TICONDEROGA-There will be major changes at Fort Ticonderoga this season. A major new exhibit, changing programs and a historic corn maze will highlight 2011 at "America's Fort."
"There's so much energy in the air; this is will be an exciting year for the fort," said Beth Hill, Fort Ticonderoga executive director. "We want people to be a part of this wonderful legacy. This is 'America's Fort.' We want everyone to visit."
Fort Ticonderoga will unveil its newest exhibit, "The Art of War: Ticonderoga as Experienced Through the Eyes of America's Great Artists," when its opens May 20. The exhibit will showcase 50 works from the fort's extensive art collection for the first time, presenting a visual history of Fort Ticonderoga.
"Jefferson, Madison and many other important Americans have visited Fort Ticonderoga," Hill said. "The famous and the less-famous have come here to be inspired. Other historic sites may great significance, but you'll be hard pressed to find a place of such historical significance surrounded by such natural beauty.
"The Art of War exhibit supports Fort Ticonderoga's continuing mission - to ensure that the past, present and future generations learn from the struggles, sacrifices and victories that shaped the nations of North America and forever changed the history of the world," she said.
The exhibit will tell the history of the site from its development by the French army in 1755 through the beginning of its reconstruction as a museum and restored historic site in the early 20th century.
Fort Ticonderoga will also have a new director of interpretation this season, who will oversee evolving programs throughout the summer.
Stuart Lilie, who has worked at Colonial Williamsburg, will be responsible for the development and implementation of Fort Ticonderoga's interpretive department.
"Stuart Lilie arrives at the fort with tremendous vision and enthusiasm for the fort's future," Hill said. "He is extremely competent as a leader in the profession and has a clear commitment to the high quality historic interpretation required for the fort to attain its vision to be the premier military historic site and museum in North America."
Lilie is a graduate of The College of William & Mary. He has worked in several interpretive and trades positions at Colonial Williamsburg and served as an apprentice archaeologist with the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities at Jamestown. He has consulted on historical equestrian matters for films at Mount Vernon, 96 Battlefield, Moore's Creek, Vicksburg and Cowpens National Park.
"I am both honored and excited to be part of such a great team, making such a huge difference at one of America's most historic sites," Lilie said.
An avid Revolutionary War and Seven Years war re-enactor, Lilie has taken his belief in high standards of authenticity to work on the development of educational programming for many national sites including Colonial Williamsburg, Putnam Memorial State Park, Fort Dobbs State Historic Site, Minute Man National Park, Endview Plantation, Virginia War Museum and Middleton Place.
At Fort Ticonderoga he will develop a program that will change throughout the 2011 season, Hill said. The first half of the season will feature reenactors portraying a 1759 Massachusetts regiment under the command of Gen. Amherst. The second half of the summer reenactors will portray a Revolutionary War unit.
"It's so important to be site specific," Hill said of the interpretive programs. "There are so many historic sites out there, but most pale in comparison to Fort Ticonderoga.
"People should ask themselves - Why Fort Ticonderoga? Why is this story important?" Hill continued. "We want to answer those questions. This year we're going to offer a different experience. It'll be really dynamic."
There will also be several new educational programs and tours, including a historic scavenger hunt.
The fort director notes the site is about more than history. Besides the fort and its significance to the 18th Century, the grounds are also home to the King's Garden, an award-winning formal garden. The garden dates to 1920. As in the past there will be display gardens featuring vegetables and flowers and a children's garden.
New this summer adjacent to the King's Garden will be a 6-acre corn maze in the shape of Fort Ticonderoga. It's scheduled to open Aug. 1 and will feature questions at various points relating to history and geography. Correct answers will aid visitors in finding the next point along the maze. The entire maze will be about two miles in length.
"We feel so enthusiastic about this project," Hill said. "We think it'll be great fun and it's designed to meet New Yok and Vermont school curriculum goals. We're excited to reach the student market."
In the fall the maze will be open at night for "flashlight tours."
Local residents receive free admission to the fort, but Hill pointed out the corn maze will be an additional charge.
"It is an important fundraiser to serve our mission to ensure that present and future generations learn from the struggles, sacrifices and victories that shaped the nations of North America and changed world history," she said.
Fort Ticonderoga has been open to the public more than 100 years.
Built in 1755 by the French, the fort was captured by the British and Provincial forces in 1759 during the French & Indian War.
It was here in 1775 that Ethan Allen captured it from the British; the first victory of the American Revolution. It was cannon from Fort Ticonderoga that Colonel Knox hauled to Boston for George Washington's army. The British evacuated Boston as a result.
The fort will be open 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. For information call 585-2821.