Peek Into Pennsylvania’s Colonial Forts

These 18th-century fortresses will give you a glimpse into the Keystone State’s past

The 18th century was a tumultuous time for the United States, especially Pennsylvania. There were many forts constructed to protect this young country. Fortunately, you can still see these preserved structures to get a glimpse of life during this century. From frontier forts to military encampments, check out these restored historic buildings. Here is a tour of the best 18th-century forts in Pennsylvania.

Fort Mifflin / Facebook

Fort Mifflin – Philadelphia

Out of all Philadelphia’s historical attractions, this might be the least known and visited. If you are looking for a fascinating look at the area’s history, then this fort is a must-see. Philadelphia was founded in the late 17th century in an area known as Hog Island. It would not be until 1771 that the British decided to build a fort on the island. In 1776, Fort Mifflin was finally completed, but by this time, the colonists were the ones to finish the project.

Fort Mifflin / Facebook

Fort Mifflin played an essential role in the defense of Philadelphia. Along with Fort Mercer in New Jersey, the two forts defended the surrounding areas and stopped many British ships from making their way into the city. The fort was so essential that George Washington ordered the fortress to be held “to the last extremity” in his address to Congress, who would flee the area in 1777.

Unfortunately, after six weeks of bombardment from the British, Fort Mifflin fell into their hands. At that time, Washington and his troops did escape to the nearby Montgomery County. Without the efforts of the American forces at Fort Mifflin, the British might have captured Washington before he had a chance to regroup at Valley Forge.

Fort Mifflin / Facebook

After the Revolutionary War, the fort was rebuilt in 1795 when it served as another military post. During the Civil War, Fort Mifflin was a prison for Confederate soldiers, with the first prisoners held there after the Battle of Gettysburg. At the end of the Civil War, the fort remained abandoned until the start of World War II, where it housed anti-aircraft weapons. Fort Mifflin saw the last troops leave in 1954. By 1962, the City of Philadelphia took control of the fort. Finally, in 1970, it was added as a National Historic Landmark.

Fort Mifflin / Facebook

Visitors can now explore the restored fort to marvel at the blending of the 18th, 19th, and 20th-century style fortifications. As you walk around the fort, you will have an opportunity to learn about the unique history of the grounds. There are several guided tours throughout the day, which help guests understand how it played a vital role during the American Revolution. At the museum, make sure to check out some relics from the War of Independence, including a British Brown Bess rifle. If you want to take home a souvenir, visit the gift shop that sells replicas of artifacts and Colonial candies.

Fort Mifflin / Facebook

Along with its historical significance, Fort Mifflin might be one of the most haunted places in Philadelphia. Over its history, the fort has seen plenty of prisoners, attacks, and executions within its walls. The building hosts the museum that is said to be the most haunted place on the grounds. Some visitors have reported ghostly sights and sounds during the day and night. If you are interested in learning about the paranormal, Fort Mifflin does offer programs for those wanting to connect to the other side. You can also talk to many of the staff members that have stories about the happy hauntings of the fort.

Fort Roberdeau / Facebook

Fort Roberdeau – Tyrone Township

Built in 1778, Fort Roberdeau was also called the Lead Mine Fort. It helped to supply the Continental troops with lead for their ammunition, and it remained occupied until 1780. General Daniel Roberdeau paid for the fort’s construction. Along with providing the troops with lead, the fort also protected the local lead miners from Native American and British sympathizers in the area. The fort was restored in 1939 by the National Youth Administration. In 1974, the site was added to the National Register of Historic Places. For the Bicentennial in 1976, the restored fort opened to the public.

Fort Roberdeau / Facebook

You can see the original buildings constructed with horizontal logs. The fort was called a “cabin fort” that included over 48 cabins on the grounds. Today, the park covers over 200 acres of land in Sinking Valley. Visitors can see the reconstructed fort, along with the storehouse, blacksmith shop, officers’ quarters, barracks, powder magazine, lead smelter, and lead miner’s cabin. The restored barn now serves as the visitors center. There is also a restored farmhouse from the 1860s, a trail system, and a log house constructed in the style of the original frontier house. From May 1 through October 31, visitors can take a look at the fort. However, if you want to go on a tour, you need to purchase a ticket in the gift shop.

Fort McIntosh /

Fort McIntosh – Beaver

Near the Beaver River and the Ohio River, an early American log frontier fort stood at this site. Fort McIntosh was built in 1778, and it was occupied by troops until 1791. After the American Revolution, the fort was the home of the First American Regiment, which is the oldest active unit in the United States Army. In the year 1976, the local community excavated the area and found the remaining stone foundation and pilings of the original structure.

Fort McIntosh /

The fort was in the shape of a trapezoid, with raised earthen bastions on every corner. The interior of the fort also included warehouses, officers’ quarters, a forge, kitchen, three barracks, and powder magazines.

Due to its historical significance, the fort site was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. The surrounding town of Beaver was also listed on the registry as well. While you cannot visit the original structure, you can still see parts of the restored area, which features bronze plaques and granite monuments. You can also see the original stone footers of the fort’s walls, along with the original fireplaces.

If you want to travel back to the 18th century, you will not want to miss your chance to check out these historic structures in the Granite State.

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