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Experiencing Old Fort Niagara by Candlelight

We spent Saturday evening at Old Fort Niagara in Youngstown, New York experiencing The French Castle by candlelight.  Two nights each December a soft glow illuminates the stone fortress decked in festive evergreen boughs.

Old Fort Niagara sits at the mouth of the Niagara River and it’s history stretches more than 300 years. Living in Western New York, I’ve visited the fort numerous times, but never by candlelight.

Pin the image below to remind yourself to spend the holiday season in Western New York at Old Fort Niagara’s Castle by Candlelight.


Old Fort Niagara allows visitors a glimpse into the history of North America; when the Native Americans, English, French, and colonists, fought for control of the Great Lakes and its waterways.  The fort contains original 18th century buildings, including a stone fortress on the edge of Lake Ontario.

Originally, the fort was built by the French in the 1720s and served as a garrison for about 40 soldiers. It was also a trading post, capitalizing on relationships French agents established with Native Americans.   Old Fort Niagara played a role in the key conflicts on the continent, including the French and Indian War (or Seven Years War), the American Revolution, and the War of 1812.

Old Fort Niagara housed soldiers throughout the American Civil War, World War I, and Word War II.  By the 1920s it fell into disrepair until a group of citizens organized.  It’s thank to the efforts of this group  that visitors are able to enjoy this piece of Great Lakes history.  Growing up in the region, Old Fort Niagara played a role in building my love of history. 


Castle by Candlelight is an annual fundraising event at Old Fort Niagara. The 18th century French “Castle” and other buildings on the grounds are decorated in holiday greenery by the Youngstown Garden Club.  Savory smells of roasting ham, potatoes, and bread permeate The French Castle and the Bake House kitchens.  

Historical actors entertain with stories of the fort’s past and reenact 18th century military celebrations.  I heard about the event on local news media years ago and always wanted to go. This was the year I remembered  before the date passed! I was excited to partake and hoped that it would help put me in the holiday spirit.  

Overall, I enjoyed the simple festivities. However, that’s exactly what this is – simple.  There is nothing fancy or flashy about this experience, so don’t expect that.  I dare say it draws a parallel to the past experiences of the fort’s cold, dark, quiet, and smoky rooms crowded with people trying to stay warm.  


Do you have a holiday tradition of supporting places that are unique to your city or region? If so, share it in the comments below! Heading the Buffalo-Niagara region soon? You’re in luck! I’ll be sharing more about the unique features of the region on the blog over the next few weeks, so stay tuned! 

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