Mile 53 – Fort Necessity N.B., Farmington, Pa. (Part I)

The entrance to Fort Necessity National Battlefield, right off U.S. 40 - the National Road.

Until last week, I hadn’t been to Fort Necessity National Battlefield since the early 2000s, and I was expecting the site to look much the same as when I had last visited…nope. Instead, the park has built a massive new visitor center, complete with all kinds of interactive exhibits. So, instead of writing about Fort Necessity for one post, I decided to break it up into two parts, mostly to not have an overload with pictures.

In addition to travel in general, one of my specific goals is to see every unit of the National Park service. I’ve owned and kept an updated National Park Passport since I was 12 (2002), and I’m starting to run out of pages (but that’s another post). So, as any experience National Park traveler knows, every visit begins at the visitor center. Compared to just about every other park system in the country, NPS visitor centers are, for the most part, top-notch, and actually complete the entire park experience.

The beginning of the National Road exhibit in the visitor center.

Fort Necessity National Battlefield is one of two national park units that is actually located along the National Road or in a city through which it passes (this does not apply to the rest of U.S. 40, however). The other is Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historic Park in Cumberland, Md. The park preserves the scene of the first battle that sparked the French and Indian War.

We’ll start with the visitor center, which, again, is very impressive.  Inside are several connecting walk-through exhibits, which focus on the entire history of the park – not just the battle and war itself. Exhibits include the area before Europeans, the battle and war and my favorite – the development of the National Road and historic preservation. I was really impressed with the amount of information and attention to detail in all aspects of the short tour.

Inside the Fort Necessity replica.

Then, of course, is the centerpeice of the entire park: Fort Necessity. For some reason, it’s always surprising to me how small these old forts actually are. “This protected an army?!” At Fort Necessity, you can walk in and around the replica fort, which is simply a wooden structure surrounded by a circular wooden fence and then earthworks on the outside. The trail to the fort from the new visitor center is pretty cool – straight through a grove of pine trees before breaking open to the battlefield and the fort itself.

The replica of Fort Necessity.

The next post will highlight the outer areas of the park: Mt. Washington Tavern, Braddock’s Grave and Jumonville Glen.

The relatively new visitor center at Fort Necessity.

Fort Necessity National Battlefield‘s visitor center is open  every day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., except federal holidays. The grounds are open for personal touring every day from sunrise to sunset.

Like some NPS sites, Fort Necessity does charge an entrance fee – $5 for adults, and children 15 and under are free. That fee allows for a weeklong pass to the park – well worth it.

Fort Necessity also teams with three other Pennsylvania NPS sites – Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site outside Altoona and Johnstown Flood National Memorialsoutheast of Johnstown – to offer a yearlong entrance pass for all three sites for up to two pass owners and three other adults – for just $15. Again, well worth the price.

The entrance to the walk-through exhibit.

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