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Fort Montgomery - Lake Champlain - Our "Fort Blunder"

If you have ever crossed the Korean Veterans Memorial Bridge that carries US 2 over Lake Champlain between Vermont and New York and looked North, you may have noticed an old stone structure that looks like a fort.  Well, yes, it was once a fort; and unfortunately, you really can't really visit it. 

Fort Montgomery as viewed from US 2 (Adam Prince, August 2006)
The structure is the former Fort Montgomery - the second of two forts at the site on Lake Champlain that guarded the United States border with Canada.

Construction commenced on the original fort in 1816.  The reasoning for construction is due to Lake Champlain being a strategic waterway for military operations during the Revolutionary War and War of 1812.  The Battle of Plattsburgh/Battle of Lake Champlain in 1814 was fresh on the minds of the Americans, and a strong military outpost at the border was hoped to prevent a future attack from British Canada.

However, one year into construction, a major surveying error came into light that halted construction of the fort.  A new survey found that the 45th parallel was actually located to the south by about 3/4ths of a mile.  The result of the survey was that the United States was building a new fort in Canada!  Construction immediately halted on the outpost - which now was locally known as "Fort Blunder".

Wider shot of Fort Montgomery. (Adam Prince, August 2006)
The 1842 Webster-Ashburton Treaty would change all this.  Known more for the settlement of disputed territory in Maine, the establishment of a border between Lake Superior and the Lake of the Woods, and the 49th parallel to the Rocky Mountain, this treaty was important in the revival of the Lake Champlain Fort.

Within the treaty, the British and Americans agreed to revert the New York/Vermont border with British Canada back to the original mistakenly surveyed line.  This move shifted the border northwards and the tiny island that was once home to "Fort Blunder" was American territory again.

Construction soon began on the new "third-system" masonry fort.   It would receive the official name Fort Montgomery.  The massive fort would see various stages of construction from 1844 through 1870.  Concerns of British involvement in support of the Confederate Army during the Civil War led Fort Montgomery to be home to some of the United States 14th Infantry in 1862.

In the time period after the Civil War, and as the United States' relationship with Great Britain and Canada continued to grow more friendly combined with changes in warfare technology, the fort's strategic value quickly became obsolete.  Removal of the forts guns began in the 1880s and all were removed by the early 1900s.  The United States sold the fort at public auction in 1926 removing the outpost from its books.

Since then, the fort and surrounding grounds have been in private ownership changing hands numerous times.  Currently, if you have a few million dollars to spare, Fort Montgomery is for sale.  The fort has been on the market since 2014 listed at $2.95 million; however in 2018, the price was significantly reduced to $995,000.

Since the fort is in private hands, efforts to save and preserve the fort have not been successful.  The Preservation League of New York has listed the fort on its "Seven to Save" report and has attempted to raise awareness and funds to preserve it.   The Fort was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1977.  In 2009, Fort Montgomery Days was held in Rouses Point to celebrate and fund raise for the fort's preservation.  Tours of the fort were even given.  Unfortunately, further events were cancelled due to insurance concerns.

Though it is very difficult to visit fort Montgomery in person today, perhaps the best way to check out the old fort is through drone videos.  Over the past decade, drone videos, like the one below from Todd Collins, provide some of the best views of the old fort.



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