For 19th century guests of the Fort William Henry Hotel, an exploration of the ruins of Fort George was as essential to the experience of visiting Lake George as an excursion to Paradise Bay aboard the Ganouski or the Lillie M. Price.
Today, the grounds of the fort are part of a state park, but the site has remained remarkably undisturbed. For the past decade, state officials have worked with local organizations, archaeologists and historians to protect the site while, at the same time, taking steps to enhance public appreciation of one of the most significant battlegrounds in North America.
Earlier this month, New York State’s Board for Historic Preservation took an additional measure to both preserve and promote Fort George; it recommended that the site be placed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places.
“Archaeological investigations at this French and Indian War site have provided rare insights into New York’s colonial wars; the site is also an example of an early and successful public initiative in land conservation and commemoration,” said Rose Harvey, Commissioner for Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. “Bringing recognition to this property will help us to preserve and illuminate an important component of New York State history.”
After having been the site of battles in 1755 and 1757, Fort George became the headquarters of the British as they prepared to launch attacks on the French at Ticonderoga, Crown Point and Montreal. In 1759, General Jeffery Amherst ordered the construction of a stone fort. Only one corner bastion was completed, but that stone ruin survives. During the War of Independence, the fort was occupied by both the Americans and the British.
In 1998, interpretive signs were installed, permitting visitors to conduct self-guided tours of the park. Two years later, Dr. David Starbuck led the first archaeological excavation of the grounds. Starbuck, his students and volunteers uncovered the foundations of two large buildings and hundreds of artifacts.
According to Commissioner Harvey, a place on the State and National Registers can make the site eligible for various public preservation programs and services.
Once the recommendation is approved by the state historic preservation officer, the property will be listed on the New York State Register of Historic Places and then nominated to the National Register of Historic Places, where it will be reviewed and, once approved, entered on the National Register.
Illustrations: 19th century views of the ruins of Fort George.