Tag Archive | Fort Niagara

Circus Trip 2018: Fort Niagara Light

Day 44, Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Fort Niagara State Historic Park, Youngstown, New York

The current Fort Niagara Light was completed in 1872.

Of course, it was not the first lighthouse on this site; the first was built on a pedestal on top of the French Castle in 1782.  It was lit with whale oil and reflectors.  It was removed by 1806.

It was challenging for ships to navigate this route through Lake Ontario without a light, and a light was once again erected on the roof of the French Castle in 1823.  And there it rotated for years.  A tornado damaged the fort and the light in 1855, and historical records from the period show the light was in a poor state of repair.  Advancing technologies meant that a fourth order Fresnel lens was sent to Fort Niagara in 1857, and mounted on the rooftop light.

The light structure continued to deteriorate and a fire burned the roof of the light.  In 1868, recommendations were made to built a completely new lighthouse, with a keeper’s quarters; up to this point the keeper lived in a separate building and had to travel through the officer’s quarters several times a night to get to the light.  The new Fort Niagara Light was constructed between 1871 and 1872, and the fourth order Fresnel lens was moved over to the new lighthouse.

You can visit the lighthouse and climb to the top for free; you just have to sign a waiver, and be at least four feet tall.  The lighthouse is 61 feet tall, and there are 72 steps to the top!  Keep in mind that the winding staircase is very narrow and some of the steps are quite tall and not very deep.  You want to be careful!  It is worth it though, for such a pretty view!


Circus Trip 2018: Fort Niagara

Day 44, Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Fort Niagara State Historic Park, Youngstown, New York

Fort Niagara has a history of white colonial settlement that spans over 300 years.

The first fort on this site was established by the French in 1679; they named it Fort Conti, and it wasn’t occupied for long.  The French returned again to establish Fort Denonville between 1687 and 1688.  It wasn’t until 1726 that the first permanent structure was built; a stone building known as the French Castle that still stands on site today!  Additional structures were built between 1756 and 1758.  In 1759 the British gained control of the fort during the French and Indian War, and it was British until the Revolutionary War was won, and the Americans were the proud new owners of Fort Niagara.

Of course, the British weren’t known for giving up so easily and they briefly reconquered Fort Niagara between 1813 and 1815, during the perhaps not-so-aptly named War of 1812.  The Americans got it back at the end of the War of 1812, and Fort Niagara never saw combat again.


The Fort did continue operating as a peaceful border post, and American troops were stationed here during the Civil War.  It was common during the early years of the Civil War to parole enemy troops, with the condition that they not return to fighting for a year.  The parolees at Fort Niagara were put to work building stuff.  Troops were trained here during both World Wars as well, and the last troops were finally withdrawn in 1963.  Since then, the Coast Guard is the only military branch that is on site.


Of course, Native Americans from the Seneca tribe were in the area long before the Europeans came along.  The Seneca was using the area around Fort Niagara as a seasonal hunting and fishing camp through the 1600s.

While I was there, I got to explore the buildings, and I also got to see both a cannon firing and a musket firing demonstration!  Apparently they used to lob tennis balls into the water when they did the cannon firing demonstrations, but the Canadian government asked them to stop, so now the demonstration does not include a projectile.  That’s better for the environment!


This was such a cool place to visit!