How do I go from a lvl 1 encapment to a lvl 20 stronghold?

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I have written a campaign that centers on an excavation site called "The nest", which contains a powerful artifact that cannot be moved. The players are sent there to help protect the site, and develop it into a center of power in the region for their guild. When the players first arrive at the site, there's a commander, a master wizard (using the artifact), and maybe 20 guards. They sleep in tents, while the artifact is inside a potentially large dungeon. I want the players to make the site stronger, for example by getting more guards, maybe turning them into soldiers, or economically, by trading with a rich neighboring faction. Gold will play an important role, needed for building fortifications and defences, paying guards and what else the players want in The Nest. So you see, it's going to be a long run from tents to towers.

But are there any rules for controlling a stronghold? I guess I could use the rules for running a city, or running a country, but where do I find rules like these? I could make them up myself, but it would be nice to have some inspiration.

The players are supposed to explore the region around The Nest, where they'll find different factions/races, and it's up to them how they deal with them; diplomacy, war, it's up to them.

Any comments are welcome!
at level 1, players are not entirely special. Sure they are a little stronger than the average npc, but they haven't done anything worthy of recognition. So they could be recruited as guards, be sent to deal with simple missions, or go do simple missions for other factions who the nest faction wants stuff from. Eventually they will overcome harder and harder tasks, trials, and encounters and gain fame and respect, and move up in the faction.

If you would like to avoid complications with their control of the stronghold, you could keep them busy once they reach the point where they wield considerable influence over the faction.

Alternatively, they could be placed in charge of all defenses/economics/etc with the place, but someone has the final say on things, or is giving them orders that they can fill in a variety of ways.


Errecting a Timber Fort

Well have them guard labourers while they chop down trees in the surrounding forest. An acre of light forest is worth 20,000lb wood and a heavy forest up from there. Now Pine is about 25lb per cubic ft so an acre is worth 800 cubic feet of pine (or 40 1' x 1' x 20' timber piles=40' of 1 foot thick palisade wall) for use in building a solid palisade. So it takes a woodsman a day to chop down an acre of forest. A few labourers putting up the poles and you can have a 40' section up in 24 hours with the work of five people.

A Gate House:  2 10' x 10' Towers of wooden walls and timber beam ceilings with timber gate is about 2&1/2 acres of forest. 3 days of construction.

Perimiter Palisade: 4 x 40' of 10' high/10' below ground palisades. 4 acres and 4 days.

Bunk House: Inside the perimiter is a buried building (20' x 20' x 15' deep/5' above ground covered over in excavation dirt. Made of solid timber with a ladder in through the ceiling the only way in. There is a 20 x 20 timber floor and ceiling filled in with dirt and arrow slits so 3 acres. Digging a 20 x 20 x 15 hole will take 2 days alone so 5 days. 

If you want to know what that fort is worth: 20,000lb x 10 Acres = 200,000lb wood x cost of firewood. Yours encompases the excavation site so it is likely larger.

SO there you go. All up about 12 Days and 10 acres of light forest (Labourers: 5 people). 20 soldiers could probably errect that in a week.
The Citadel Megadungeon:
Great replies, very helpful. I will use that as my starting point.

Thanks again!
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