Virtual Tour

Fort Niagara was established by the French in 1726. At first, the French Castle, surrounded by a wooden stockade, was the only building on the site. As the years passed, the French added additional structures. When the French and Indian War broke out, the fort was greatly expanded. Between 1755 and 1757, the fort grew to its present size with the construction of thick earthen walls and outworks. 

British and provincial forces,aided by almost 1,000 Native allies, besieged and captured the fort in July 1759. The British held Fort Niagara until 1796. During the American Revolution (1775-1783), the British used Fort Niagara as a base for raids against frontier settlements in New York and Pennsylvania. 

The United States occupied Fort Niagara by treaty in 1796. British forces moved across the Niagara River and began construction of Fort George, just 1300 yards away. 

During the War of 1812, Fort Niagara and Fort George traded artillery fire during several sustained bombardments. In December 1813, British forces captured Fort Niagara in a pre-dawn assault. The United States reoccupied Fort Niagara in 1815, after the War of 1812 ended. 

In the late 1830s, a rebellion in Canada escalated border tensions and improvements were made to the fort. These included a large stone wall, gun emplacements and a hot shot battery on the river side of the fort.

Further improvements came during the Civil War, when border tensions again increased. Brick and concrete revetments and casemates were constructed along the fort's land-side defenses. These soon became obsolete and the U.S. Army moved outside the walls of the old Fort, building a hospital, barracks and firing range. Troops were trained here for the Phillipine Insurrection and World War One. In World War Two, the post served as an induction center and prisoner-of-war camp. During the Cold War, Fort Niagara housed soldiers assigned to missile defense. The base was finally decommissioned in 1963.

During the 1920s, the Old Fort began to deteriorate. This led to the formation of the Old Fort Niagara Association, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the restoration of the site. Working with the U.S. War Department, the fort was opened as a museum in 1934. Today the fort is a New York State historic site, operated by the not-for-profit Old Fort Niagara Association. Admission fees, museum shop sales and community donations keep the site open to the public. 

THE GATE OF FIVE NATIONS

The original Gate of Five Nations was built by the French in 1756. It was named in honor of the Five Nations of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. This gateway to the fort consisted of a wooden trestle, drawbridge and gatehouse, The original gatehouse, probably made from wood, was closed about 1805. The current gatehouse, built from stone, was erected during the restoration in 1930. 

THE SOUTH REDOUBT

Built by the British in 1770, this three-story stone structure was built to strengthen the fort's defenses at a time when its earthen walls were eroding to the point they were considered indefensible. The second floor of the building was a guardroom and the third was a gundeck.This building provided an advanced guard post and crossfire for anyone attacking the fort. 

THE DAUPHIN BATTERY

This gun battery was sited to cover the entrace to the fort via the Gate of Five Nations. The guns also covered the lower Niagara River and the road leading to Niagara Falls. The battery was constructed by the French in 1756 and named for the King's son, the Dauphin of France. 

THE PROVISIONS STOREHOUSE

This long stone warehouse was built by the British in 1762 on the site of an earlier French storehouse. Food for Fort Niagara's garrison was stored here, as well as provisions for other garrisons throughout the Great Lakes. The building could originally hold 7,000 barrels of food.

THE POWDER MAGAZINE

This building was constructed by the French in 1757. It was capable of storing 50 tons of gunpowder. The building was carefully designed to prevent explosion from incoming projectiles. Thick stone walls, an arched ceiling covered with dirt and few windows helped keep the gunpowder safe.

Powder Magazine interior

THE HOT SHOT FURNACE

This coal-fired oven, completed in 1843, was designed to heat cannon balls red hot. When fired at a wooden ship or building the incendiary projectile would set the target afire. 

THE BAKE HOUSE

The French built the original Bake House in the 1740s. The building caught fire in 1761 and was rebuilt by the British a year later. This was a very important building because it housed a professional baker who supplied bread to the garrison.

THE FRENCH CASTLE

The French Castle is the oldest and largest building at Old Fort Niagara and the oldest building in the Great Lakes Basin. It was built by the French in 1726-7 and was designed to house up to 60 soldiers. The Castle, called La Maison a Machicoulis by the French, incorporated barracks space for soldiers, officers quarters, a trade room. chapel, storerooms, powder magazine and bakery. 

The Trade Room

Located on the first floor of the Castle is the Trade Room, where European-made goods were stored for trade with Native Americans. Native people brought furs such as beaver, racoon, otter as well as deerskins to trade for cloth, blankets, firearms, tools and other goods.

Guard Room

The Castle was equipped with two guard rooms, one on the first floor for the on-duty guard and one on the second floor (shown here). Soldiers in the upstairs room had mattresses, sheets, and blankets and could cook meals in the fireplace. The first floor guardroom was quite a bit more spartan. 

Commandant's Quarters

The fort's commandant was usually an officer in the le compagnie franche de la Marine (independent company of the Navy). He had private quarters and lived more comforably than the enlisted soldiers at the fort. 

THE NORTH REDOUBT

This building was built by the British in 1771, as a companion to the South Redoubt. The two redoubts are unique to North America. They were designed by British engineers in New York and built under the supervision of the post engineer. They combine Georgian and Classical architectural styles popular in Britain at the time.  

THE LAND DEFENSES

When originally built by the French between 1755 and 1757 these earthen defenses were perhaps the most elaborate of their type in America. Over time, however, they began to erode. During the American Civil War, fears of British intervention on the side of the Confederacy led the United States Government to strengthen the fort by constructing brick and concrete revetments along the fort's half-bastions and curtain wall. 

THE FORT NIAGARA LIGHTHOUSE

The earliest lighthouse on the Great Lakes was erected by the British on the roof of the French Castle in 1781. In 1871 the United States erected this lighthouse to mark the mouth of the Niagara River. The tower was extended in 1900. 

Hours of Operation

January through March, Open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. (Closed Monday-Thursday)

April- May, Open Wednesday through Sunday. (Closed Mondays and Tuesdays)

Memorial Day to Labor Day, Open 7 Days per week.

September-November, Open Wednesday through Sunday (Closed Mondays and Tuesdays)

December 2021, Open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. 

Hours are 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Closed New Year's Day, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. 

General Admission

Adults:

$15.00

Children (6 to 12 years) 

$10.00

Children (5 and under):

  FREE

 

 

 

 

Support the Fort

Old Fort Niagara is operated by the Old Fort Niagara Association, an independent, not-for-profit organization established in 1927. We do not rely on tax dollars. Instead, the Fort is funded through a combination of admission fees, museum shop sales, and charitable contributions.

Donate today!

 

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