Press-Republican

July 26, 2009

Fort Ti observes 100th anniversary

By LOHR McKINSTRY

TICONDEROGA — President William Howard Taft came to Fort Ticonderoga in 1909 to celebrate the start of its rebuilding as a national historic treasure.

One-hundred years later, the top public official present was State Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward (R-Willsboro).

"It's an honor to be at a place that is so steeped in history," Sayward told those at the 100th anniversary ceremony this weekend.

A crowd gathered on the fort's parade ground to listen to speakers talk about the fort's history.

Ticonderoga Town Supervisor Robert C. Dedrick said the community and the fort have a good relationship.

"The entire town wants to acknowledge and help celebrate the 100th anniversary of Fort Ticonderoga. It was opened to the public in 1909 with President Taft attending."

Much of our nation's history 250 years ago was centered around the fort, Dedrick said.

"There's a tremendous history here. Volumes of what happened in our history happened here."

A shoreline marker on the Fort Ticonderoga property is believed to be where Samuel de Champlain came ashore during his 1609 mission of exploration on the lake that now bears his name.

The fort rededicated the Champlain marker over the weekend, with Fort Ticonderoga Board of Trustees President Peter S. Paine noting that Taft and the ambassadors of France and Great Britain were present for the 1909 event.

State Quadricentennial Commission Vice-Chair Celine Paquette of Champlain said it's believed Samuel de Champlain set foot on the fort peninsula around July 30, 1609.

"We in the U.S. can claim Champlain as one of our own and honor him as the first European to visit these shores. He followed difficult trails through darks woods. He was a steady, persistent man who never gave up."

The Champlain historic marker was placed by the State Historical Society in 1932, on the front lawn of The Pavilion, just east of the fort itself.

In 1820, William Ferris Pell purchased the ruins of the fort and the surrounding land from Columbia University. He built a home overlooking Lake Champlain in 1826, which he later called The Pavilion, and made it into a hotel to serve the tourists who came to see the fort ruins.

Fort Ticonderoga was built by the French from 1755 to 1758 as Fort Carillon. It was later taken by the British, then the Americans, and finally fell into ruin after the Revolutionary War.

In 1908, Stephen and Sarah Gibbs Thompson Pell began restoration of the fort and its grounds, and in 1909 it was opened to the public with Taft in attendance.

In 1931, Fort Ticonderoga was designated a nonprofit educational historic site managed by the Fort Ticonderoga Association.

The French barracks at the fort was recreated by the recent construction of the Deborah Clarke Mars Education Center.

"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," fort Marketing Director Marci Hall said later.

"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."

E-mail Lohr McKinstry at: lmckinstry@pressrepublican.com