A visit to John Brown's Fort is more than seeing the building where John Brown and several of his followers barricaded themselves in 1859. The building has a complex history that begins in 1848, continues through to today, and includes four locations in Harpers Ferry and one in Chicago.
We invite you to visit this famous Harpers Ferry building and discover what it means to you.
Visit John Brown's Fort
To access John Brown's Fort from the Lower Town shuttle bus stop, walk along the sidewalks of Shenandoah Street toward The Point. John Brown's Fort is the last building on the right side of the street. It is open to the public during park hours.
History of John Brown's Fort
The structure we now call John Brown’s Fort was erected in 1848 as the Armory’s fire engine and guard house. The building was described in a June 30, 1848, Armory report as “an engine and guard-house, 35½ x 24 feet, one story brick, covered with slate, and having copper gutters and down spouts, has been constructed, and is now occupied.” It was in this building that John Brown and several of his followers barricaded themselves during the final hours of their ill-fated raid of October 16, 17, and 18, 1859.
After John Brown's Raid
In 1891, the fort was sold, dismantled and transported to Chicago where it was displayed a short distance from The World’s Columbian Exposition. The building, attracting only 11 visitors in ten days, was closed, dismantled again and left on a vacant lot.
How did the building return from Chicago?
Local resident Alexander Murphy made five acres available to Miss Field for the cost of $1, and the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad offered to ship the disassembled fort to Harpers Ferry free of charge. In 1895, John Brown’s Fort was rebuilt on the Murphy Farm about three miles outside of town on a bluff overlooking the Shenandoah River.
John Brown's Fort at Storer College
It was used as a museum and many students were required to give tours of the museum to strengthen their public speaking skills.
After Storer College
Because the fort’s original site was covered with a railroad embankment in 1894, the building was placed about 150 feet east of its original location.
Last updated: September 21, 2016