5.23.2010,7:43 AM
Fort Griffin
Fort Griffin grew from stick and mud frame to stronger stone structures. However, as with nearly all the forts, some structures remained canvas. Of course, the only remaining features today of these forts are stone ruins. A few log or post and mud buildings you see now are reconstructions. Nevertheless, they provide a more visual base to imagine life on these posts as well as homesteads nearby.

Construction of buildings relied upon available nearby materials. Large trees for big post and timber structures were not plentiful. On the other hand, the plentiful medium-sized scrub trees in this area could be used for stick, or picket, walls. Any large timbers were saved for beams and joists. Picket walls were as uneven as the jagged growth of the trees. The often large spaces in between them had to be chinked with a mixture of clay, vegetative matter, and sometimes horse manure. When wet, it made a malleable sticky material that could be pressed and formed into the spaces between sticks and timbers, providing a sealant against wind and rain.

One of the mess halls, which sat at the end of each row of soldiers' quarters, and a barracks hut have been reconstructed from rough plane wood. They are frame-built with wooden floors. Inside one of these, one can almost hear the squeaks of the flooring and doors from hundreds of hands and boots upon them.

Except for east Texas, most of the state has plentiful rock. One of my favorite aspects of these forts is difference in color and overall texture of the rock used in structures. The soil and rock in the area of the Brazos, both the Clear Fork and Salt Fork, are varying shades of rust. The reds predominate closer to the the Salt Fork and even the river water is often red-rusty colored. Here, the colors are more yellow with a hint of rust. This is obvious in the ruins of the structures that were built with the local rock.

Most of the rock structures are merely ruins: corners of buildings, chimneys, some walls with arches, or outlines of foundations. One of these made me smile, being an avid reader as well as a writer. A commander of the fort had the good sense to provide officers and soldiers with reading material by establishing a library. Selections were not plentiful, but at least they offered a distraction and source of education and communication with the outside world. Of course, as in many forts, buildings often served multiple purposes; in this case, the library was also a school and chapel.

Two formidable ruins remain today: the Sutler's Store and the Administration building. We would return later to the former, but the latter pulled me during our first visit of the day because of its arches. Probably considered the heart of the fort, it housed the officer and quartermaster's offices. The general outline, a chimney, several corners and the foundation remain standing. The great tall window at one end of the structure and its view is commanding. I could not determine if the top of the window was originally built with an arch. Because several of the rock now missing at the top, the gable end outlines strongly suggest an arch in the current ruins.

I am often drawn to windows and doors to photograph because they offer a subliminal perspective duplicating that through the lens of a camera. The camera lens frames a frozen point in time and space as does looking through any frame, intended or not. Indeed, even our individual and personal perspective can be thought of as a single frame (for instance, the reference 'fram of mind'). So I often try to convey a story or meaning through the multiplicity of frames. It serves as a technique to draw the viewer in as an active participant rather than passively viewing a subject or object. It tickles the mind to think and imagine.

A side window of the building offered a view of the parade grounds. Typical of most posts and forts, the grounds with its central flagpole was the hub. Soldiers were drilled in formation as exercise and disciplinary practice and orders were announced. The flagpole and waving flag was a strong symbol and reminder of allegiance, purpose, cohesion and faith. Fort Griffin's pole was interestingly patterned after a ship's mast. Appropriately, the pole was the center of view from the officers' building window.

Next: Necessities

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posted by Macrobe
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