Fort Massachusetts

Rebuilt in the 1930s as a tourist destination before being demolished in the 1970s , the story of Fort Massachusetts dates back to North Adams' earliest days.

On August 19, 1746, eight hundred French and Indian soldiers, led by General de Vaudreuil, surrounded Fort Massachusetts which was an English fort in what is now in present-day North Adams, Massachusetts. The French and Native American soldiers captured about twenty English settlers including men, women, and children, forced them to march up to Canada to be imprisoned, and burned the fort to the ground. While Fort Massachusetts was rebuilt a year later, it fell into disrepair before being rebuilt in the 1930s as a roadside tourist attraction. Today, all that physically remains of this replica is a plaque erected by the Daughters of the American Revolution and the replica fort’s chimney and fireplace standing in a now-empty shopping center parking lot.

The fort’s original construction is widely debated among local historians. The original Fort Massachusetts was built in 1745 by the request of Governor William Shirley to provide defense from attacks from French soldiers and their Native American allies and also to try to prevent the expansion of the Dutch settlers from New York. Back in the 1700’s, the fort was located beside a cliff which was a real disadvantage as it allowed the enemies to gain the high ground during combat which enabled enemy ammunition to be fired directly into the Fort below. The enemy in the case of the raid of Fort Massachusetts were the French and Indian troops. The beginnings of the French and Indian War made the tensions between the French and English pretty high during this time period. The war did not officially start until 1754 according to historians. However, tensions between the two groups were very high decades before the war started. Luckily, Sgt. John Hawkes was able to calm these tensions when the French and Native American troops invaded as he negotiated with the French leaders which led to no deaths. Hawkes was left in charge of Fort Massachusetts on that dreadful weekend when the French and Native Americans troops surrounded those inside. Hawkes is now known for his bravery and perseverance due to his actions during the raid.

The first attempt to commemorate Fort Massachusetts’ history took place in 1897 when the Fort Massachusetts Historical Society bought the site for $1,000 and erected a flagpole to mark the site of the fort. This remained the only commemoration of the fort until the 1930s, when primarily female members of the society launched a public appeal to rebuild the fort as a historical museum. In 1933, construction finished on the Fort Massachusetts’ replica museum, which was made to be an exact replica of the one that was invaded and burned by the French and Native American troops. The Fort Massachusetts Historical Society opened a museum at the fort and hoped that this new museum would be a big tourist attraction in the area. Unfortunately, the museum did not gain the following the historical society had predicted during construction and quickly fell victim to several acts of vandalism. In 1952, the replica fort was sold to Herbert J. and Arthur C. Mausert and who briefly operated a restaurant at site. The land was then sold in 1959 to Central Markets chain who built a supermarket next to the fort. Finally, in 1970, the fort, which had become surrounded by weeds, was demolished. However, visitors to the site today can still see the replicated Fort’s fireplace and chimney, along with the Perry Elm tree stump, all that remains of the tree planted by Professor A. L. Perry of Williams College in 1859.