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  • Mikah Meyer

My 40th Site on its 40th Anniversary

Unit #39 / 413 - Fort Stanwix National Monument

For many of us, we go about our daily business never wondering if our country will be overthrown that night.

As someone from the former Yugoslavia once told me, "The greatest thing about America is that you know when there's a transfer of power, the teachers will still get paid."

Aside from his comment, I hadn't really ever considered that my country would cease to exist as I knew it. That is, until yesterday.

Walking along the sharpened tree trunks of the 18th century replica Fort Stanwix National Monument, I imagined how it must have felt for the early colonialists, loyalists, and Native Americans.

Any day an opposing power could come into your town--your house even--and either claim you were now part of their empire, boot you out, or kill you.

That's what makes Fort Stanwix such a unique fortress. Of the many battles being waged across New York state and the entire colonial America, it's the only American fort to never once surrender to the British.

Perhaps it's for this reason that the owner of the local Rome, NY, paper--a friend of then President FDR--pushed for it to gain federal protection. However, at the time (1935), the Park Service only included natural sites.

So with the signing of the Wagner-Sisson (Fort Stanwix) Act, FDR created Fort Stanwix as the first historic site in the National Park Service.

But it wasn't so easy for this fort to become what we have today. In fact, what we see didn't even exist when the act was signed. The entire site, which sits right next to where the Erie Canal began, became a commercial zone for the goods traveling on the newly connected river.

This meant that to recreate the site, an extensive excavation had to be undertaken.

In 1969 the town of Rome bought the land and handed it over to the NPS, allowing the archeological study and construction to begin.

By 1976, Fort Stanwix opened its doors and fully lived into its title as the first historic site in the National Park Service.

One that now allows you to walk its storied ground and wonder what would happen if you woke up tomorrow to England banging on your front door.

Fort Stanwix Highlight (You Can Do)!

1. Ranger Led Tour

As I've learned through visits to many Historic Sites, Ranger-led tours really help the park come alive. This was no exception! At 10 AM or 2 PM each day (confirm seasonal schedule here) you can join a free tour of both the Visitor Center and Fort.

Ranger Valerie was a great storyteller!

Upcoming Units (COMMENT with recommendations. What should I do at each park? Local interesting detours? Food stops?)

New York to Vermont to New Hampshire to Maine

-Martin Van Buren National Historic Site

-Saratoga National Historical Park

-Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park

-Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site

-Appalachian National Scenic Trail

-Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument *New NPS site added 1 week ago*

-Saint Croix Island International Historic Site

-Acadia National Park

The journey thus far:

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