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Historical Background

Survey of Historic Sites and Buildings

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Survey of Historic Sites and Buildings

New York

Location: Niagara County, on N.Y. 18, just north of Youngstown.

Ownership and Administration. State of New York; leased to the Old Fort Niagara Association, Youngstown.

Significance. At this strategic fort, in the eastern Great Lakes region, as much or more fighting occurred as at any other outpost during the colonial period and the early years of the United States. The fort was at various times controlled by the Iroquois Federation, France, England, and the United States. Situated at the mouth of the Niagara River, it commanded the Great Lakes route between Lakes Erie and Ontario and protected the approaches to New York's western frontier.

Built in 1679 by order of La Salle, the fort was rebuilt twice by the French, the last time in 1725-26. The notable Stone House, or "Castle," in reality a fort built to resemble a French provincial chateau so as to delude the Indians, was erected during this period. Between 1750 and 1759, the French enlarged the fort and converted the Stone House and temporary buildings into an elaborate stronghold with earthworks, moats, magazines, and gun emplacements. Much of this later improvement remains.

In 1759, as the struggle between England and France neared its climax in America, a British force captured Fort Niagara. William Pitt, the English Prime Minister, regarded the fort as second in importance only to Quebec. In English hands during the War for Independence, the fort was a base for combined British-Indian expeditions against the American frontier. The British held it until 1796 when, under the Treaty of 1794, the United States took it over. Recaptured by the British during the War of 1812, it was restored to the United States by the Treaty of Ghent, at the end of the conflict.

Present Appearance. The fort is today one of the best restored and preserved in America. Restored features include the famous "Stone House," moat, drawbridge, blockhouse, earthen ramparts, parade grounds, and a cross symbolic of one planted on the site in 1688 by Father Pierre Millet. Millet had accompanied a French column sent to the relief of the dozen survivors of the 100-man garrison that had been almost wiped out by hunger and disease the preceding winter. The fort is adjacent to the Fort Niagara Military Reservation, a Regular Army post. Restorations of the Old Fort Niagara Association, which were aided by the survival of several buildings and fortifications, clearly portray the fort's history. [53]

NHL Designation: 10/09/60

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Last Updated: 22-Mar-2005