Today, many national, state, and local parks are admired for their beautiful scenery and recreational perks. But you may be surprised to learn that a number of these parks actually began as military forts dating back to the Revolutionary War. Several also served as Army outposts during clashes with Native American tribes. Even after those early conflicts ended, some remained active during World War II. (Here’s how every war in U.S. history ended.)
To identify 14 of the oldest early American forts, encompassing fortifications that were built between 1775 and 1800, 24/7 consulted sources including the National Park Service and various state and regional tourism websites. Sites that contain only unrestored earthworks were largely excluded.
While the original structures are often gone, many sites now contain ruins, reconstructions, or historically accurate replicas on the original grounds. Thanks to extensive restoration by various government authorities, tourists can visit these forts to immerse themselves in early American history. (To see fortifications that predate those on our list, see the oldest military forts built before America was a country.)
In their time, not all of the forts served solely military purposes. Some started off partly as commercial or traveler stopover spots. Fort Vancouver in Washington, for instance, was actually a fur trading hub with no Army ties. Others like Missouri’s Fort Osage performed dual roles – providing a base for troops guarding the Louisiana Purchase lands while also assisting the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
America wasn’t the only early power represented either – The Presidios of San Francisco and Santa Barbara were originally established by Spain to protect its California territory.
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