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Groundbreaking Ceremony at Fort Ontario

Submitted article

</p>December 1870 photograph of the officers outhouse to be reconstructed at Fort  Ontario.
December 1870 photograph of the officers outhouse to be reconstructed at Fort Ontario.

On Wednesday, August 13, 2008, ground was broken for reconstruction of an officers’ outhouse at Old Fort Ontario.  Fort staff and volunteers gathered to dig the ditch and prepare the foundation for one of the less historically significant but “necessary” buildings at the fort.  Led by the fort’s Historic Site Assistant, Richard LaCrosse, assisted by Park and Recreation Aide Richard Guinn, construction of the wood frame building is expected to be done in 2009.  Funding for the materials used in the project is being provided by the Friends of Fort Ontario, Inc., and New York State Parks.

During the 19th century both one and two story outhouses flanked either side of two officers’ quarters at Fort Ontario; each outhouse contained privy vaults which needed to be emptied periodically by a details of soldiers, usually prisoners.  In 1869 city water was run into the fort and a fire hydrant was installed in the center of the parade ground; thereafter fire hoses were used to flush the contents of the privy vaults into drain pipes and out to the lake.  Despite the documented “Effluvia” (odors) eminating from the outhouses, sanitary conditions for officers at Fort Ontario were better than those for enlisted men; soldiers had to use an outhouse located hundreds of yards away in the forts moat exposed to the full blast of winter.  It wasn’t until 1884 that bathrooms were installed in the fort for officers and enlisted men alike.

</p>Photograph of groundbreaking for the outhouse.  Front row from left:  Reilly Q.M.D. Mumpton, Robert (Spuds) Beach, Richard (Picks) Guinn.  Back row from left:  Alex (Dimples) LaFond, Ian (Grumpy) Mumpton, Mitchell Manniccia – Draftsman, Richard LaCrosse – Overseer, General Brown – Dog.
Photograph of groundbreaking for the outhouse. Front row from left: Reilly Q.M.D. Mumpton, Robert (Spuds) Beach, Richard (Picks) Guinn. Back row from left: Alex (Dimples) LaFond, Ian (Grumpy) Mumpton, Mitchell Manniccia – Draftsman, Richard LaCrosse – Overseer, General Brown – Dog.

Fort Ontario State Historic Site is being restored to the common age of its surviving buildings, 1868 – 1872.  Working cooperatively with the Friends of Fort Ontario, the fort’s not-for-profit support group, State Parks is making steady progress towards opening, restoring, and furnishing more buildings and rooms to enhance the visitor experience.  In 2008 efforts have been concentrated upon repairing the porch of the Enlisted Men’s Barracks; next 19th century style gates will be built in the tunnel entrance, and the ceiling of the barracks repaired.

Fort Ontario State Historic Site is one of six historic sites and eighteen parks in the Central Region administered by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, Carol Ash – Commissioner.  For more information on NYS Parks contact the agency’s website at [www.nysparks.com], Friends of Fort Ontario at [www.fortontario.com], or call Paul Lear (315) 343-4711.