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The Weather Network
Apr. 25, 2019 | Thursday
Local News
A trip to Old Fort Niagara, Youngstown, NY
Friends of Fort George visited Old Fort Niagara March 29. (Supplied/Tony Chisholm)

SUBMITTED BY TONY CHISOLM, FRIENDS OF FORT GEORGE.

The Friends of Fort George offered a bus tour across the river to Fort Niagara On March 29, 2019.

The trip to the fort that can be seen across the river proved to be very popular and was sold out in days, though there were a limited number of people due to the size of the bus and how many people could be fed lunch at the fort.

A delay at the border meant the bus arrived at the fort an hour late but the group was met by patient guides in brilliant sunshine.

The Old Fort Niagara Association arranged for the group to see some extra buildings and sites the public doesn’t normally have access to. These included the entrance to a special building, artifacts and a lot of interesting archeological items not normally on display.

They explained OFN undergoes an archeological dig every other year and that one is slated for this summer. 

The group was allowed into the adjacent lighthouse, from which one can see across the river to Niagara-on-the-Lake; this was a highlight for the group because the lighthouse, built in the 1870s, won’t be open to the public until June, when the view across the river would be obscured by the trees.

There was a great view from the top of the lighthouse 90-feet above the river. By the way — there is a high-definition webcam atop the lighthouse which can be viewed on the Old Fort Niagara website.

You can take a look at www.oldfortniagara.org.

Three nations have held the fort during the last 300 years. The first French settlement on the site was Fort Conti in 1679, followed by Fort Denonville. But both were equally short lived.

Then in 1726, the “French Castle” was built out of stone. It still stands today as the oldest building on the Great Lakes. It is still a magnificent structure saved by restoration work that took place in the 1920s.

The group learned from our guide that the French Castle was slated for demolition several times in the 1800s, but those plans fortunately never took place for a variety of reasons.

All agreed it would have been a terrible loss, as we toured this lovely, historic structure.

The French were followed by the British, who laid siege to the fort for 19 days in the summer of 1759 during the French and Indian War. It remained in British hands during the American revolution, until 1796 when Jays Treaty established our present border and it fell under American rule.

It was seized from American control in December of 1813 (by the British after the burning of Niagara) but returned again to the Americans a second time in 1815. Its rich history has had a huge effect on the history of our town. For instance, the British commander during the siege in 1759 was John Prideaux who is immortalized today with a street of that name here in NOTL. Furthermore, when Prideaux was killed, Sir William Johnson, Superintendent General of the British Indian Department, became sole commander of the siege of Niagara and Johnson Street in NOTL is named after him.

The fort was used during the US Civil War and as a training site for soldiers during the two World Wars.

It was finally decommissioned, and the last army units departed in 1963. The US Coast Guard station remains the only military presence.

As well as a tour of the fort, the special artifact shop and the lighthouse, we enjoyed a terrific 1812 luncheon inside the fort.

The “Friends” are considering making this an annual trip and maybe adding other tours to Buffalo, and/or Fort Erie.

The tour was a successful fundraising event for the Friends of Fort George, which works with Parks Canada to hire summer students to work at Fort George.

Keep up-to-date on our site at: www.friendsoffortgeorge.ca.

Tony Chisholm is president of Friends of Fort George.

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