SEE: The Old Fort House Museum

See History Come to Life in the Heart of Fort Edward

Visit a historic house with distinct character! Overlooking the main street of Fort Edward, New York, the Old Fort House Museum stands as a testament to the town’s rich history and heritage. This iconic landmark (also known as the Wing-Northup House) offers visitors a captivating journey through time, showcasing the lives, struggles, and triumphs of some of the local people who shaped our nation.

And the best part? The public is welcome to explore its historic grounds, with landscaped gardens & 5 distinct buildings! Each dives into a different area of local history to share important context to the world around you.

The Museum is open for the regular tour season from June to mid-October. And, it’s also the home of the Washington County Historical Society! Their knowledgeable members are happy to answer any questions you have about local history in-season. However, large group reservations, field trips, in-class presentations and educational group tours can be scheduled year-round by phone or email!

Let’s explore the Old Fort House Museum & campus:

History of the Old Fort House

Signage for the Old Fort House Museum Campus, including the historical market for when General Washington visited.

Since 1953, the Old Fort House has served as both a museum and a meeting grounds. But its gorgeously-preserved walls hide a long & illustrious past! The Old Fort House is the oldest wooden structure in Washington County, New York.

The Old Fort House in the Revolutionary War

The house was completed around 1772 using timber from the ruins of Fort Edward, a fortification from the French & Indian War. During the Revolutionary period, the Old Fort House became the area’s first tavern, which served future presidents George Washington & James Monroe, as well as Baroness Von Reidesel. Interestingly, it was also the area’s first courthouse!

And, in 1777, the building briefly served as headquarters for both the American and British campaigns! In fact, Burgoyne’s army was camped in Fort Edward when the group he’d sent for much-needed supplies was defeated by Brigadier General John Stark and an American militia at the Battle of Bennington.

Some historians argue the defeat at Bennington is what really turned the tides on the British during the Revolutionary War. Many of the events & decisions leading to the British defeat were made right here in Washington County, NY! After all, just across the Hudson lies both Saratoga Springs and, upriver, Fort Ticonderoga. Learn more about “America’s Turning Point,” the Battles of Saratoga. Or, learn about the capture of Fort Ticonderoga, the first offensive victory for Americans during the war.

Of course, there are other key characters in this tale you may have heard about! Major General Benedict Arnold and Major General Philip Schuyler impacted the fate of this area in a variety of ways. Explore Whitehall, NY to find out more about Arnold. Then, cross the Hudson into Schuylerville, NY to see the house General Philip Schuyler rebuilt after the British burnt it to the ground.

Other Notable Occupants of the Old Fort House

Then, it served as both a boarding house and single family home from the 1770s until the 1940s. Its first long-term occupant was Daniel Wood Wing, a successful local lumber merchant whose businesses relied on the Hudson River & canal system. He helped settle the town of Fort Edward.

In 1828, free-born man Solomon Northup married Anne Hampton on the lawn of the House and lived there with her until they moved to Saratoga Springs. In 1841, Solomon was sold into slavery by two men who had lured him to supposedly join their circus act as a fiddler. He was a slave for 12 years in Louisiana before being rescued; his memoir of the experience you may know as “12 Years a Slave,” which recently became a film.

Later, James M. Northup moved in to the Old Fort House. He earned the “Potato King” moniker with his son by encouraging Washington County farmers to plant hundreds of acres of spuds! Over time, they established themselves as local leaders with dealings in agriculture as well as local banking, industries & politics.

Old Fort House Buildings & Exhibits

Explore the Old Fort House museum campus to step back in time and experience life as it was! Pictured: Cronkhite Pavilion to the right
Explore the Old Fort House museum campus to step back in time and experience life as it was!

The Old Fort House itself transports you back in time with its preserved period-typical furniture & architecture! Within its walls, you’ll find a tavern of the 1770s, a living room of the 1830s, a kitchen of the 1940s, a bedroom & dining room of the 1850s and a sitting room of the Victorian Era.

Here’s an overview of several of the other interesting buildings & exhibits on the premises:

Solomon Northup Exhibit

The permanent exhibit for Solomon Northup includes many artifacts relating to his life, including an original copy of his book “12 Years a Slave.” This room is set up to reflect the type of cozy “housekeeping” Solomon & Anne would have experienced during their stay in 1829. If you’re interested, learn more about Solomon’s life from Fort Edward historian Paul McCarty.

A. Dallas Wait Law Office

Discover how business was conducted in the mid-19th century in this well-preserved law office! It was once owned by attorney A. Dallas Wait, who went on to serve 3 terms as a local judge & 2 terms as Washington County District Attorney.

Originally dating back to 1853, this building was actually one of the first to be wired for electricity in Fort Edward. Come marvel at early electric light fixtures as well as period-typical furniture and decor such as barrister bookcases & law books !

Riverside School House

Experience a snapshot in time, with a period-typical classroom complete with books, desks & more! Can you believe just one room (and one teacher!) served students from kindergarten through 8th grade?

Visit this one-room schoolhouse, which was used for nearly 65 years in rural Northumberland, NY before permanently closing its doors. After it was abandoned, the building was donated, restored & opened as an exhibit in Fort Edward in 1996.

The Toll House

Before our interstate system, plank roads were one of America’s first solutions to mud & dirt roads! To pay for them, tolls were charged, and the operator often lived nearby so they were there whenever a traveler came through.

See what their living quarters may have looked like in this 1848-era building, which used to serve the Glens Falls/Moreau/Lake George toll road until it closed.

The Doctor’s Apothecary Garden

Come see medicine in its original form! This living exhibit will help visitors understand the important role plants held for colonists & natives alike. In the Colonial era, most medicines were derived directly from plants such as those grown in this garden. Physicians of the time would often have a garden like this to grow herbs for their treatments.

This garden contains over 20 (mostly native) species of plants used by Native Americans & Colonial settlers! These include New York Ironweed, Toothache tree, Wild Senna, Turtlehead and Rattlesnake Master. The antique chimney pot within the garden represents the hearth’s key role in drying & preparing herbs for medicine.

Water Works Barn

Small but mighty! This barn includes many neat historical artifacts, including its own “lock-up” with the original door & window from the village jail. Plus, you’ll find a replica store, tool display, winter transportation methods and a Delaware & Hudson Railroad hand car!

The Cronkhite Pavilion

Visit the oldest surviving building from when the Washington County Fair was hosted at the Fort Edward fairgrounds (from 1872-1933). This pavilion once served  the Fair as a dining hall!. Now, it’s home to an exhibit exploring the history of Fort Edward & Hudson Falls (formerly Sandy Hill.)

So come on & explore local history! From the first people to the early 20th century, you’ll find many neat artifacts including several scale model replicas of local forts, barracks & hospitals of the time.

Also, you’ll want to check out the new Duncan Campbell exhibit within, highlighting the famous ghost story as well as the French & Indian War Battle of Ticonderoga.

Want More Washington County, NY?

Of course, that’s not all there is to do in beautiful Washington County, NY! Near the Old Fort House Museum, you’ll find Roger’s Island, the spiritual birthplace of the Army Rangers & the site of the Visitor’s Center. Stop by to learn more about local history, including a great exhibit on the Native Americans who used to call this land home.

Also, you may want to make a reservation at the historic Anvil Inn, housed inside an original 1800’s post-and-beam blacksmith’s shop! And while you’re in the area, why not check out one of the many interesting local events going on?

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