Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Fort George National Historic Site

Sadly, while living in Niagara for 5 years now, I have come across numerous locals who have never heard of Niagara-on-the-Lake or the historic sites and attractions it offers. However, when someone does recognize the name it’s usually because they had once been on a field trip to Fort George.
Fort George National Historic Site is one of the sixteen forts in Ontario, and one of two in Niagara-on-the-Lake (NOTL in local shorthand). During the War of 1812 it was the site of the Battle of Fort George in May 1813, which we lost, and the fort was taken by the Americans until we recaptured it in December of the same year.

Since then, the fort has been burned down by the American Forces, used has a training ground by the Canadian Army in both world wars, rebuilt has a “make work” project during the Great Depression and eventually was abandoned in 1965. In the early 1970s Parks Canada took it over and turned it into a National Historic Site. It is open seasonally with 41st Regiment costumed staff portraying how it would have been in the 19th century, with everything from a fully trained 41st Regiment Fife and Drums Corps and musket firing demonstrations.
When it is open the general public is welcome to tour the grounds for a small fee and ask any questions they may have. People have even been known to get married or have their engagement pictures taken in the fort.
Although it is really interesting to see what military life was like in the 19th century, it’s not my favourite thing about the fort. One of the many reasons why I love NOTL is because it has been named the most haunted town in Canada, some even say in North America, as it has “one dead person walking for every 50 living per capita”. Fort George is the most haunted place within the town.
In the summer and fall months The Friends of Fort George Foundation hosts ghost tours of the fort. They take place at night, after dark, and are about 2 ½ hours long, lead by a cloaked story telling guide carrying a candle lit lantern as there is no electricity in the fort. As corny as that may sound, they can be terrifying and entertaining to even the most sceptical people. There is no one jumping out at you, touching you, making noises from behind a tree… it is strictly the tour guide and group you’re in. I highly recommend you give it a try next time you’re looking for something different to do. People on 65% of their tours over the last 15+ years have claimed to have an experience. Maybe you’ll be next?


  1. I actually remember going there in Gr. 5 with my classmates and my mother came along. I put on a replica of one of the jackets and my mother took a picture. In the picture, behind me and three classmates were little orbs of light much taller than us at the time. We swear it was dead soldiers poising with us. Just saying. Now I want to revisit it because of the statistics you provided Julie-Ann. Thank you!

  2. Being there this past year reminded me that I had, in fact, been there before. It was a bit of a deja vu moment for me. It is a really interesting place and the ghost tour was an experience to say the least :)

  3. Julie-Ann,
    Great post about Fort George. I work part-time at a clothing boutique in Niagara-on-the-Lake, and in the summer, visitors always get excited with the Red Coat re-enactments throughout the streets. Like you mentioned, I visited Fort George on a class trip in elementary school, and have not been back since. But, I do run along the Parkway and begin in their parking lots - it is definitely a popular tourist attraction as the lot is always full!

  4. While I wasn't one of those kids fortunate enough to get a field trip to Ft. George, I do remember my dad (also a history buff) taking me here when I was a lot younger (probably less than ten years old). At the time, I remember being interested, but in retrospect, I probably was too young to fully grasp its cultural importance.

    15+ years later, having also graduated with a degree in history, I'm definitely making a summer tour of Ft. George a "to do" list item. Thanks for bringing this place up; I can't wait to see it (again).

  5. I go here every summer! My grandparents used to live in NOTL, so they would take us all of the time. Later in my life I had two friends work in the re-enactments. It was always fun to go watch them. On a sunny day it is a beautiful place to walk around and take in all of the great history.

  6. A friend of mine has worked here for the past four summers, which means he talked my ear off about everything to there is to know about Fort George. We went to Fort George for this past Canada Day and they put on quite a show. It's amazing to be able to experience such a history place.