Preserving Fort Ticonderoga for the Future

The Fort Ticonderoga Association preserves Fort Ticonderoga. The building of the Fort dates to 1755, the beginning of the Seven Years’ War in North America. The French positioned the Fort to overlook the outlet of the La Chute River connecting Lake George with Lake Champlain. The Ticonderoga area was historically a critical portage in the waterway linking New York with New France (Canada). The Fort (originally called Carillon by the French) was a masonry and wood structure. In July 1758 the small French garrison defeated a vastly superior British army in the bloodiest battle in American history until the Civil War. The next year the British army succeeded in driving the French from Carillon and secured the Fort for Great Britain for the next sixteen years. On 10 May 1775, Ethan Allen, Benedict Arnold and the Green Mountain Boys captured Fort Ticonderoga in a daring early morning raid and solidified the what many people consider the first American victory of the Revolution. Two years later the British army returned with superior numbers and forced the evacuation of the American army from Ticonderoga. A few months later in the fall of 1777 after the defeat of the British army at Saratoga, the British evacuated Ticonderoga largely destroying its fortifications and structures.

In 1785 Fort Ticonderoga became property of the State of New York. Ownership of the site was transferred jointly to Union and Columbia colleges in 1803. In 1820 the Fort and its 546-acre garrison grounds were purchased by successful New York merchant William Ferris Pell who began the legacy of the Pell family’s preservation of the site. In 1909 the Pell family began the restoration of the Fort into the museum it is today.

The Association also preserves The Pavilion. This structure is located on the shore of Lake Champlain below the Fort. Capitalizing on the Fort and its landscape of memories, William Ferris Pell built a lakeside summer residence, The Pavilion, five hundred yards below the Fort ruins on a corner of the former garrison garden and developed extensive “pleasure grounds” which - with the Fort - became principal attractions for this country’s first generation of “heritage tourists.” The Pavilion served as a summer residence for William Ferris Pell and his family. Then by 1839 it was converted to use as a hotel, a function it served until 1900.

At the same time that Pell’s great-grandson, Stephen H.P. Pell, began the restoration of Fort Ticonderoga in 1909, his wife, Sarah G.T. Pell, undertook the restoration of The Pavilion and the King’s Garden. The King’s Garden, a walled formal garden, was restored by an uncommon pair of women pioneers: the wealthy suffragist and preservationist, Sarah Pell, working with the first academically-trained American woman to work as a landscape architect, Marian Cruger Coffin. Today their King’s Garden has been named “a masterwork American garden” by The Garden Conservancy.

Together Stephen and Sarah Pell assembled the core museum collections. In 1931, they established the not-for-profit Fort Ticonderoga Association to assure the preservation of the site in perpetuity, simultaneously embracing the family’s commitment while ensuring preservation of the site beyond the vagaries of succeeding generations.

Restored Fort Ticonderoga was named one of the first National Historic Landmarks in 1960. In 1972 this museum was one of the first 26 accredited by the American Association of Museums and has achieved re-accreditation each decade since.