Q. What is there to do at the fort?
A. There are a variety of activities available to the visitor, from exhibits and films at the Visitor Center to a reconstructed nineteenth century fort featuring furnished buildings and exhibits, cultural demonstrations with staff and volunteers in period clothing, and a new audio tour. Please contact our Visitor center Information desk at 360-816-6230 for more information or click here to learn about things to do.
Q. The fort looks like a typical frontier U.S. Army fort, with wooden palisade walls. Was it a U.S. Army post?
A. Although it may look like a typical frontier U.S. Army fort, Fort Vancouver was originally a British commercial enterprise, built and managed by the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) as its headquarters and supply depot for operations in the Pacific Northwest. The reconstructed fort you can visit today is representative of this HBC fur trade era. However, after the U.S. Army arrived in 1849 and established a post just to the north of the HBC fort, they also called their military post Fort Vancouver for several years, from 1853 to 1879. In 1879, the name of the military post changed to Vancouver Barracks, the name by which it is known today.
Q. When did Fort Vancouver become a unit of the National Park System?
A. Fort Vancouver National Monument was established on June 19, 1948 "to preserve as a national monument the site of the original Hudson's Bay stockade (of Fort Vancouver) and sufficient surrounding land to preserve the historical features of the area" for "the benefit of the people of the United States" (62 Stat.352 and the Senate Report on the legislation). The Department of the Interior report on the legislation further stated that the lands so dedicated should fulfill "two essential requirements–the preservation of the historic stockade. . . and the preservation of the historic parade ground of the later United States Army Post." To improve the conditions for achieving the legislative requirements of the park, Congress passed an act June 30, 1961 (75 Stat.196), enlarging the boundaries of Fort Vancouver and redesignating the national monument as a national historic site. Congress also allowed for a revision of the boundaries of the monument to include an additional 130 acres of land "adjacent to, contiguous to, or in the vicinity of the existing monument" (U.S.C. Section 450ff-3).
Q. What is the purpose of Fort Vancouver NHS?
A. As interpreted though enabling legislation, the purpose of Fort Vancouver National Historic Site is to preserve and interpret the following:
- The site of the nineteenth century Hudson's Bay Company's activities
- Settlement of the Oregon Territory
- The establishment of the U.S. Army's Vancouver Barracks
Q. What is the significance of Fort Vancouver?
A. Through NPS staff workshops and public meetings the significance of Fort Vancouver NHS has been determined to be the following:
- From 1825 through 1849 Fort Vancouver was the site of the Hudson's Bay Company's administrative headquarters and supply depot west of the Rocky Mountains. As a result, the HBC greatly influenced the economic, political, and cultural development of the Pacific Northwest.
- Fort Vancouver was the Pacific Northwest center for fur trade and other commerce, agriculture, and industry between 1825 and 1849.
- Fort Vancouver was the first terminus of the Oregon Trail (water route along the Columbia River).
- Vancouver Barracks, established in 1849, was the first military post developed in the Pacific Northwest. It served as headquarters for the U.S. Army operations into the twentieth century.
- Fort Vancouver NHS contains extensive archaeological resources, both in situ (in original location) and recovered, that provide important information about the physical relationships and the cultural and economic operation of the Hudson's Bay Company and the U.S. Army.