The story of a visit to Fort Ticonderoga in 1872.
Part 4, Conclusion; there is always something new to discover!
Seneca Ray Stoddard’s narrative of his visit to Ticonderoga and related stereo photographs provide unique documentation regarding how people traveled to the site and what could be seen as visitors explored the ruins.
Occasionally, however, his photographs capture details about the Fort’s landscape, which, although were likely meaningless to Stoddard, provide important clues to how use of the grounds evolved during the 19th century.
One photograph, for example, was intended to show a portion of the interior of the officers’ barracks and a view of the landscape towards the French lines to the west. The group of structures in the background, however, are the real points of interest. This is the only image known that clearly shows this group of 19th-century farm buildings. Exactly when where they built, who lived in them, or how long they existed is currently unknown.
Similarly, another photograph illustrates construction details of the original railroad trestle spanning the La Chute River to the south of the Fort in the early 1870s. In addition, a roof of another structure, possibly a barn, is clearly shown on the slope just to the right of the cluster of trees. Again, when it was built, who used it, and how long it existed is currently unknown.
A third photograph taken by Stoddard on October 7, 1910 documents the New York State Historical Association’s visit to Fort Ticonderoga in connection with its annual meeting that was held aboard the Steamer Vermonton Lake Champlain. During their visit, the members were given a tour of the Fort and museum by the museum’s founders Stephen and Sarah Pell.
Like the previous two photographs, this image provides documentation for aspects of the site that Stoddard was probably not intending to specifically document. Notice that the roof of the barracks building is not yet completely tiled and a ladder can be seen through the widow at the end of the building. Also note the construction sheds and workshops still standing on the parade ground. While by the time this photograph was taken, the museum had been open to the public for several months, it is clear that the Fort is still very much a construction site. This photograph is one of only a handful of images know that documents the earliest phases of the reconstruction of the Fort actually in progress.
Seneca Ray Stoddard’s legacy for Fort Ticonderoga lies in his photography and writings. His book Ticonderoga and dozens of photographs documenting nearly all aspects of Fort Ticonderoga and its historic landscape are vivid reminders that historic sites are ever-changing places and that the interpretation of history evolves over time. The Fort that Stoddard saw through his camera lenses is gone forever, but through his work, Stoddard has preserved many brief moments in the Fort’s history. And because of his work it is possible to experience, in some small way, what visitors to the ruins experienced almost a century and a half ago. Today Fort Ticonderoga’s mission is to ensure that present and future generations learn from the struggles, sacrifices, and victories that shaped the nations of North America and changed world history. In some ways this mission is really just an extension of Stoddard’s efforts to preserve Fort Ticonderoga’s history through his writings and photography so many generations ago.
Blog post by Christopher D. Fox, Curator