Today we decided to be historical, and we drove east along Route 74 to Fort Ticonderoga
to learn all about that historic fort. Its history is a little complicated, because it was built by the French in 1757-1759, promptly lost to the British, then lost to the Americans in the Revolutionary War, then back to the British, then back to the Yanks. For a detailed timeline of its history, see this page from the curators of Fort Ticonderoga
Our day was a beautiful, sunny day, and we drove east along Paradox Lake and Eagle Lake, then over the easternmost ridge of the Appalachians to Ticonderoga. From Mount Defiant (more on that later), you can see Fort Ticonderoga, poised on a strategic peninsula on Lake Champlain, guarding the entrance to La Chute River and the 3.5 mile portage past the five waterfallsof La Chute to the north end of Lake George:
After a very tasty lunch in the Visitor Center cafe, we made it to the afternoon tour and were greeted by perhaps the best tour guide we have ever had at an historic site. He painted us a portrait of what it was like to be a British or Colonial soldier at that dramatic time that Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys (oh, yes, and that ne'er do well, the later-to-be-traitor Benedict Arnold) crept up to the fort in the middle of the night and overpowered a single senior citizen sentry to take over the fort:
We had a chance to explore the fort on our own. Here's Kathy nuzzling the muzzle of a genuine cannon of the period, as it peered over a strategic area looking toward La Chute River and the portage to Lake George:
Because the fort was destroyed three times, each time by the army that had occupied it in order to deny it to its new conquerors, most of the fort, including the enlisted men's barracks, had to be reconstructed by, first the Pell family, which owned the property from sometime in the 1800's, well into mid-20th Century, and then the nonprofit foundation to which the Pell family handed over the fort. Here is a photo of the enlisted men's barracks:
A reconstruction of the ad hoc fireplace used by 18th Century soldiers lay outside the barracks:
Every wall of the fort had cannon poised to wreak havoc on errant ships or enemy soldiers:
The one building that survived most of the destruction was the officers' quarters, at the south end of the fort. It was the first to be reconstructed in the 1930's. Here, our guide leads us through the parade grounds toward the officers' quarters:
And, again, the ever-present cannon, guarding the Passage to the Portage:
After our guided tour, we had an opportunity to watch a demonstration of use of 18th Century military firearms - a/k/a breech-loading muskets. The re-enactors provided a very concise and very unique explanation of every step of the typical parade ground handling of muskets, to explain that they represent the appropriate methods for handling, loading and firing the muskets, so that they don't accidentally fire at friendly soldiers but can be safely and effectively fired at the enemy:
An area between the fort and Lake Champlain has been set aside as the King's Garden, which is a demonstration garden that simultaneously replicates not only the provisions gardens maintained by the soldiers garrisoned at the fort, but also the decorative King's Garden
constructed by the Pell family during the period when they first occupied, then maintained a tourist hotel for guests on, the property. Here is a view looking down the formal walk toward the garden and house:
We had a chance to tour the vegetable gardens:
Here is a photo of the Three Sisters Garden, which features "scarecrows" modeled in the forms of three sisters - perhaps three Indian maidens -- and features three different vegetables
which Native Americans grew together. The three crops benefit from each other. The maize provides a structure for the beans to climb, eliminating the need for poles. The beans provide the nitrogen to the soil that the other plants utilize, and the squash spreads along the ground, blocking the sunlight, helping prevent establishment of weeds. The squash leaves also act as a "living mulch", creating a microclimate to retain moisture in the soil, and the prickly hairs of the vine deter pests. Maize lacks the amino acids lysine and tryptophan, which the human body needs to make proteins and niacin, but beans contain both and therefore maize and beans together provide a balanced diet.
In this photo, the three sisters as scarecrows, overlook and protect the crops:
The original Mrs. Pell had a formal garden designed by Marian Cruger Coffin
(1876-1957). Ms. Coffin is recognized as one of the first and most accomplished female landscape architects in the United States. Coffin achieved widespread recognition for her designs of country estates including Henry Francis du Pont’s Winterthur in Wilmington, Deleware.
Here is a photo of the garden pool with Diana the Hunter, which is said by rumor to have been sculpted from a life study of a young Bette Davis
Volunteers tend lovingly to the garden, which presently is abloom with color:
On the advice of our guide, we strolled around to the lake side of the Pell mansion, which was subsequently repurposed as a tourist hotel. It was graced with spectacular sash windows of leaded glass that lined a hallway onto which opened doors from guests' bedrooms:
The nonprofit association administering Fort Ticonderoga hopes to complete the restoration of the Pell facility in the near future.
We finished our visit with a drive up to Mount Defiance, the nearby mountain which proved to be the Achillies Heel of the fort, and which succeeding armies used to threaten the fort and force its surrender. Not incidentally, Mount Defiance offers a spectacular view of the fort and of Lake Champlain both north and south of the fort. Thus satisfied with a grand overview, we drove back to our campground and enjoyed the fall colors, which graced the Adirondacks as we drove back up, and down the ridge, and along nearby Eagle Lake and Pardox Lake.
Tomorrow: a visit from Laird and Risa, and the arrival of Katie and Maggie!