TICONDEROGA - Fort Ticonderoga is throwing a birthday party - for itself.
The fort is celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2009.
"It was 100 years ago that Fort Ticonderoga first opened its gates to the public," said Marci Hall, Fort Ti spokeswoman. "The occasion was the 1909 tercentenary of the landing of Samuel de Champlain and President William Howard Taft spoke from the steps of the Pavilion Hotel on the fort grounds."
To mark the occasion Fort Ti will host a birthday party Friday, July 24, 7-10 p.m. in the Deborah Clarke Mars Education Center. Tickets are $15 for adults and $7 for children 7-12 and can be reserved by phone at 585-2821. Younger children are admitted at no charge.
"Guests can join the fun and indulge in cake and refreshments while enjoying music from Atlantic Crossing," Hall said.
Fort Ticonderoga is a vital part of the community, Ti Supervisor Bob Dedrick said.
"Fort Ticonderoga has been an integral part of the town of Ticonderoga's economic well-being since its inception," Dedrick said. "Because Fort Ticonderoga is world-wide known it has brought hundreds of thousands of tourist to this community as well as the greater Ticonderoga area and many businesses have not only survived, but thrived on the tourist trade.
"The fort has also provided employment for many locals and have been a partner in working toward economic prosperity for the region," the supervisor said. "We are blessed to have this national treasure located in our town."
Hall said Fort Ti administrators are looking forward to a second century.
"From those early days when restoration of the west barracks had just begun until July of 2008 the fort has been in a constant state being restored to its original French skyline," she said. "With that effort complete in the opening of the Mars Center, Fort Ticonderoga begins its second century of bringing history alive to an untold number of future generations."
Fort Ticonderoga, site of America's first victory in the Revolutionary War, is one of the region's top tourist attractions.
The fort, which features a restored 18th century fort and a museum with more than 30,000 artifacts, drew more than 86,000 visitors last summer.
Besides its regular exhibits, the fort annual hosts several special events such has the recent French & Indian War encampment.
The 2,000-acre not-for-profit historic site also includes the Log House Restaurant and Museum Store, the Thompson-Pell Research Center that houses the administrative offices and the research library with over 13,000 rare books and manuscripts, the Pavilion, which is slated for future restoration, and the King's Garden at Fort Ticonderoga, the 18th-century garrison garden, a children's garden and the Native American garden.
Interpreters in period uniforms tell the story of the fort throughout the day. Weather permitting, they will offer a musket demonstration. In July and August (weather permitting) artillery demonstrations occur daily and the Fife & Drum Corps entertains with martial music.
Fort Ticonderoga offers numerous education programs, lectures, symposia, and reenactment. More than 7,000 school-age children receive education programs both at the fort and in area schools.
Fort Ticonderoga was built by the French from 1755-1759 and called Fort Carillon, located above the narrow choke-point between Lake Champlain and Lake George, which controlled the major north-south inland water "highway" during the 18th century. Due to this strategic location the fort was the "key to the continent" as the superpowers of the 18th century, the French and the British, contested for empire in North America. On July 8, 1758, the fort was successfully defended by French forces under the command of the Marquis de Montcalm despite overwhelming British forces led by General Abercrombie. This was France's greatest victory in the Seven Years' War and a humiliating and devastating defeat for the British. The following year, the British did defeat the French at Fort Carillon under General Amherst.
At the outset of the American Revolution just a half-company of British soldiers manned the Fort. On May 10, 1775, Ethan Allen, Benedict Arnold, and the Green Mountain Boys crossed Lake Champlain from Vermont under cover of darkness. At dawn they surprised the sleeping garrison and overwhelmed them, making Fort Ticonderoga America's first victory of the Revolutionary War. From then until July 1777, Fort Ticonderoga served as an important staging area for the American army while invading Canada, outfitting America's first navy, and fortifying Mount Independence in Vermont, and building extensive defensive works within a 10-mile radius. In addition, the Fort was where vessels for America's first navy were rigged and fitted out. This fleet, under the command of Benedict Arnold, fought the Battle of Valcour Island on Lake Champlain in 1776. Although the American fleet was utterly defeated, the fight stalled the British on their march south. In July 1777 the British commander, General Burgoyne, managed to place cannon on Mount Defiance and forced the Fort's American garrison commanded by General Arthur St. Clair to evacuate the Fort on July 6th. One more attempt by the Americans retake the Fort failed in September 1777. This was the last major military action to take place at Ticonderoga.
In 1820, William Ferris Pell purchased the ruins of the Fort and the surrounding "garrison grounds" to preserve it for posterity. In 1826 he built The Pavilion first as a home, and later turned it into a hotel to serve the growing number of tourists who came to see the Fort ruins. In 1908 Stephen and Sarah Gibbs Thompson Pell began restoration of Fort Ticonderoga and in 1909 it was opened to the public with President Taft in attendance. In 1931 Fort Ticonderoga was designated a not-for-profit educational historic site managed by the Fort Ticonderoga Association.
Fort Ticonderoga is a private not-for-profit educational historic site administered by the Fort Ticonderoga Association.