From René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle to Capt. Pierre Pouchot, the French had a significant presence on the Niagara River for almost 100 years from 1669 to 1759. From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 7, Old Fort Niagara will celebrate that history and present French Heritage Day in cooperation with the American Association of Teachers of French.
The day’s programs will feature family-oriented living history programs about French architecture and fortification, music, foodways, artisans, military life and trade. About 15 learning stations will be set up around the fort, where reenactors will demonstrate musket and artillery firing, the fur trade, fife and drum music, women’s fashions of 18th century New France, blacksmithing, surveying and other activities common at Fort Niagara during the mid-18th century.
Programs will be presented in English and are geared toward social studies students and home schoolers. For French language students, there will also be bilingual activities. Educational pre-visit materials are available to teachers, parents and students on Old Fort Niagara’s website at https://www.oldfortniagara.org/event/100201/french-heritage-day.
Tickets are available at the door. All visitors are asked to wear a facial covering and practice social distancing. Old Fort Niagara is a large site and many of the activities will be outdoors.
The first documented visit by Frenchmen to the site of Fort Niagara was in 1669. The French surrendered Fort Niagara to the British in July 1759 after a 19-day siege. In between, hundreds of French soldiers, traders, missionaries, diplomats and explorers visited or lived in the area.
Today, the French legacy lives on in the Niagara Region. Old Fort Niagara’s French Castle is the oldest building on the Great Lakes and was built by the French in 1726. Place names like the LaSalle section of Niagara Falls reflect Niagara’s early French heritage.
Old Fort Niagara, currently open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays, is a Registered National Historic Landmark and New York State Historic Site operated by the Old Fort Niagara Association (a not-for-profit organization) in cooperation with the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.