Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Getting Our History On!

Craig has always been a history buff.  He loves historical war movies, he loves digging up random facts about that stuff on the internet, and if he had time I'm sure he'd read a bunch of books, too.  When he and Jacob went on a trip to Gettysburg with Craig's family four years ago (I had to stay home and work), Jacob got in on the fun, too.  He loves playing with little Civil War toy soldiers and random army guys that Craig has let him use.  Last year when we went to our awesome concert night out at Artpark, we passed signs for Old Fort Niagara, and it sort of reminded us that we have a cool historical site very close to home.  At that point it was on our radar that we wanted to visit, and this summer I made it a point to find a weekend where we could do it.  And this past weekend was one of the few open ones on the list, and when I had the realization about how our schedule for the weekend was working out, it was a perfect fit. 

So, Saturday morning, bright and early, we headed out to Old Fort Niagara.  We wanted to beat the bad weather that was supposed to be coming, and hopefully avoid the hottest parts of the day.  Craig figures he hadn't been there since 1979, and my last trip was a school field trip when I was probably 8 or 9.  Of course, history doesn't change much, so I guess it's not a big deal, right?

I was pretty impressed with the site, partly because it was so old and yet so well maintained, and partly because it was so pretty.  They've done work to the site over the years, but they've maintained the integrity of the buildings and restored them to what they looked like back in the 1800s when it was an active fort.  It's rare to find buildings this old anywhere in our area, and to see them in such good shape was wonderful.  We wanted to take the full guided tour, but we knew Carter would never make it so we opted to just walk around and try to make a couple scheduled events. 

On the way in, the boys wanted to check out the first of many cannons we encountered during the day...

On the walk from the welcome center to the fort itself, we came across these two re-enacter folks.  It was sort of odd to see them hanging out in character at a very real looking camp site.

The view of the fort from outside the walls...

This entry point was striking.  It looks like once upon a time there may have been a moat under this, with a functioning drawbridge.  The mechanisms inside to move the bridge were quite elaborate.

Once inside, there were lots of people in costume, and aside from the tourists, so many things looked so authentic.  The French Castle (the oldest building in the area) is in the background.

The boys posing with yet another cannon...

There was one "escape point" through the walls near the back of the fort, and this is it.

There were two lookout towers with cannons on the premises, both with distinctive architecture that includes a Chinese style roof.  The views were amazing.  This is looking out with Lake Ontario to the right, a memorial in the foreground, and the French Castle in the background.

Here's one of the cannons in a tower.  They were covered in bird poop.  Given the wind that was blowing in up there, I can't quite imagine hanging out there in the winter!

From the edge of the lake side of the fort, you could see Toronto pretty clearly.  The CN Tower is off to the left.

This is the well inside the French Castle, which isn't really a castle but was a fort in disguise.  The French built it in traditional French trading post style to appease the Native Americans that didn't want a fort here.  But if you look at the top floor, there were plenty of spots for cannons!  This is the well on the ground floor that is supposedly haunted by a ghost.  That ghost story was one of the things I remembered from my tour back in grade school!

One of the rooms in the castle was set up with a group eating dinner to live violin music.  The beds are on the right. 

The chapel on the second floor was set up by the Jesuits.  Apparently it's the oldest church space in Western New York.

This was the quarters for one of the high ranking officers.  The bed was really short and I educated Jacob on what the chamber pot was used for.  Haha!

Just Carter sitting on a stump looking cute while we were waiting for Jacob to come back from the bathroom!

One of the events we wanted to see was the kid recruitment!  Luckily parents could be recruited, too, which gave Jacob the courage to participate.  Originally he and Craig were supporting one side, but they decided to be traitors and join the British...which was a smart move since they won the battle!
As they walked across the battlefield, everyone yelled "Traitors!"
Here they are in the midst of the battle, on the far left.

And after the battle...

Next up was a cannon demonstration.  It was loud, but pretty cool!  I got video of this one, too, so hopefully I can get that uploaded soon.

This is the powder magazine.  Scary to think of the power of all of those barrels filled with gun powder!  But the lighting in here was really cool!

It was a really beautiful day...not too hot, a nice breeze, blue skies...though the weather got a little sketchy later, which is why we did this early!

Here's the view from the other tower.  This one looks at the entry gate and more cannons.  You can see how elaborate the system of earthen berms are around the fort.

On the way back out there was a visitors center.  I took this crazy picture of a stuffed beaver.  I just thought it was funny.

Hard to describe how big this flag is, but it's huge!  Those windows are two stories high.  The flag is a restored version of the flag that was captured from the fort by the British, I believe.

This lighthouse was out near the parking lot.  It was so pretty.  Apparently it was in use until the 1990s. 

As a whole it was a pretty good visit.  The boys were a little crazy at times, but we managed and it was neat to see so much history.  We had a couple tired boys on the drive back to grab lunch and stop at the outlet mall to find new Nikes for Carter (gotta love the family discount).  In the end, Sunday ended up being a bit of a crazy day because Carter was short on naps and Jacob decided to be extra difficult on Sunday morning.  Church was extremely frustrating for multiple reasons, and I felt pretty defeated by the end.  Jacob lost a lot of privileges and Carter won himself an early bedtime.  It was nice to get home, though.  Of course, we're back off on a new adventure tomorrow.  That adventure almost didn't happen because hotel prices shot up, but a miracle this morning (literally an answer to prayer) made it possible again.  Lots of packing to do today, but it should be a fun few days ahead, even though I know that hotels with kids are always difficult and naptime will once again be in short supply.  But those other memories are precious...right?

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