Into Oswego: Fort Ontario


According to Fort Ontario’s website, The Friends of Fort Ontario, the Fort Ontario State Historic Site is being restored to its 1868 to 1872
appearance by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic
Preservation. In 2011 restoration and renovation work at Fort Ontario will
involve spending $400,000 of federal Environmental Protection Funds (EPF) on infrastructure improvements. These funds do not include part of the
normal operating hours, staff, or utilities budgets which still remain limited. EPF money can only be spent on infrastructure improvements.

The Friends of Fort Ontario website is a not-for-profit educational organization. The Organization was formed in 1989 to encourage community participation in the programs, assist in the preservation and enhancement of the collection of artifacts and documents, develop and conduct educational programs, services and activities which will broaden the experience of a visitor, sponsor fundraising events which will lead to improvements and engage in other activities which are in harmony with the operation of the Fort Ontario State historic Site.”

According to their website, the first fortification on the site of the current Fort Ontario was built by the British in 1755. Called the “Fort of the Six Nations”, it was destroyed by the French during the French and Indian War. Construction of a second British fort began on the same site in 1759. During the American Revolution, the British abandoned the Fort, and in 1778, American troops destroyed it. In 1782, the British reoccupied Fort Ontario, and didn’t forfeit it to the U.S. until 1796, thirteen years after the discontinuation of hostilities in the Revolution. During the War of 1812, the abandoned fort was attacked by the British, and once again, destroyed. The fort that stands today was built between 1839 and 1844. Major masonry improvements to the forts outer wall were undertaken, but left incomplete when in 1872, congress canceled its funding. By 1901, the old fort was abandoned. The early 20th century saw the construction of a “new” fort; an army base on the adjacent property, but it too was decommissioned by 1946. At the end of the Second World War, the “new” fort was used as a “Safe Haven,” an emergency refugee center for victims of the Nazi Holocaust, the only one of its kind in the U.S. In 1946 the Fort was transferred to the State of New York. Initially used to house veterans and their families during the post-war period, development of the fort as a State Historic Site began in 1949. Today, Fort Ontario is being restored to its 1867-72 appearance. Costumed interpreters recreate the lives of the officers, men, and civilians who garrisoned the fort in 1868-9.

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