Before there was any structure on the peninsula known as Fort Ticonderoga, a French explorer by the name of Samuel de Champlain from the colony of New France (Quebec, Canada) sailed down Lake Champlain with nine French soldiers and a war party of Algonkaian and Huron Indians. On the evening of July 29, 1609, they were met by another war party of 200 Iroquois and the next morning a battle on or near the site of the Fort took place. The French soldiers had the advantage of mechanical weapons called arquebus and with those killed two of the Iroquois chiefs. This battle set the stage for loyalty of the Iroquois to the British in the two subsequent wars involving the Forts at Ticonderoga; whereas both the Algonkaian and Hurons remained loyal to the French.
It is important to note that diplomatic relations in Europe between France and England set the stage for their battles over North America. In 1731 France violated the compact of peace by erecting Fort St. Frederic in Crown Point and the English and the Iroquois both objected. In 1749 another peace was signed, but in 1755 the French continued to encroach further into Indian territory and built the first fort at Ticonderoga. It was called Fort Carillon.
Thus began the seven years war or the French and Indian War as it is best known. During the next seven years the French from Canada, the English in New York and New England, the Iroquois (especially the Mohawks), the Hurons and Algonkaians all fought with and against each other in this area. Fort Carillon remained as a French stronghold under General Marquis de Montcalm until July 26/27, 1759 when British General Jeffrey Amherst routed the French. During the overwhelming British siege, the French blew up the powder magazine and burned Fort Carillon as they retreated to Canada. However, the French barracks remained partly intact. The English repaired the walls in the 1760’s and Fort Ticonderoga remained a garrison fort with large stores of military supplies occupied by the English, until the Revolutionary War.
On May 10, 1775 Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold with about 83 men came up the lake, landed at Willow Point–just north of the present Pavilion and descended on the Fort. Surprised, the British surrendered and the Americans took possession of the Fort until 1777. From those large military supplies came the famous cannon that Colonel Henry Knox transported overland by oxen to General Washington in Boston. On July 4, 1777 British General Amherst erected a battery on Mount Defiance (Sugar Loaf Hill) and routed the Americans, thus giving the British Fort Ticonderoga until the end of the Revolution.
Fort Ticonderoga lay in ruins until William Ferris Pell purchased it in 1820. Pell first built on the site ‘Beaumont,’ that burned in 1825 and in 1826 built what is now the Pavilion located at the end of the King’s Garden, which had been laid out by French officers. Pell’s son, Archibald, lived at the Pavilion, farmed and turned the Fort property into an estate with a King’s garden filled with rare and unusual plants imported from Philadelphia and Long Island.
In 1908, Stephen H.P. Pell began the restoration of Fort Ticonderoga and the West Barracks were opened to the public in 1909 with President Taft in attendance at the ceremonies. Improvements continued throughout the 20th century under the direction of the Pell family with the exception of the East Barracks–the only area remaining that was completely built by the French.
Somewhere around the beginning of the 21st century, Forrest and Deborah Clarke Mars provided the funds to initiate the rebuilding of the French Barracks. In 2005 the present Mars Education Center opened to the public, refurbished and reconstructed as nearly to the original specifications as possible.
The King’s Garden has been and continues to be expanded and improved each year. As the vegetable garden was used to feed the thousands of soldiers from three nations garrisoned there, it now continues to provide fresh produce to the Fort’s restaurant and employees. Much research has been conducted in order to replicate the flower garden as it was originally planned. Each year new perennials are added and Anna H. Huntington’s statue of the ‘Young Diana’ graces the garden’s reflecting pool.
Under the able direction of President Beth Hill, Fort Ticonderoga is now, as it was originally constructed to be, a garrison fort with authenticity of material and format strictly adhered to–thus presenting to guests, historians and researchers a flavor and genuine experience of a true 18th century America’s Fort.
Visit fortticonderoga.org for more information.