Old Fort Niagara: Where history comes to life



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Unlike so many other countries, America’s story is told only in the hundreds of years, and not the thousands. Dating back more than three centuries, Old Fort Niagara is one of the oldest ties to our nation’s past.

The strategy behind the fort’s location at the mouth of the Niagara River was simple but effective: No trees and no hills meant no hiding for attacking armies. With a clear line of fire for its defenders, and no place of refuge for attacking soldiers to hide, it was nearly impenetrable to attack.

In 1727, the French completed construction on the iconic structure that still stands today at the heart of Old Fort Niagara. A funny story about the “The French Castle,” as it was coined in the 19th century, is that it was designed with a little trickery in mind. As the story goes, the Iroquois had only given the French permission to erect a trading house. And, technically, the fort looked like a trading house. But the Castle actually was designed to support a garrison of about 60 men.

Today, performers in period costumes raise three flags each day (French, British and American) to commemorate the nations that have laid claim to the fort in its unique and colorful history. While you're there, make your way through the rest of the site’s 16 buildings, powder houses and dormitories. Listen to the tales of soldiers braving battle, starvation and freezing Western New York winters so long ago: defending what had been theirs, what could have been theirs—and what eventually became all of ours.

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Getting there

Old Fort Niagara is located next to Fort Niagara State Park in the village of Youngstown, about 16 miles north of Niagara Falls. You can create and print your own TripTik here.

What the AAA TourBook® says …

This AAA GEM attraction (a Great Experience for Members) contains many mounted cannons, a hot shot furnace, a drawbridge and pre-revolution buildings. The site includes the only fortified French castle in the United States; it has been restored and furnished to re-create its stark 18th-century atmosphere. Drills and ceremonies are presented daily July through Labor Day. Re-enactments are held throughout the year. Request your New York state TourBook online or pick it up at your local AAA.

If you go

  • AAA TIP: Don’t miss the rare American flag captured by the British at the fort in 1813. It’s on display in the Visitor Center.
  • READ MORE: This post is an excerpt from my story that was originally published in Member Connection magazine last year.
  • AAA DISCOUNT: AAA members save $1 off adult and children admission.

There are so many historical attractions in our region! Which one is your favorite? Tell us about it in the comments below.

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