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New Clues to Fort Ticonderoga’s Past from Old Photos

From time to time people donate old pictures of Fort Ticonderogato the museum.  This often happens when people are sorting through the possessions of passed love ones seeking to disperse a lifetime of accumulated effects.  More often that not, the photographs are undated and loosely organized.  Occasionally, however, there is information associated with the images in the form of a date they were taken and an indication of just who shot the images.  This extra information can make all the difference in the world when it comes to documenting the subjects recorded within the images.

This fall a page from an old family album with images of Fort Ticonderoga and the King’s Garden was received as a donation.  The top of the page is neatly inscribed “Fort Ticonderoga August 1914.”  Furthermore, the donor indicated that the photos were taken by her grandparents, Roscoe and Edith Suttie of New Haven,Connecticut.  A quick examination of the photographs revealed views of the Fort and King’s Garden that included several details that are rarely seen in other photos of the same era and provide clues to better understand when work on some the structures actually happened.

Remains of soldiers' barracks
The remains of the soldiers’ barracks are in the process of being excavated.

One image showing the reconstructed officers’ barracks also shows the remains of the soldiers’ barracks on the left side of the image.  It is significant because it shows that the excavation of the rubble filling the interior of the building is in the process of being excavated.  The eastern half of the building (in the foreground) shows rubble still burying much of the structure while the western half appears to have been excavated and a fence has been erected along the outside of the building to protect what has been uncovered.  Additionally, there is a large, neatly stacked pile of stone visible in the parade ground which is probably the stone that has been removed from the barracks building’s remains.


King's Garden and Pavilion
The King’s Garden and Pavilion.

Another photograph shows the King’s Garden with the Pavilion in the background.  Along the garden’s brick wall are visible wooden pergolas between the wall’s buttresses.  These structures served to support the growth of flowering vines such as Boston Ivy.  In addition, there are two elements of the Pavilion of note.  A chimney is visible on the exterior of the building’s south wing.  Dating to the 19th century, this fireplace does not exist in the building today, it having presumably been removed in the 1910s or 1920s.  Also on the far southern end of the building (at the far right side of the image) the absence of a fireplace chimney that appears in photographs dating to about 1912 indicating that it was removed sometime in between.

Guest book with signatures
Roscoe signed the guest book on August 21, 1914.

Fortunately for researchers today, the museum beteween 1909 through the mid 1980s kept guest books in its buildings for visitors to sign in and record thoughts about their visit.  A quick look at the 1914 book for the month of August revealed that in fact Roscoe signed the book on August 21 recording his and his wife’s visit for posterity and also providing an exact date for the photographs given to the museum by their granddaughter almost a century later.  While Roscoe and Edith’s visit in 1914 was likely simply for pleasure, their visit had a lasting impression on the museum’s history.  The snapshots they took during their visit so many years ago are helping us better understand the site’s history today.

Blog post by Christopher D. Fox, Curator, Fort Ticonderoga