FORT VANCOUVER NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE
Fort Vancouver was the administrative headquarters and main supply depot for the Hudson's Bay Company's fur trading operations in the immense Columbia Department. Under the leadership of John McLoughlin, the fort became the center of political, cultural, and commercial activities in the Pacific Northwest. When American immigrants arrived in the Oregon Country during the 1830s and 1840s, Fort Vancouver provided them with essential supplies to begin their new settlements.
In 1996, the 366-acre Vancouver National Historic Reserve was established to protect adjacent, historically significant historical areas. It includes Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, as well as Vancouver Barracks, Officers' Row, Pearson Field, The Water Resources Education Center, and portions of the Columbia River waterfront.
The McLoughlin House in Oregon City, Oregon, restored to honor the life and accomplishments of Dr. John McLoughlin, ?the Father of Oregon,? has recently been turned over for administration by the National Park Service from the McLoughlin Memorial Association, who have been stewards of the house since 1909. The McLoughlin House will be managed by the Superintendent and staff of Fort Vancouver National Historic Site.
If you would like more information about the McLoughlin House and on-going management planning, click "News" or "Management Docs" (above, right) or go to the new McLoughlin House website at: http://www.nps.gov/mcho/
If you would like more information on Fort Vancouver site history, please contact: Tracy Fortmann: 360/696-7655 ext. #13.
Contact by e-mail: [email protected]
Living History Demonstrations:
Blacksmith Shop : The art of blacksmithing comes to life Thursday through Monday in Fort Vancouver's blacksmith shop. Staff and volunteer blacksmiths share their knowledge with visitors while producing a variety of metal items using traditional forging methods.
Historically, Fort Vancouver's blacksmith shop was the largest metal working enterprise in the Oregon Country. Four full-time blacksmiths and several helpers produced equipment and hardware to supply two dozen forts in the Columbia Department and items to trade with Native Americans. Later, smiths produced tools and items which helped American settlers establish themselves in the Oregon territory. Axes, plows, hoes, beaver traps, wagon parts, nails, door latches and other metal items were manufactured using forges fired with British coal.
Kitchen : Experience the sights and mouthwatering smells of a 19th century kitchen. On summer weekends, interpreters in period clothing prepare traditional recipes using a wood heated oven and hearth.
The kitchen at Fort Vancouver was traditionally a very busy place. Two kitchen stewards and several helpers busily prepared meals for the 25 or more people living inside the fort palisade. Most food was produced by the Hudson's Bay Company's agricultural enterprise. The Company raised several thousand head of livestock, cultivated 1,500 acres of field crops such as potatoes, wheat and barley, and maintained an orchard and kitchen garden.
Carpenter Shop : The sound of hammering and the smell of freshly-sawn wood once again fill the Carpenter Shop on Tuesdays and Wednesdays throughout the summer. Carpenters in period clothing share 1840's carpentry techniques and history with visitors.
In 1845, five carpenters and several laborers worked in the shop, producing simple "country made" furniture, windows, doors, coffins, ox yolks, and other necessities fashioned from the locally abundant timber. Surplus goods were sold to newly arriving American settlers. Carpenters were also kept busy constructing new buildings and dismantling old ones, with only hand tools to fit the joints and muscle power to lift massive beams.
Bakehouse : The Bakehouse at Fort Vancouver employed two or three men year round, who were kept busy supplying the daily rations of biscuit ("sea biscuits" or "hard tack") for the labor force at Fort Vancouver. The Bakehouse also produced biscuit for exportation to sites that did not have baking ovens, and much of the supply for the Company's ships. Demonstrations in the reconstructed Bakehouse occur on special event days.
1845 Period Garden : Stroll through the 1845 period garden and admire the produce, ornamental shrubs, and flowers grown from heritage seeds. Staff and several dedicated volunteers tend today's plantings with loving care.
Fort Vancouver's original garden was the equal of many English manor gardens. Within its five acres grew an astounding array of carefully tended greenery, both edible and ornamental. Hudson's Bay Company laborers traditionally grew many varieties of tomatoes, onions, lettuce, potatoes, and herbs. Most produce ended up on the mess hall table where the upper class dined in elegance. Even rare delicacies such as oranges, lemons and figs were grown in hothouses. Such importance was attached to the garden that Chief Factor John McLoughlin sent the fort's gardener, Scotsman William Bruce, to the Cheswick Estate in England for training in the finer points of horticulture.