Imagining the Shantytown Dwellings at Fort Mifflin

Posted in museums, the 18th century in the news by Editor on July 4, 2013

I’m sorry I learned of this Philadelphia project only a few days ago (after the close of the festival, which looks to have been positively exhilarating). Still, it seems worth noting, a useful counterweight perhaps to all the magnificence within the period’s historiography. One of the artists, Ben Neiditz, is, incidentally, on staff at the Penn Museum. -CH


Ben Neiditz and Zach Webber, Ruins at High Battery,
Fort Mifflin, Philadelphia, 2013. Photo by Peter Woodall

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In connection with Philadelphia’s Hidden City Festival (23 May — 30 June 2013), Ben Neiditz and Zach Webber have constructed improvised dwellings that recall Revolutionary War-era shantytowns along the Delaware River at Fort Mifflin, a stunning remnant of the Revolutionary War. Playing with notions of permanence and impermanence, the artists’ settlement recalls the shantytowns that have dotted the Delaware River wetlands since the 18th century–while also imagining the DIY settlements of the future. . .

Read more at the festival website; additional photos can be found at Street Department, Conrad Benner’s blog dedicated to art on the streets of Philadelphia.

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From the Fort Mifflin website:

Lossing, Benson John. "Field Book of the Revolution" (2 Volumes). New York: Harper Brothers. Vol. 2, p. 90

Fort Mifflin, 1777, from Benson John Lossing’s Field Book of the Revolution, 2 volumes (New York: Harper Brothers, 1853), vol. 2, p. 90. Image from Wikimedia Commons

[At Fort Mifflin, in the fall of 1777,] on the frozen, marshy ground within the walls of a stone and wood fort, the American Revolution produced a shining moment. Cold, ill and starving, the young garrison of (now) 400 men at Fort Mifflin refused to give up. The valiant efforts of the men at Fort Mifflin held the mighty British Navy at bay providing Washington and his troops time to arrive safely at Valley Forge where they shaped a strong and confident army. This battle escalated into the greatest bombardment of the American Revolution and one that many say changed the course of American history. . .

2 Responses

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  1. Michael Yonan said, on July 4, 2013 at 12:35 pm

    Wow! I had no idea about this.

    • Editor said, on July 6, 2013 at 8:34 pm

      Responding, I’m afraid, as an eight-year old, I just keep thinking these are the most exciting things ever — rivaling even the best tree houses (and thanks to a handy grandfather, I had a great one). -CH

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