Fort Mifflin
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Fort Mifflin suffered a five-and-a-half week siege by the British Army and the greatest naval bombardment of the Revolutionary War. Two centuries later...Fort Mifflin is being stormed again by troops of a different sort...the Roadrunners...a dozen pre-kindergarteners from the Parent Infant Center.

Bundled-up in puffy winter jackets and snow boots...the Roadrunners stomp along an icy bridge to the Fort's entrance. They're greeted by a revolutionary war soldier...a Fort tour guide...donning an overcoat and tricorn hat:

"Do you know what this building is right here...all these big walls. You know what this is right here? This little body of water. This little body of water here is called a moat."
The Roadrunners glance around at the moat's icy surface. Some cover their noses with winter mittens...distracted by a more modern intrusion.

Tour Guide:

"You notice there...the fort's made out of brick and's big brick and stone fort."
Children's Voices:

"But it's a little bit stinky here. Plug up your noses."
That's the smell of sewage treatment plants nearby. Located on the banks of the Delaware River, Fort Mifflin and its over 30 acres of preserved wetlands are surrounded by signs of industry like an oil refinery, a dredging ship and the Philadelphia International Airport. Landing planes soar right over the Fort, often interrupting tours.

Tour Guide:

"You will see a lot of birds around here because this is a wildlife sanctuary all around us." [plane flies over]...
Child's Voice:

"Wow that was a humongous plane."
Tour Guide:

"If a plane's coming over, and it's too just take a pause. You make a joke out of it."
Wayne Irby has been Fort Mifflin's caretaker and occasional tour guide for over 5 years. He says airplane vibrations cause windows to crack and light bulbs to shatter. Acid rain from jet exhaust eats away at the Fort's marble plaques. But Irby is a pragmatist, he calls the airport a friendly neighbor:

Philadelphia has to have an airport and the location of the airport is ideal. It has room to expand. In the long term you have to live with the way life is.
But in the short term...Irby's top priority is the Fort's seawall. The stone barrier runs along the south side of the Fort's grounds keeping the Delaware River at bay. Irby says four years ago he was stunned to discover a gaping hole:

I came up here to inspect the sea I normally do. And I looked and I said holy...bleep, bleep, bleep and went back and told the site director, we have a problem.
Irby says if an entire part of the seawall were to high tide, the Delaware would flood the Fort and then the airport. A joint project between the city and the Army Corps of Engineers to repair the seawall is underway. For Tray Beck...Board Chairman of the non-profit that manages the Fort...restoring the seawall is just the first step:

The ultimate vision is that we will turn it into a destination that's comparable to Fortress Monroe down in Virginia, to Fort Sumter down in Charleston, South Carolina, that are major historical tourism attractions where tens and tens of thousands of people visit each year.
Currently, Fort Mifflin draws around 10,000 visitors each year. Beck says the Fort's industrial location is one challenge to pulling in the crowds. He agrees with Wayne Irby that their neighbors are friendly, but says relations with the Fort aren't always their highest concern. But once you step behind the Fort's walls, Beck says, modern society falls away and visitors can witness history:

What you are looking at is the way it looked like 225 years ago. Even when you get up on the walls...if you look out over the Delaware River it doesn't take too much imagination to think about what it would have looked like 225 years ago when the greatest Navy in the world was out there on the Delaware.
For now, most visitors to Fort Mifflin are Revolutionary War buffs or come through educational tours. But with its seawall repair and other restoration projects in the works, Fort Mifflin could play a key part in Philadelphia's heritage tourism. I'm Joel Rose.
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