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Old Fort Niagara celebrates French Heritage Days

The French were the first Europeans to explore the Niagara Region and Old Fort Niagara highlights this early history with two days of living history programs and demonstrations. On Friday, November 3, the fort will welcome over 400 French and Social Studies students for a day of educational programs.

Students will rotate among 20 learning stations that illustrate French music, architecture, trade, military life and relationships with Native people. Friday’s programs are conducted in cooperation with the Western New York Chapter of the American Association of Teachers of French.

The program continues on Saturday, November 4 with programs for the public. New this year will be reenactors portraying René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle and his party of explorers from the 1670s and 1680s. Other demonstrations will include the fur trade, mounting the guard, winter travel, foodways, religion, Native American diplomacy, songs and stories, French frontier architecture, clothing, swordsmanship, glass manufacture, surveying and gunsmithing.

Visitors will have the opportunity to take part in hands-on programs like mounting the guard, military drill and singing a French song from the eighteenth century. The fort also presents its popular musket and artillery demonstrations throughout the day.

The first documented French presence at Niagara came in 1669. After two short-lived attempts to fortify the mouth of the river in 1679 and 1687, French engineers and workers erected a permanent structure known today as the French Castle in 1726. The French controlled Fort Niagara until 1759 when British and New York provincial forces, aided by nearly 1,000 Haudenosaunee allies, captured the fort after a 19-day siege.

Although French occupation of the Niagara lasted just 33 years, the early explorers and soldiers left an indelible impression on the Niagara region. From place names like LaSalle to Old Fort Niagara’s original French-built structures, the French left their mark on the area.

Hours for Saturday’s program are from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. More information is available by calling (716) 745-7611 or on the fort’s website at