The History of Fort George

Fort George was built between 1796-1799 overlooking the mouth of the Niagara River and Lake Ontario. At the outbreak of war in 1812, it served as the headquarters for the Centre Division of the British Army. Fort George consisted of blockhouses, an Officers’ Quarters, kitchens, a hospital, workshop, a stone powder magazine (which still exists), bastions and a palisade wall.

On the morning of May 25, 1813, the American batteries at Fort Niagara and along the Niagara River opened a devastating artillery bombardment on Fort George, which lasted two days, and destroyed all but one building inside the Fort. On the morning of May 27, 1813, the Americans crossed Lake Ontario, and successfully captured the town of Niagara and Fort George.

The Americans held onto Fort George for nearly seven months, but failed to maintain a strategic foothold in Upper Canada following their defeats by the British at Stoney Creek and Beaver Dams. By December 1813, the U.S. forces at Fort George had dwindled to a small handful of militia. Fearing a British attack was imminent, Brigadier-General George McClure of the New York militia ordered a retreat across the Niagara River on December 10, 1813. McClure also ordered the town of Niagara to be burned. Some 130 homes were put to the torch, leaving about 400 townspeople (mainly women, children and elderly men) without shelter.

Following the American retreat, the British re-occupied Fort George and maintained possession of Niagara for the remainder of the war. They continued to rebuild and repair Fort George, but by the 1820’s it had fallen into ruins and was abandoned for Butler’s Barracks and Fort Mississauga.

In the 1930's, Fort George was reconstructed to its pre-1812 appearance. Today, visitors can tour the blockhouses where common soldiers and their families shared a cramped living space, or the officers' quarters where upper class English officers lived a much more elegant lifestyle. The stone powder magazine, which survived the Battle of Fort George, remains the oldest building in Niagara-on-the-Lake (and the oldest military building in Ontario).

Among the recreated buildings and historic artifacts, occasional shadows and voices of the past can be witnessed, echoing the stories of over 200 years of history at Fort George National Historic Site. Join Ghost Tours of Fort George for an after hours exploration of this haunted location and learn more about the men, women and children who called Fort George home throughout the early 19th century.

Row of muskets inside Fort George, Niagara-on-the-Lake