Teresa Farrell 2017-04-05 02:00:31
The fort is popular on Fourth of July and during Oswego’s annual Harborfest celebration in late July, when people gather on the grounds for food and fireworks-watching. Lake Ontario was the backdrop of a large portion of the War of 1812’s action, and the remains of many forts and battlegrounds remain scattered along its shorelines as a testament to the long-ago conflict. Oswego, like many towns along the Great Lakes Seaway Trail, is home to both maritime and wartime history. It’s evident in everything from the boats that come and go across the harbor to the themes of local museum exhibits and the present-day focus on fishing and industry that keeps the waterfront busy. Today, visitors can take a look at a site that played a role in both the formation of this region and the country—Fort Ontario. This star-shaped stronghold is an iconic local landmark and, in its earlier years, was a part of each of the wars that shaped early America. The British attack on Fort Ontario, May 6th, 1814 The present Fort Ontario State Historic Site has undergone many incarnations over time. The first fort constructed, The Fort of the Six Nations, was constructed by the British in 1755. It was used during the French and Indian War, then destroyed in short order by the French. Undeterred, the British began construction on another fort in 1759, but swiftly abandoned it during the American Revolution. It did remain standing for nearly twenty years before being destroyed again, this time by American forces in 1778. Just a few years later, in 1782, the doggedly determined British returned for another round of rebuilding and reoccupying the fort, which they managed to keep a tenuous grip on until 1796. That was when they finally surrendered the weakened structure to American forces—13 years after the fighting that constituted the American Revolution had come to an end. This would be the final time British forces would call Fort Ontario “home”—a few years later, during the War of 1812, they launched an attack on the now-American-controlled fort and added to its third round of devastation. By the turn of the 20th century the fort had been abandoned completely. Early 20th century efforts to construct a new army base on the land were underway shortly before being decommissioned by 1946. That was the end of the Fort’s role as a prime military player. The fort was put into use as an emergency refugee center for Holocaust victims, called simply a Safe Haven. After the war ended, Fort Ontario became a temporary housing site for veterans and their families before beginning its transition into becoming a State Historic Site in 1949. Today processes are underway to transform the fort back to its 1867–1872 appearance. The current fort is a product of years of evolution: the foundations remain from the 1759 version of the British Fort of the Six Nations, while the five main buildings that constitute the fort are remnants from the early 1840s. These five structures make up the heart of the star-shaped fort: they consist of two buildings classified as Officer’s Quarters, the Enlisted Men’s Barracks, a powder magazine, and a storehouse, which houses the four-cell fort jail. Fort Ontario today. Photo credit: Fort Ontario SHS. All of these buildings are open to the public. Visitors to the fort are guided in their explorations by costumed interpreters who bring to life the stories of the Fort’s inhabitants between 1868 and 1869. See the sleeping space of the 50 to 70 enlisted men, explore kitchens, dining rooms and mess halls; and visit the combination storehouse-jail. The powder magazine gives a lesson in the prominence of gunpowder in the formation of the fort; the magazine was stacked with kegs, and today empty barrels are stacked up to portray this. The fort is also home to a full roster of events during the summer and fall, ranging from historical talks to military encampments to arts and crafts shows to cemetery and ghost tours. The spot is popular on Fourth of July and during Oswego’s annual Harborfest celebration in late July, when people gather on the grounds for food and fireworks-watching. If you’re looking for a step back in time and a taste of 1800s military life, Fort Ontario is a great place to spend some time. The fort is open from early May until mid-October, Wednesday through Sunday and on Mondays of holiday weekends. For more information, including an up-to-date events calendar, visit www.fortontario.com or www.nysparks.com and search for Fort Ontario. EASTERN LAKE ONTARIO A Attractions B Boating F Food/Dining L Lodging P Partner S Shopping Bowers & Company CPAs PLLC P 1120 Commerce Park Drive East Watertown, NY 13601 315-788-7690 www.bcpllc.com Budget Storage Rentals P 3715 State Route 13, Pulaski, NY 13142 315-298-7332 Greene Point Mobile Home Park & Marina, LLC LB 206 Greene Point Rd., Mannsville, NY 1366 315-387-3513 www.gpmarina.com H. Lee White Maritime Museum A 1 W. 1st St. Pier, Oswego, NY 13126 315-342-0480 www.hlwmm.org Henderson Historical Society A 24581 Co. Rt. 72, Henderson, NY 13650 315-938-7163 www.hendersonhistoricalsociety.com Holiday Inn Express & Suites L 1290 Arsenal St., Watertown, NY 13601 315-779-1234 www.hiexpress.com/watertownny Mid-Lakes Navigation Boat Rides A 11 Jordan St., Skaneateles, NY 13152 315-685-8500 800-545-4318 www.midlakesnav.com New York Sea Grant P SUNY Oswego, Oswego, NY 13126 315-312-3042 www.nyseagrant.org Ontario Orchards S 15273 Center Road, Sterling, NY 13156 315-343-6328 www.ontarioorchards.com Oswego County Historical Society Richardson-Bates Museum A 135 East 3rd St., Oswego, NY 13126 315-343-1342 www.rbhousemuseum.org Sackets Harbor Arts Center A 119 W. Main St. Sackets Harbor, NY 13685 315-646-3502 www.aanny.org Sackets Harbor Visitors’ Center A 301 W. Main St., Sackets Harbor, NY 13685 315-646-2321 www.sacketsharborny.com Pleasant Beach Hotel L 14477 Fancher Ave., Fair Haven, NY 13064 315-947-5399 www.pleasantbeach.com Salmon Country Marina B 47 Mexico Point Dr., Mexico, NY 13114 315-963-8049 www.salmoncountryinc.com Tailwater Lodge L 52 Pulaski St, Altmar, NY13302 315-298-3434 www.tailwaterlodge.com Willows on the Lake RV Park & Resort L 11609 State Route 3 Henderson Harbor, NY 13651 315-938-5977 www.willowsonthelake.com Sackets Harbor. Photo credit: John Farrell.
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