On May 1 the mighty gates at Historic Fort Steuben will open once again to welcome history lovers. The reconstructed 18th century military fort offers visitors the opportunity to experience life on the early Ohio frontier – before electricity, running water, paved roads and flush toilets!
“A tour of Historic Fort Steuben is like stepping into a time machine,” said Judy Bratten, Executive Director of the historic site. “From the chamber pot and the sugar nipper in the Officers’ Quarters to the flintlocks and reed-stemmed pipes used by the enlisted men, there are many everyday items that we don’t see today.”
Each spring the eight wooden buildings equipped with displays are cleaned and readied for visitors. Repairs on ramps and steps are on-going while new explanatory signage is often added.
Visitors to the Fort can schedule a guided tour with an entertaining and knowledgeable interpreter or take a self-guided tour through each of the buildings. Adjacent to the Fort is the First Federal Land Office west of the Alleghenies. The logs in the structure date from 1801 when the building was erected for the purchase and registering of land in the Ohio Territory and the cabin now is presented as a mid-19th century home/office.
“Much to the disappointment of many of our young guests, there were no battles fought here,” Bratten explained. “The fort was originally built to protect the surveyors of the Northwest Territory – land that would become the states of Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois and Wisconsin. They were in danger from irate squatters who were being evicted from their homesteads as well as from Native Americans who were threatened by these newcomers. Many issues that are still debated to this day such as eminent domain and reparations and federalism first arose at that time.”
In addition to a tour of the Fort, visitors can spend time at the various historic displays in the Exhibit Hall in the Visitor Center. Bratten noted that since the Eastern Legacy of the National Lewis & Clark Trail has been recognized by Congress, they have expanded their Lewis & Clark educational display.
“We welcome individuals and families as well as school groups and organizations,” she said. “We have special rates for groups with reservations and free admission for those who are members.”