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Heather Nellis/Recorder staff Custome Society of America President Robin Campbell lead a workshop on 19th and early 20th century garb at Old Fort Johnson Wednesday, the national historic site's opening day.


Old fort reopens for 2013

Thursday, May 16, 2013 - Updated: 3:12 PM


Recorder News Staff

FORT JOHNSON -- In September 2011, Costume Society of America President Robin Campbell was set to lead the Montgomery County Historical Society's final workshop of its season at Old Fort Johnson.

That workshop never happened, because the site was disastrously flooded upon Tropical Storms Irene and Lee.

Fast forward to Wednesday -- Campbell was invited to lead the workshop on 19th and early 20th century garb upon the fort's opening day of the 2013 season.

"We've come full circle," said Museum Coordinator Alessa Wylie.

The national historic landmark had an abbreviated season in 2012 after a late start, as the society worked to recover from Irene's and Lee's destruction.

Twenty-one months later, the site is still not back to pre-flood stage, but the group is getting there, and it was able to open under its normal schedule.

"We're in pretty good shape," Wylie said, giving a nod to 22 volunteers who toiled to clean Sir William Johnson's 18th century home, and tend to the site's gardens on April 27.

The site has come back together piece-by-piece. Site Manager Scott Haefner just found the site's picnic table two weeks ago, roughly half-mile away in the vicinity of the village's Stewarts Shop on Route 5. It had been missing since the flood.

"It's a little worse for wear, but we're glad to have it back," Wylie said.

There are some projects that remain, including rebuilding the bulk head cellar entrance to the fort, and repairs to the privy. The outhouse had been turned on its side during the flooding.

"It's very historic," Wylie said of the privy. "We know Gen. George Washington visited here, so he probably sat there before he got back on his horse and left."

The outhouse was one of the last projects on the society's list because the group knew it was stable.

Society Vice President Jim Sparks said the privy was able to be turned upright, looking as though it never moved. Well, aside from the mud and dirt the flood waters left behind.

"That's thanks to 18th century construction standards," Sparks said. "Had it been built by today's standards, it never would have made it."

The limestone fort was home to Johnson, then a superintendent of Indian Affairs. He lived there with his family throughout the French and Indian War.

The historical society is a non-profit organization established in 1905 to collect and preserve Mohawk Valley history for the enrichment of the public. Old Fort Johnson houses period rooms, special long and short term exhibits, as well as a research library.

The fort is open for tours Wednesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sunday 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Old Fort Johnson is located on Route 5 at the intersection of Route 67 in the village of Fort Johnson. For additional information on this season's events, call 843-0300 or visit


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