Fort Ticonderoga's panoramic view of Lake Champlain and Lake George is the happy byproduct of a century of murderous scheming.
The fort was first constructed by the British as a stop along the supply line headed toward the front in New France. Controlling the Ticonderoga peninsula meant controlling the speedy shipment of arms, so it is no wonder that the Fort came under attack by Ethan Allen, Benedict Arnold and the Green Mountain Boys in the early days of the American Revolution.
Today's Fort Ticonderoga is different than its forebears because it was constructed lovingly by historians rather than hurriedly by underfed soldiers. The solid structure now gives the impression of an overly fortified country estate. A broad, tree-lined road runs toward the ramparts from the road, providing the historical site with a buffer from the nearby hubbub of car dealerships and yard sales -- if not from the faint stench of stale chemicals that hangs in the air.
From the parapets, visitors can look south toward the humps of the northern Adirondacks and Mount Defiance, from which the British rained fire on American troops, forcing them to abandon the peninsula in July of 1777. The view today is much as it was back then, minus the muzzle flashes of course. The towns here have stayed small and, if anything, appear to be shrinking. In Keeseville and Peru, homes and stores are boarded up.
The besieged feeling of the west side of the lake makes the fort feel truly fort-like, though the gift shop doesn't enhance the effect. Cannons point toward small boats chugging across Lake Champlain toward Chipman Point Marina and the more prosperous Vermont shore.
To come here is to remember that America emerged out of chaos and, unfortunately, to see that we haven't held it completely at bay. It is a solid spot in a shifting landscape. A strategic hold in landscape characterized by change.