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Artifacts found during Historic Fort Steuben upgrades

DIGGING - Trenches about two feet deep have been dug for the conduit needed for the Berkman amphitheater’s new lighting system. A grant from the Mary Jane Brooks Charitable Trust is paying for the work. -- Contributed

STEUBENVILLE — Though concert-goers won’t get to enjoy it this year, a grant-funded lighting project is under way to make the Berkman Amphitheater safer for patrons after dark.

Historic Fort Steuben President Jerry Barilla said the $28,000 grant, obtained from the Mary Jane Brooks Charitable Trust, is covering the costs of installing new pole lighting as well as step lights. Weather permitting, he said the work should be done next week.

“(The trust) does grants, mostly for health issues,” he said. “It’s a health-related trust fund, so we were able to qualify for it because it’s a safety issue, a health and safety issue for our citizens. We found when we get into some of our evening concerts, it’s difficult (for patrons) to navigate because of darkness.”

He said four pole lights will be installed, along with the step lights meant to reduce the risk of tripping.

He said Cattrell Cos. Inc. won the contract, and already has a crew on site doing the dirt work so all of the wiring and conduits can be underground. While that’s in keeping with the rest of the site, he said it’s proven to be more difficult than they expected.

HISTORIC FINDS — Pieces of dishware dating back to the 1800s, bits of crockery and glassware, a spike, an old brick and an old open-end wrench are among the items Historic Fort Steuben Director Paul Zuros has pulled from the dirt piles associated with the lighting project underway at Berkman Amphitheater. -- Contributed

He said the crews have bumped into foundations of old buildings dating to the 1920s, 1930s and even 1940s.

“It hasn’t been easy (digging) through that stuff,” he said.

“Years ago, there was a train track that went right through here, the Lake Erie spur. Right where we are there was a massive warehouse, and the train would come and unload products. There were also large apartment buildings, retail and industrial buildings in the area. The area was highly commercialized.

Barilla said Historic Fort Steuben Director Paul Zuros has been poking through the dirt, looking for artifacts. Among the things he’s pulled out so far are pieces of dishware dating back to the 1800, bits of crockery and glassware, a spike, an old brick and an old open-end wrench.

“Just imagine whose hand was on the brick when they laid it on the foundation back in the 1800s,” he said. “Or that wrench, someone had it in their hands 100 years ago.”

He said crews have been working on the holes about six feet deep for the light supports. Once they’ve excavated enough dirt, they’ll stick a large cardboard container and then fill the form with cement.

“I wasn’t aware of the amount of digging that was going to take place,” he said. “I assumed they would go down a couple feet, drive the conduit into the ground and run wire through it. I didn’t realize they had to go down six feet to support the holes and take the conduit down almost two feet. Digging up that amount of earth and seeing it all uncovered, that’s what sparked our interest.”

Barilla said the crews will be ready to pour the cement next week.

“We’re very appreciative to the Mary Jane Brooks Foundation for generating the funds to provide this necessary lighting for future concerts,” he said.

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