Fort Niagara: Past the ‘Falls,’ back in time

Niagara Falls is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, receiving some eight million visitors per year.  There is a good reason so many people visit Niagara Falls year-after-year…the sight is simply awe-inspiring.  Just beyond the Falls however, is a historic site that is equally as impressive—just in an entirely different way.  Fort Niagara is one of the oldest military installations in the nation and receives a paltry 100,000 visitors per year. I think so many people are focused on the ‘Falls,’ that they neglect some of the other amazing sights in the area, such at Fort Niagara.

I was fortunate to have an opportunity to go on a private tour of Fort Niagara with executive director, Bob Emerson. Bob is incredibly knowledgeable on all things relating to the Fort.  I was so enamored by the historical significance and architecture, that I could have stayed all day exploring and listening to Bob’s stories and information. While there are often live re-enactments and other living history events going on at the Fort, I think I may have been there at a time of increased activity. I was impressed by how many men were dressed in solider uniforms, performing marching exercises and other period activities. (Be sure to watch my video and you’ll see what I mean).

Visitors are able, and encouraged, to immerse themselves into this historical site. As I made my way across the Fort grounds toward the fortification area, I crossed a drawbridge being guarded by armed soldiers…with muskets at the ready. As we walked into some of the fortified areas, I was struck by the size and scale of some of the buildings—no question in its heyday, Fort Niagara would have been a bustling place. The unique collection of original military architecture and fortifications from the 18th and 19th century will fascinate visitor’s young and old.

The history of Old Fort Niagara spans more than three centuries. Over the years, Fort Niagara was controlled by three different nations, the British (red), the French (grey) and the Americans (blue). Consequently, you’ll see soldiers at the Fort in three different uniforms representing their respective countries. The French established the first post in 1679 and built the impressive “French Castle” in 1726. The Britain gained control of the Fort in 1759; during the French and Indian War—they maintained control throughout the American Revolution. However, in 1796 they yielded it to the U.S.. The British captured the Fort during the War of 1812, however ceded it once again in 1815—after which time it served as a peaceful border post. Located at the mouth of the Niagara River, the Fort controlled access to the Great Lakes and the westward route to the heartland of the continent.

If you’re planning a trip to Niagara Falls, do yourself a favor and carve out some time to make the short drive to Fort Niagara, I have no doubt you’ll be as impressed as I was.

If you’ve ever been to Old Fort Niagara, please leave a comment below and share your experience with my readers and me.

Visiting Fort Niagara Information:

Admission: Adults $12, Children $8
Open: Year-round, only closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years
Hours: 9am-5pm, except July and August when they are open until 7pm
Address: Click here for Google Map
Phone: 716-745-7611
Website: OldFortNiagara.org

5 Comments

  1. As one of the docents (tour guides) and reenactors at Old Fort Niagara, it always a great joy to meet people from all over the country and the world. You cannot help but be filled with enthusiasm telling visitors about this hidden treasure of Western NY.

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