Old Fort Niagara is located at the northern end of the Niagara River in Youngstown, a quaint village of 2,000. It's about a half hour drive from the Niagara border. Discovering Old Fort Niagara for the first time was a pleasant surprise. The rich history of this fort, operated by the Old Fort Niagara Association, goes back more than 300 years.
The oldest building referred to as The French Castle, also known as The House of Peace, was built by the French in 1726.The fort was taken by the British in 1759 and was held as a base during the American Revolution. It was first occupied by the United States August 11, 1796 and retaken by the British December 19, 1813. It finally came permanently under the flag of the United States on May 22, 1815 after the signing of the Treaty of Ghent that ended the War of 1812. In 1944 - 1945, the fort was used as a POW Camp to inter World War II German and Austrian prisoners. This national historic landmark was restored between 1926 and 1934 and stands watch on a bluff overlooking Lake Ontario.
When my wife Ellen and I visited on a Sunday afternoon, we picked up a self-guided pamphlet and started our adventure with a visit to the
Fort's Visitor Center which was filled with many original artifacts. We took 16 minutes to view an award-winning orientation film that told about the history of the fort. One exhibit that we were particularly intrigued with was the Fort's enormous original War of 1812 Flag that used to hang over the fort.
The fort and the Visitor's Center is kid-friendly and with a few exceptions wheel-chair accessible. Laptops are available for loan, free of charge to describe area's that are not wheelchair accessible. Walking to the entrance during the winter requires a bit of stamina. It's a ten minute walk along a paved sidewalk. If you're in a non-motorized wheelchair it's a bit of a steep grade to the entrance. Once inside the stone walls we felt like we'd entered into the past.
Immediately, we saw were soldiers in French uniforms dating from the 1750's.The re-enactors gave us a brief history of the fort and treated us to a musket firing demonstration. One re-enactor, Will Emerson, described his uniform - "Our coat and pants are wool, just great on a hot summer day, our hat is called a Cocked Hat and the only thing it's good for is catching rain but it makes us look good!" The fort is open daily and you'll always find re-enactors there.
Walking the grounds and visiting the buildings gave us a sense of a place where real things happened, most of them not so pleasant.
The French Castle is the star of the fort. Besides being a fort it was also a trading post where natives came to exchange furs for manufactured goods.
Old Fort Niagara at 4 Scott Avenue, Youngstown is open daily between 9 am and 5 pm.
The cost is Adults $12.00, Children 6-12 years $8.00, Family membership $50.00.
Work in a visit to the lovely Village of Youngstown. There are only a few shops open at this time of the year, but the ones that are open are interesting. You can't leave without having a meal at The Village Diner at 425 Main Street, an institution known for reasonably-priced, made-from-scratch food served by career servers. Our server, Lynn, who's been here for 11 years, says, "We treat everyone like family." We ordered meatball and roast beef sandwiches and fries. We left with take-away containers filled with leftovers for our dinner. The Village Diner opens daily at 6 am until about 2 pm.
Visit Old Fort Niagara
Old Fort Niagara Youngstown, NY
George Bailey contributes to Sun Media's 43 paid-circulation newspapers across Canada as well as numerous magazines. George has appeared on CNN, Good Morning America, Canada AM, The Discovery Channel, and Live with Regis and Cathy Lee. He has published five books on Niagara Falls.