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September 19, 2018

Fort Ontario to Showcase Unique History in 2016 Exhibit


OSWEGO – Fort Ontario State Historic Site will open a new interactive main exhibit next year to interpret its role as one of the nation’s most historically significant military sites.

Heidi Miksch, a conservator from the New York State Bureau of Historic Sites Resource Center at Peebles Island, NY, worked with Brian Hibbert (center) and Historic Park Manager Ron Healt (right), both from the fort, to retrieve this piece of fencing and prepare it for treatment before it goes on display next year. (Photo by Kelly Jordal, Oswego County Tourism Office)

Heidi Miksch, a conservator from the New York State Bureau of Historic Sites Resource Center at Peebles Island, NY, worked with Brian Hibbert (center) and Historic Park Manager Ron Healt (right), both from the fort, to retrieve this piece of fencing and prepare it for treatment before it goes on display next year. (Photo by Kelly Jordal, Oswego County Tourism Office)

The exhibit’s centerpiece will be a section of the original fence that circled the post during World War II when it served as the only refugee shelter in the United States for victims of the Nazi Holocaust.

“Some of these refugees of war-torn Europe had escaped from Nazi concentration camps before making their way through enemy lines to Italy and Allied Forces internment camps,” said Fort Ontario Site Supervisor Paul Lear. “This experience made them terrified when they saw the chain link and barbed wire fence that surrounded Fort Ontario when they arrived. This feeling changed soon enough though as, during their first month of internment and quarantine at the fort, the fence became an emotional meeting place where they met with Oswegonians and interacted, exchanged information, and established enduring friendships. Residents passed clothing, food, shoes, candy, and even bicycles over or through the fence to those in need inside the shelter.”

Much of the fort’s new display next year will utilize touch-screen technology, which allows for more details and artifacts to be included.

Fort Ontario State Historic Site will re-open in May 2016.

For details, call 315-343-4711.

2 Responses “Fort Ontario to Showcase Unique History in 2016 Exhibit”

  1. December 22, 2015 at 1:58 pm

    The fence was not for the survivors safety, but for the people of Oswego that lived in fear of these ‘strangers’ to their community. It was a different time in history, and people in small cities were afraid of anyone they didn’t know. It is the same now. We fear refugees from war-torn parts of the world, most recently Syria…so not that much changes in human nature.

    I am impressed at how quickly these people didn’t remain strangers, but became part of Oswego…and I am absolutely thrilled that they have remained so since the first documentaries made in the late 1980s brought them back into Oswego’s view. Those closest never forgot them, but now ALL of Oswego can be very proud of having known these amazing individuals.

    I can’t WAIT until Fort Ontario and Safe Haven become part of the National Park Service!!!

  2. Mike
    December 28, 2015 at 9:33 am

    I’m guessing that fence was in place years before they got here and had nothing to do with them. Though it is a shame that all the buildings that were next to the Fort were taken down

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