Tom and I are starting to explore the area around us on our days off. Last week we went to Fort Ligonier in Ligonier, Pennsylvania. Tom really wanted to check it out as one of the forts of the French and Indian War. Fort Ligonier was built as part of the Forbes campaign in 1758 and served as a fort on the frontier until 1766.
Fort Ligonier is not a state or national historic site. Instead, the reconstructed fort and museum are owned and operated by a Friends Group that also solicits donations. The $12 entry fee for adults helps support the operation of the fort and museum. As such, it has a lot more money than state or national facilities have. The money shows in the size and quality of the reconstruction and the artifacts from all over the world.
The Fort Ligonier museum is a complete French and Indian War museum. The museum displays artifacts from areas all over the world that participated in the war (also called the Seven Years War in Europe). Many people call the Seven Years War the first world war because it involved so many different countries. Each country is represented by displays in the museum and they do a great job of interpreting this little-known part of history.
The Fort Ligonier museum also devotes space to George Washington, who developed as a soldier throughout his service during the French and Indian War. The highlight of the display is a pair of pistols owned by George Washington. President Andrew Jackson called the pistols “holy relics.” I’m not sure I would go that far, but they were interesting to see.
We spent a long time in the museum, but were just as impressed by the reconstructed Fort Ligonier. Unlike Fort Necessity, this was a true British fort, with living quarters for soldiers inside the compound. We saw the blacksmith’s shop, the buildings for smoking meat, and the hospital and doctor’s surgery. The compound includes officer’s and enlisted men’s quarters, as well as General Forbe’s cabin. There is a powder magazine and a dining hall. The quartermaster has all his stores on display, ready to outfit an army. Cannons sit securely inside the balustraded walls. Swivel guns adorn the walls. You can easily imagine a regiment going about their business safely guarded by the strong fort.
Tom and I enjoyed exploring the fort. We both agreed it was one of the best reproductions we had ever seen. You can tell it is well-funded and supported by the community.
After spending several hours at Fort Ligonier, we walked around the town for Ligonier for a little while. Although the town only has 1,500 residents, it is clean and neat. Most of the downtown shops are occupied as they surround a town square with a bandstand in the middle. We stopped in several of the shops to looks around. We saw an ice cream shop, a candy store, lots of local restaurants, and a Toy Soldier Gallery with beautiful, handpainted toy soldiers. There are several good sized inns and B&Bs due to the proximity of Idlewild Amusement Park.
We love exploring the areas around us, and Ligonier is definitely worth a visit. The history and the charm will make you want to come back again.