines as part of a street improvement project, found a British cannon at the site. It is now on display in front of the museum.

Proctor said the city plans to ask the board for a five-foot strip of property in front of the museum so the street could be moved away from the fort's foundation.

Daniels said he would like to see nothing done until the Legislature makes a decision on the financing request, but Proctor said the street is too vital to the movement of downtown traffic to keep it closed that long. He said the city wants it moved and reopened in five to six weeks.

The money being sought from the state would include $75,000 to develop the site for public display, including a walkway and signs at the fort's main gate. The rest of the money would be for excavation and a study of the site and artifacts by the Institute of West Florida Archaeology, a part of the University of West Florida.

The fort, built during the 1760s, fell in 1781 during the Battle of Pensacola to the Spanish who allowed it to deteriorate during their occupation. The structure covered several blocks of what is now downtown Pensacola, including a large part of the Historic Pensacola Village operated by the preservation board.

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