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Visit to Fort Ticonderoga and King's Garden

Fort Ticonderoga
Fort TiconderogaRandy deMars

I recently drove upstate to visit Fort Ticonderoga. I had heard that this was a site worth seeing, although my memory of its historical significance was a bit fuzzy. Fortunately, the restored fort and museum offer a thorough history lesson, with tours and even war reenactments. The fort sits above the southern part of Lake Champlain, where the waters of Lake George feed in via the La Chute River. Fort Ticonderoga and its battlegrounds are located on a 546-acre peninsula. The grounds are beautifully landscaped and maintained. The view is stunning from every direction. Regardless of whether or not you are a history buff, Fort Ticonderoga is definitely day-trip worthy.

Originally named Fort Carillon, the fort was built by the French military between 1754 and 1757, during the French & Indian War. It also played a role in early colonial disputes between the French and the British because of its strategic location. The site controlled the river portage that connects the waters of Lake George and Lake Champlain. This waterway acted as a highway for trade routes. He who owned the fort, owned this waterway. The British gained control of the fort in 1759. In May of 1775, the first American victory of the Revolutionary War took place here. Benedict Arnold, Ethan Allen, and the Green Mountain Boys crossed Lake Champlain from Vermont and captured the fort in a surprise attack. The American army used the fort as a staging area and held it until June of 1777, when the British recaptured the fort. The British eventually abandoned the fort when it was no longer of military value in 1781. The fort fell to ruins, as people pillaged it for unused stone, metal, and other materials. The state of New York took possession of the land and then later donated it to Columbia and Union colleges in 1803. In 1820, the property was sold to William Ferris Pell, a businessman, horticulturalist, and preservationist. Pell built a pavilion to use as a summer home, which he later converted to a hotel to serve tourists interested in seeing the ruins. Another generation of the Pell family rebuilt the fort to its original form in 1908 and it was opened to the public in 1909 as a tourist attraction. The site is now run by a foundation formed by the Pell family. This brief historical summary was taken from www.fort-ticonderoga.org. Visit this website for a more detailed history, as well as for logistical information for planning your trip.

While the fort is not short on historical information and artifacts, I found just walking the grounds to be especially enjoyable. The fort was restored with stone, to replicate its original French design. The perimeter of the fort is lined with 24-pound antique cannons, provided by the British government. The cannons were cast in England for the Revolutionary War, but the war ended before they were shipped. The structure and armory is surprisingly beautiful, making it hard to believe its purpose was for military defense. A short walk down from the fort, leads you to King’s Garden. King’s Garden is the formal garden that surrounds the pavilion that the Pell’s built. The formal design includes wrought-iron gates and benches, a reflecting pool, bronze statues, brick pathways, and a gorgeous display of flowers and perennials. Outside the formal garden, are the “discovery gardens.” These include a vegetable garden, a greenhouse, and even a special garden for children. Between the gardens, views of Lake Champlain, and the fort itself, there is something to satisfy everyone.

Fort Ticonderoga is open until October 20th, when it will close for the season. The fort reopens in May each year, to celebrate the anniversary of when the American army had its first victory. For more information on planning your visit, go to www.fort-ticonderoga.org.

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